EUH 1000


Great Literary Works of Ancient Times


3000-500 B.C.           ANCIENT LITERATURE

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Traditional Sumerian

2700s B.C.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Epic Poem. This earliest great work of literature in human history comes to us from the Sumerians, a collection of independent city states built along the two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates) in modern Iraq. Gilgamesh was the ruler of Uruk, loved by the people, and yet wanted to be immortal- to never die. He seeks therefore to do great deeds. He and his friend Enkidu set out on journeys to slay beasts of nature, confront the goddess Ishtar, and seek out a man who was given "god-ship" in the land of the gods, but failed. He goes back to Uruk at the end, and writes it all down.


Sumerian (Cuneiform)

Traditional Egyptian

1200s B.C.

The Book of the Dead

A collection of hymns, poems and dedications telling the story of Egyptian religious life, which permeated all life. The concepts of Ma'at and the legends of Osiris, Isis, Horus and the rest of the gods are described. The role of the pharaoh in preservation of life in Egypt is shown.




Jewish and Christian Sacred Text

1600-400 B.C.

The Torah / Old Testament of the Bible


The most printed and widely read literary work ever written, and the foundation work of Western monotheism. In the Torah / Old Testament, one finds the story of creation (Genesis), while Exodus tells the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments after the Hebrews escape from slavery in Egypt. The religious doctrines of the Hebrews is presented, as well as the history of that people (and their tumultuous existence in the ancient Near East).



Traditional Hindu

1300s B.C.

The Rig-Veda

A book of hymns brought to the natives of the Indian subcontinent by Aryans arriving from the north, these stories are the foundation works of the Hindu faith. In about a thousand separate chapters (stories) people and gods wrestle with primordial questions of existance. Brahma, Indra, Vishnu (Krishna), Siva, and other gods. interact with humans, much like Greek gods would.




700s B.C.

The Illiad / The Odyssey

The Illiad is the story of the Battle of Troy, as the Greek city states banded together to rescue Helen of Troy, wife of Menalaus, king of Sparta. "The face that launched a thousand ships," Helen was abducted by the Greeks' Trojan cousins. Achilles, Paris, Agamemnon and Odysseus star in this first of the classic works of the Western canon.

The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus (Ulysses) the warrior, prince of Ithaca, as he returns from Troy to his home. It stands as one of the singular works of world history, a standard by which all other books will be judged, forever. Odysseus must battle cyclops, his own pride, Calypso's seduction, Charybdis and Sylla before he returns home to claim his bride. On the way, he learns what it means to go on an "odyssey."




600s B.C.


The classic book of fairy tales, Aesop's Fables have been an entertaining and moralizing force for 25 Centuries. Usually featuring animals with anthropomorphic personalities Walt Disney style, the stories are one of a kind.



Traditional Hindu

500s B.C.

The Bhagavad Gita

A book concerning the journey of a human soul to fulfillment in life, love and light, the Bhagavad Gita is the other major work of the Hindu religion. Vishnu comes to a soldier to comfort him as he struggles with the problems of not wanting to kill and surprisingly tells him that 'action is better than inaction' and reminding him that the soul will be re-incarnated as is believed in the Hindu faith. Act wisely, for how you behave in this life-cycle determines your future as a re-incarnated soul in a new body.




500s B.C.


Analects is China's most famous book. As the Bible has overlayed a moralistic and culturally powerful force on Western Civilization, 'Master Kong,' or Confucius, has singularly influenced Chinese civilization. It contains the lifetime of wisdom of Confucius in verse and in parables. One of humanity's greatest names, Confucius emparts his knowledge to laymen here.



Lou Tzu


Tao Te Ching

Called 'The Way of Life' in English, this great work of Chinese philosophy is in 81 sections, and like Confucius's Analects, has directed the course of China's rich cultural bonds over the last two thousand years. China used to turn to its oldest and wisest men, as we turn to our youngest and best looking, for guidance. Its hard to imagine this, but think if we did the same today as the Chinese did in the far distant past...



Sun Tzu

500s B.C.

The Art of War

The oldest military book in the world, Sun Tzu's book of strategy, supplies, communication, terrain and seasonal conflict- and the mentality of war- is still read by generals around the world. American generals (such as Patton) in WWII knew it well, as did the German general staff. Though written 'about war,' it is used now as a guide to the psychology of competition in sports and business. In 'Wall Street,' for instance, Gordon Gecko told his apprentice to, "Read the Art of War", to give him a better edge working on the New York Stock Exchange!'




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