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Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature

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World Literature

on 3 February 2014

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Transcript of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature

300 B.C.
3000 B.C.
Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature
1900 B.C. - Epic of Gilgamesh
Babylonian version is the first ever recorded story
Originated from 5 Sumarian Poems about Bilgamesh
Fifth King from first dynasty of Uruk in 2700 B.C.
Uruk was a major city in Sumer
Involved in nations population increase and war against Elamites
Stories like this were often made about rulers
Common to take natural phenomenon and associate rulers with it to obtain immortality
1500 B.C. - Egyptian Book of the Dead
Funerary texts consisting of magic spells intended to assist dead persons journey through the underworld and into the afterlife
Book was placed in coffin/burial chamber of dead
Written on in hieroglyphics on papyrus
Some of the spells were inscribed on tomb walls and coffin
Books were produced by order by scribes and were very expensive
1000 B.C. - Hebrew Bible
Sacred writings of ancient Hebrew people
World's most influential texts
Central to many people's core religious beliefs
Variety of texts from may different periods
Composed of both poetry and prose by many authors
Presents God as originator of everything, and being the major force behind all of human history
700 B.C. - Homer's The Iliad, The Odyssey
Tell the story of the clash of two great civilizations, and the effects of war on both the winners and the losers
Mythical Trojan War - Greeks vs. the people of Troy
Earliest works of Greek literature
Poems that were very well known, performed out loud, illustrated as artwork

620-564 B.C. - Aesop's Fables
Folk tales/ legends about life
Greek fable tradition stems from oral and written tradition in Egypt, India and Near East
Not originally meant to be children's stories
Characters are not heroic and mighty but are ordinary and often lowly
Often a moral is presented at the beginning or end recommending positive character traits such as honesty, integrity, kindness, and gratitude
426 B.C. - Sophocles' Oedipus the King
One of 7 surviving plays by Sophocles that are considered the most perfect achievement of ancient Athens
Plays present characters who stand apart from others
Terrible plague breaks out in Athens in 429 just before play is composed which may have inspired the plague in this story
Themes: fate and free will, tempting to avoid fate will bring it about
380 B.C. - Plato's Symposium
Characters are based on real historical figures whom Plato knew personally
Combines both comic and serious drama
subject: sexual love
theme: the deep human desire for the unattainable
provokes discussion and reflection on many issues concerning love, sex, desire, and intimacy
Historical Context of Time Period
3000 B.C.- Sumerian cuneiform writing on clay tablets develops as well as hieroglyphic writing in Egypt
1900 B.C. - Fall of last Sumerian dynasty
1700 B.C. - Bronze Age in China
1200 B.C. - Moses leads Jews in Exodus from Egypt to Palestine, Hindu beliefs emerge and caste system develops in India
776 B.C. - Olympic games founded in Greece
586 B.C. - Jerusalem Captured by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar
431-404 B.C. - War between Athens and Sparta
334-323 B.C. - Alexander the Great conquers many areas including the Persian Empire, Syria, Mesopotamia, Central Asia, Babylonia and others
Characteristics and Key Concepts
Earliest "literature" took the form of oral stories and songs
Transition from oral to written literature was gradual and took place at different times for different cultures
Writing was first developed in Mesopotamia as a means of recording political, legal, and administrative information
Writing started as pictographs which evolved into script (cuneiform) and hieroglyphics, then the Phoenician alphabet consisting of consonants followed by the Greek and Roman alphabets which added vowels
Writing was often inspired and based upon wars and political figures
Text was first inscribed on tablets of clay with a stick, or carved on the walls of temples and tombs
Early literature was often influenced by many different cultures - Many groups settled in areas where natural resources were most abundant and when trade and colonization developed, cross-cultural exchange was made possible
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