Composed sometime during the 8th century BC by a semi-mythical man whom the Greeks called Homer. One of the foremost achievements in western literature, The Iliad powerfully tells the story of the darkest episode in the Trojan War. The Odyssey tells of Odysseus’s ten-year wanderings around the Mediterranean after the Trojan War as he sought to make it home and is a timeless human story of moral endurance. Although they describe events that were in the mythical past, the poems actually reflect the 8th century BC world of the Mediterranean; a period of dramatic growth and expansion, a world emerging out of the Dark Ages that followed the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization in the 12th century BC.
Hesiod flourished around 700 BC. The Theogony deals with the creation of the universe, the primordial gods and goddesses, the Titans, the monsters, the Olympians, and mankind. Works and Days is a farmer's almanac instructing his brother in the agricultural arts and offers extensive moralizing advice on how he should live his life; it also contains a mythical etiology for the toil and pain that define the human condition--the story of Prometheus and Pandora. The Catalogue of Women is attributed to Hesiod, although this is not certain, because it is similar in style to the Theogony. Its subject is the genealogies of the women who bore the heroes and legends of Greek myths. The Shield of Heracles also is insecurely attributed to Hesiod. Its main subject is Heracles' victory over Cygnus, the son of Ares, but the greater part is devoted to describing Heracles' shield.
Composed after Homer by various poets who styled their poems after the great bard. The Iliad only detailed only a small part of the 10th year of the war, because Homer’s audience would have already knew the story. Well, these other epic poets wrote down the rest of the story. Thus, the Epic Cycle narrates the full story of the Trojan War, but the works only survive in fragments. Fortunately, the tales are recounted by other later ancient sources.
A series of thirty-three hymns attached to various deities composed during the 7th and 6th centuries BC. They were erroneously attributed to Homer because they were written in the same style as the Iliad and the Odyssey. The hymns were recited at festivals to honor the Olympian gods and goddesses, and to pray for divine favor or for victory in singing contests. They stand now as works of great poetic force, full of grace and lyricism, and ranging in tone from irony to solemnity, ebullience to grandeur.
Poets who are covered (in chronological order): Archilochus, Alcman, Tyrtaeus, Semonides, Sappho, Alcaeus, Stesichorus, Solon, Theognis, Hipponax, Anacreon, Ibycus, Simonides, and Bacchylides, among others.
A Collection of 725 fables that were attributed to a semi-mythical man named Aesop, who was probably a prisoner of war sold into slavery in the early 6th century BC on the island of Samos. He represented his masters in court and relied on animal stories to put across his key points. The body of work identified today as Aesop’s Fables was transmitted by a series of authors writing in Greek and ultimately in Latin, with the addition of material from other cultures later. Also what we have today in its final form bears little relation to those that Aesop supposedly originally told.