6 terms

Greece Literature/Writing Inventions

By the 8th century B.C., the Phoenician alphabet had spread to Greece, where it was refined and enhanced to record the Greek language. Some Phoenician characters were kept, and others were removed, but the paramount innovation was the use of letters to represent vowels.
Classic Literature
Of the literature of ancient Greece only a relatively small proportion survives. Yet it remains important, not only because much of it is of supreme quality but also because until the mid-19th century the greater part of the literature of the Western world was produced by writers who were familiar with the Greek tradition, either directly or through the medium of Latin, who were conscious that the forms they used were mostly of Greek invention, and who took for granted in their readers some familiarity with Classical literature.
In addition to the invention of the epic and lyric forms of poetry, though, the Greeks were also essentially responsible for the invention of drama, and they produced masterpieces of both tragedy and comedy that are still reckoned among the crowning achievements of drama to this day.
Oral Literature
Literary works have become available to large numbers of people throughout the centuries. This is mainly the result of two phenomena: the profusion of the printed word since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century and the presentation of works in other than printed forms.
The oral literature of the ancient world—poems, tales, songs and other forms—was presented to an audience by speakers and singers.
Punctuation and Vowels
By about 200 BC a system of diacritical marks was invented, representing the tone accents in use in Ancient Greek. This also helped to indicate the length of the vowels Α, Ι, and Υ in certain cases (for instance a circumflex can only occur on a long vowel) but Greek orthography has never had a comprehensive way of indicating vowel length, and this distinction has in any case been lost in Modern Greek. This innovation of accents, as well as that of punctuation marks, has been credited to Aristophanes of Byzantium (257 - c. 185 BC).
So the first great flowering of European literature reaches its original audience through their ears rather than their eyes, in public performance. This convention provides not only the beginning of epic poetry, in Homer. It also produces another extraordinary Greek innovation - the theatre.