What is Classical Literature?

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

According to ancient times, the great masterpieces of Greek, Roman, and other civilizations are referred to as classical literature. The term, “classical,” is also used when the given literature of any language is written in a period of notable excellence and enduring quality of writers. Ancient Greek and Roman authors were viewed to be of the highest quality. This notable period of excellence and enduring quality of writers in ancient Greece extended from about 500 to 320 BCE. The Golden Age of Rome ran from about 70 BCE to 18 CE. 

Other than Greek and Roman, French literature of the second half of the 17th century is considered classical, similar is the case with English literature of 1660–1714. 

Classical literature isn’t just limited to novels. It includes epic, lyric, tragedy, comedy, pastoral, and several other forms of writing. For students who study humanities them the study of classical literature was considered to be vital. The study of their work was once seen as the mark of elite education. While these books generally still find their way into high school and college English classes, there is however a plunge in the reading of such books. The expansion of literature has offered readers and academics more to choose from. The works of Homer, Ovid, and Sophocles are all examples of classical literature.

How is classic literature different from other forms of literature?

Classic literature is basically an expression of life, truth, and beauty. It is categorized among high artistic quality, at least for the time in which it was written. A classic is generally appreciated for its construction and literary art. Although we know that different styles will come and go and a piece of classical literature may not be a bestseller today due to pacing and dated language, but one can learn from it and can draw inspiration.

It expresses artistic quality and is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written. Classical literature is known to have a universal appeal. This is because these are based on themes like love, hate, death, life, and faith. These works touch upon readers emotionally. For example, when one reads the works of Jane Austen, the reader can relate to the characters and the situations despite the difference in the era. In fact, a classic can alter one’s perspective about history to see how little has changed in our basic human makeup.

Times of course have changed, and the study of Greek and Latin is no longer has its place in the centre like it once held in the curriculum. 

Classical literature today has become a small, shrinking university discipline kept alive, where it can be afforded, more because of prestige and tradition than because of a recognition of its central role in liberal education and in teaching the foundations of Western civilization. Its time people realize that these are masterpieces that are written by great writers and are works of antiquity.