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books, Greek and Roman  

H. Maehler

Books existed in *Egypt long before they came into use in Greece. Systems of writing had been invented and developed for administrative purposes in both Egypt and *Mesopotamia by c.3000 bce. While ... More


J. H. D. Scourfield

Online publication date:
Dec 2015
The practice of offering words of consolation to those afflicted by grief is reflected in the earliest Greek poetry (e.g. Hom. Il. 24. 507–51). Later, under the twin influences of rhetoric and ... More


Philip Hardie

Online publication date:
Dec 2015
At the summit of the ancient hierarchy of genres, epic narrates in hexameter verse the deeds of gods, heroes, and men The authority of Homer, the name given to the composer of the Iliad and ... More


Edward Courtney and Gail Trimble

Online publication date:
Mar 2016
Epyllion (diminutive of epos), term applied in modern (not ancient) times to some ‘short epics’, hexameter poems of mythological narrative in not more than one book. The texts most ... More

explanation, historical  

Christopher Pelling

‘Which of the gods was it that brought the two together in strife?’, asks the Iliad as it launches its narrative (1.8); early in the Odyssey*Zeus complains that mortals blame the gods when ... More


Francisco R. Adrados and Niklas Holzberg

Online publication date:
Mar 2016
Fable, a short story in the popular tradition of Greece and other ancient cultures. Fables found their way into literature as illustrative examples; later they were compiled into ... More

feminism and ancient literature  

Helen Morales

Online publication date:
Feb 2019
Feminism does not refer to one coherent theory, doctrine, or political movement. The range of movements and ideologies that thrive under the term feminism, however, are all committed to ... More


William Hansen

Folktales are traditional fictional stories. Unlike works of original literary fiction, they are normally anonymous narratives that have been transmitted from one teller to another over an ... More

friendship, ritualized  

G. Herman

Online publication date:
Dec 2015
Friendship, ritualized (or guest-friendship), a bond of trust, imitating kinship and reinforced by rituals, generating affection and obligations between individuals belonging to separate social ... More


Gian Biagio Conte and Glenn W. Most

Online publication date:
Dec 2015
A grouping of texts related within the system of literature by their sharing recognizably functionalized features of form and content. Theory of genre as such is quite lacking in antiquity ... More


Esther Eidinow

Identifying a ghost in Greek literature and distinguishing it from what we might call a delusion or a supernatural entity can sometimes pose difficulties: *Homer tends to use the term ... More


Alexander Hugh McDonald and Antony Spawforth

Online publication date:
Dec 2015
Justin (Marcus Iunian(i)us Iustinus), dated to the 2nd, 3rd, or even (Syme) 4th cent. ce, important as the author of a Latin *epitome of the otherwise lost ‘Philippic Histories’ of ... More


P. J. Parsons

By the end of the 5th cent. bce, books were in general circulation, even if some regarded them as a fad of intellectuals like *Euripides (Ar. Ran. 943, cf. fr. 506 KA); Athens had booksellers (Eup. ... More


Rosalind Thomas

Online publication date:
Mar 2016
The number of people who could read and write in the ancient world is hard to determine. Without statistical evidence, we must rely mostly on chance information and inference: for example, the ... More

literary criticism in antiquity  

Donald Russell

Online publication date:
Mar 2016
1. The arts of formal speech played a great part in ancient life, so that it was natural that vocabularies and conceptual frameworks should be developed for the purposes of evaluation, speculation ... More

metaphor and simile  

Michael Silk

Online publication date:
Mar 2016
Features of literary language that have been extensively discussed by theorists and critics since antiquity. The first purposeful investigations are *Aristotle's (Poet.21–2; Rh. 3. 2. 6–4. 4, 3. 10. ... More


Sebastian Matzner

Online publication date:
Jan 2019
The term metonymy denotes a literary trope, that is, a specific form of defamiliarized expression, which indirectly refers to what is at issue. Metonymy achieves this by way of exploiting ... More

narrative, narration  

Massimo Fusillo

Online publication date:
Mar 2016
In the last 30 years, interest in narrative has developed at an incredible pace. Two branches of this ‘narratology’ may be distinguished. The one is oriented towards the ‘story’ as ... More


Richard Seaford

Phallus, an image of the penis, often as erect, to be found in various contexts, in particular (a) in certain rituals associated with fertility, notably Dionysiac *processions (see dionysus): see ... More

revision in Greek and Latin literature  

Sean Alexander Gurd

Online publication date:
Mar 2017
Revision happens when a text is changed. Its most common name in Greek was διόρθωσις; in Latin, emendatio. It was practised by writers of all styles and levels of ability, working alone and ... More