12 Ancient poets that changed literature forever

There have been many poets throughout history, but some stand out for their creativity, innovation, and impact on society. From Sappho to Ovid, it’s hard to imagine a time without poetry. This article explores the most important ancient poets in history – those who have had the most significant impact on how we understand and enjoy poetry today!

12 Legendary Ancient Poets To Remember

Table of Contents

Homer
Homer

Homer

Homer is one of the most influential poets and authors in history. His written work was the first to offer a glimpse into life in ancient Greece, with his epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. He is often considered one of the earliest writers, composing some of his work as early as the 3rd millennium BC! 

The two epics are not only well-known for their content but also for their influence on future literature. They have profoundly impacted many great works such as Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Divine Comedy and T.S Eliot’s Wasteland. All three stories use Homeric imagery to paint vivid pictures of war and destruction.

Homer’s style also influenced the way poems are written. The Homeric simile, for example, is a type of figurative language used in his work that became commonplace among poets after him.

He is thought to be the first to write in a style that was both linear and coherent. His stories are often based on the heroic, such as Achilles’s rage after Hector killed his friend during the Trojan War. This story helped influence ancient poetry because it showed how an author could use dialogue and create drama.

Virgil
Virgil

Virgil

Virgil was a Roman poet who lived in the time of Emperor Augustus. He is best known for his work The Aeneid, which tells the story of Rome’s origins. Virgil also wrote Eclogues and Georgics, poems about farming life and love, respectively. His work influenced many poets to come, including Dante Alighieri, John Milton and William Shakespeare.

Born in 70 BC and died in 19 BC, Virgil is one of the most famous poets from Ancient Rome. His poetry, written in Latin, was deeply influenced by Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and traditional Italian folk songs.

His has influenced Alfred Lord Tennyson with poems such as Ulysses or The Idylls of the King; Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats and many more.

Sappho
Sappho

Sappho

Sappho was a poet from the island of Lesbos in Ancient Greece around 600 BC. She is often considered one of the most influential poets in ancient Greece, and her style, while not as technical as some other poets, has been studied by scholars for centuries.

Sappho is renowned for being one of the first female poets ever to write her poems down. Her writing focused on love and relationships between women or girls who were involved with one another.

There are many different theories about who she wrote for, but it is generally believed that she wrote for an elite audience or even herself. Sappho’s poetry is preserved in fragments that have been found on scrolls and potsherds.

Hesiod

Hesiod was a Greek poet who lived in the 8th century BC. He is one of the earliest poets whose work survives to this day. His most famous work, Theogony, tells us about the origins and history of gods, as well as their interactions with humans.

Hesiod’s ideas influenced ancient poetry, which can be seen in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey- both written centuries after his death but still containing many elements from his poems on mythology.

He began writing at an early age because he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps; however, he did not want to write about love or warlike Homer because people would be less interested in reading it.

One of Hesiod’s most outstanding contributions to literature is that he invented something called “elegiac couplets”, which means that poems were written as a series of two verses with a specific rhyme scheme such as AABB or CDCD/EFGHI. He is also credited with the first use of a chorus as an integral part of the plot.

Ovid
Ovid

Ovid

People often think of ancient poetry as a quaint relic from the past. The truth is, it had profound influences on Western literature and culture that we can still see today. Ovid was one of the most influential poets in this era. He was born in 43 BC to an upper-class family living near Rome, which made him part of the elite class during his lifetime.

He is most famous for his work Metamorphoses, which tells a story of transformation from humans into animals or plants. In this poem, he explains that humanity’s main flaw is its desire to change things, which leads us to do something like getting revenge on each other or commit suicide.

Ovid often used mythology and legends from other cultures in his work. One example is the story of a woman named Medea who killed her children to punish her unfaithful husband, Jason. Ovid was not always trying to present these stories as pure historical events; rather, he wanted audiences to think about what they can learn about human nature by understanding them on a symbolic level, too.

The Metamorphoses has had an enormous influence on Western culture even after its author’s death. It continues to teach us lessons that still resonate with us today, like the dangers of unchecked anger or revenge-seeking behaviour,, which often causes more harm than good for everyone involved. It also teaches readers how changing our thinking patterns could help make life better in small ways every day.

Pindar

Pindar is widely considered one of the greatest lyric poets in history. Born in Cynaetha, near Thebes, he was a contemporary and rival of Homer. His poetry used complex rhetorical devices such as repetition and antithesis to create a musicality pleasing to audiences.

He also wrote many odes for victors at athletic games, which created an essential connection between athletics and literature. This connection led to the development of drama and theatre by Greek playwrights like Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Aeschylus (known as “the father of tragedy”), who all studied Pindar’s work extensively before writing their tragedies with themes based on his works.

Pindar’s style was vernacular, or everyday language, rather than formal poetic language; this made it easy to understand and remember his poetry. Other vital aspects of Pindar’s work are metrical form, imagery, musicality (especially in choral odes) and dramatic characterisations.

His work often included references to the gods and heroes, which are pertinent aspects of ancient poetry. People often think of ancient poetry as a quaint relic from the past. The truth is, it had profound influences on Western literature and culture that we can still see today.

Simonides of Ceos

Simonides of Ceos is a famous ancient Greek poet who influenced the poetry style and meter in Ancient Greece. He was born around 556 BCE, which means he was Homer‘s contemporary.

Some say that Simonides invented the first primary poetic form: the epode, which consists of one long verse followed by two short ones. He also developed an ode comprising five stanzas called “Pentameter” (meaning it contains five metrical feet). The Greek word for pentameter means five-ground because each line has four stressed syllables in total.

His poems were composed for symposia, where he would recite them to entertain his guests with stories about gods, heroes and mythical creatures. The Simonides Award for achievement in poetry was established in his name and honoured his legacy.

Throughout his life, Simonides worked as a diplomat, politician, orator, philosopher. Still, most importantly, he left behind some of the earliest examples that we have today of poetic verse with his famous Epodes (or short poems).

Apollonius Of Rhodes

Apollonius of Rhodes was a Greek poet, best known as the author of the Argonautica, which recounts Jason and his crew’s quest for the Golden Fleece. The epic poem tells how Medea betrays her father to help Jason take back his throne from King Aeetes.

The poems in this book are cardinal because they are the earliest examples of Greek literature where there is a blending of mythological themes with historical events.

Apollonius is also thought to be the first person ever to write a sentence in Greek prose, and many scholars believe Apollonius was the author who wrote Ouranos, Kronos and Zeus, which is a lost epic poem with mysterious origins.

It’s believed that Homer may have influenced him because they both wrote about heroes, wars, gods, prophecy and monsters, but Apollonius also wrote about his travels around Greece to find different sources for stories for his book famous book.

A mosaic portrait of Alcman
A mosaic portrait of Alcman

Alcman

The ancient Greeks were one of the first civilisations to develop an appreciation for poetry. Alcman, a poet from Sparta in the 7th century BC, is credited with inventing Spartan elegiac couplets and setting them to music. Alcman developed this new style because he believed that the emotional content of his poems would be more powerful when they were set to music.

In Alcman’s songs, lyrics were composed of two lines, one heroic and one sad. The first was a praise poem, while the second type is what we would call elegiac today. These poems are still used to this day as they not only paint pictures with words but also help people find closure when dealing with loss.”

Alcman then became the model for later Greek poets, especially in Athens and Ionia. He is known for his poetry which focused on nature, animals, and love. His work influenced other poets like Sappho and Pindar, who took his ideas of love and nature to new heights.

Theocritus

Theocritus was one of the most influential poets in antiquity. He wrote the first pastoral poetry, and his style has had a profound effect on Western literature ever since.

However, not much is known about him for sure because he left no biography or autobiography. All that we know is from what others have written about him, mostly just passing mentions by other ancient authors like Virgil and Horace, who were both influenced by Theocritus’ work.

Theocritus poems are set in Sicily with shepherds as their central figures, and they often talk about love or wine-making. In addition to pastoral poetry, he also laid the foundations of an ancient genre called bucolic poetry.

Horace
Horace

Horace

Horace was a Roman poet and satirist who is well known for his influence on the world of ancient poetry. Horace’s poems were admired during his own life as well as after his death. The Odes (Latin: Carmina) are one of the most important works from this period, consisting mainly of lyric poems that express personal feelings or ideas. His work has influenced later generations of poets, most notably William Wordsworth and John Keats.

Horace’s life is relatively well documented compared to other Roman poets. He was born on November 30th in 65 BC to a wealthy family that could provide him with the necessary education – he studied rhetoric under Quintilian (the best known Latin rhetorician) and philosophy from Naeius Acuminus, who also taught Cicero, among others. 

Horace loved Greek culture so much that he wrote his first poem while still a child at school; The piece, called “Ode for the Birthday of Augustus”, celebrated its subject by describing it as an “age of gold”.

The most famous work attributed to him is Ars Poetica, or The Art of Poetry, which discusses many aspects of poetry, such as what material should be used and how it should be structured into different forms. 

This poem also discusses why satire was something poets were often tasked with writing about; who the audience for poems would have been in Ancient Rome; where he feels you need to place your interests when creating whatever type of poem you’re crafting.

His influence has stretched across time to modern-day poetry and other forms of writing like song lyrics and even books such as The Great Gatsby. Horace is remembered for using a format known as the Horatian Ode, with its stanzas made up of three lines.

Aratus

Aratus of Soli is a Greek poet and the earliest extant author who wrote about astronomy. He was born in 315 BC, which means that he lived during the era when Alexander the Great conquered Persia and Egypt, and he died around 240 BC, near the end of his life when Rome had just become an empire.

Aratus’s poems are full of figures taken from mythology to explain natural phenomena that are understandable to all, making him one of the most revered poets during his era and modern times. He teaches us how important it is to describe complex concepts using simple words so that everyone can listen attentively.

He wrote an epic poem called Phaenomena, composed of 366 verses and told about the constellations, weather phenomena, and other celestial events. Aratus’ poetry has been studied for centuries by people like Aristotle because he has had such an enormous influence on ancient poetry.

This book was used in schools for centuries after its publication as an introduction to astronomy. In addition to being a poet, he also wrote many other books on medicine, geometry, mathematics, music theory and ethics.

Conclusion

Take a minute to think about the last time you read some poetry. Think about how it made you feel, what images may have popped into your head and if any of those thoughts or feelings are still with you today. If not, maybe this blog post will inspire you to pick up an old favourite book from college that is sitting on your bookshelf collecting dust!

We’ve only touched on a few of the most influential ancient poets in world history. You may have never heard of some or even any of them before, but I hope this post has given you a little more insight into who they are and what makes them so unique. Here’s a brief overview of the historical timeline of poetry.

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