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Greek literature GREEK LITERATURE The great British philosopher-mathematician Alfred North Whitehead once commented that all philosophy is but a footnote to Plato A similar point can be made regarding Greek literature as a whole Over a period of more than ten centuries the ancient Greeks created a literature of such brilliance that it has rarely been equaled and never surpassed In poetry tragedy comedy and history Greek writers created masterpieces that have inspired influenced and challenged readers to the present day To suggest that all Western literature is no more than a footnote to the writings of classical Greece is an exaggeration but it is nevertheless true that the Greek world of thought was so far-ranging that there is scarcely an idea discussed today that was not debated by the ancient writers The only body of literature of comparable influence is the Bible The language in which the ancient authors wrote was Greek Like English Greek is an Indo-European language but it is far older Its history can be followed from the 14th century BC to the present Its literature therefore covers a longer period of time than that of any other Indo-European language Scholars have determined that the Greek alphabet was derived from the Phoenician alphabet During the period from the 8th to the 5th century BC local differences caused the forms of letters to vary from one city-state to another within Greece From the 4th century BC on however the alphabet became uniform throughout the Greek world CLASSICAL PERIOD There are four major periods of Greek literature preclassical classical Hellenistic-Roman and Byzantine Of these the most significant works were produced during the preclassical and classical eras Epic Tradition At the beginning of Greek literature stand the two monumental works of Homer the Iliad and the Odyssey The figure of Homer is shrouded in mystery Although the works as they now stand are credited to him it
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