Artifacts > Archaic Greek Literature
Archaic Greek Literature
The earliest extant Greek literature comes from the Archaic period. The Iliad and the Odyssey were probably composed in the seventh century BC, at the beginning of the period. Along with epic, lyric poetry was a common genre, and the nine lyric poets come from the Archaic period. Early elegy and iambus also survives from the period. The earliest evidence of Greek drama comes from the end of the period.
The Archaic period also saw the development of the Greek alphabet. After the end of the Mycenaean period, writing had been lost in Greece, and by the ninth century probably no Greeks understood the writing systems in use in the bronze age. The Greek alphabet developed in the eighth century, derived from a Semitic alphabet, though it would not be standardised until the fourth century BC.
The earliest known inscriptions date from the middle of the eighth century, and tend to identify or explain the object on which they are inscribed. Most early inscriptions were written in verse, though some from Ionia were in prose, influenced by the prose traditions of Ionia's eastern neighbours. By the sixth century, many more inscriptions survive, including public records such as law codes, lists of officials, and records of treaties. As well as official inscriptions, Archaic graffiti survives from as late as the eighth century BC.