Aeschylus (c.525 - 456 B.C.) was the first great tragic poet. He introduced dialogue, the characteristic tragic boot (cothurnus) and mask. he established other conventions, like the performance of violent acts offstage. Before he became a tragic poet, Aeschylus, who wrote a tragedy about the Persians, fought in the Persian War in the battles at Marathon, Salamis, and Plataea.  


Aristophanes (c. 448-385 B.C.) is the only representative of Old Comedy whose work we have in complete form. Aristophanes wrote political satire and his humor is often coarse. His sex-strike and anti-war comedy, Lysistrata, continues to be performed today in connection with war protests. Aristophanes presents a contemporary picture of Socrates, as a sophist in the Clouds, that is at odds with Plato's Socrates.  


Catullus (c. 84 - 54 c. B.C.) was a popular and talented Latin poet who wrote invective poetry about Julius Caesar and love poetry about a woman thought to be a sister of Cicero's nemesis Clodius Pulcher.


Euripides (c. 484 - 407/406) was the third of the three great Greek tragic poets. He won his first first prize in 442. Despite winning only limited acclaim during his lifetime, Euripides was the most popular of the three great tragedians for generations after his death. Euripides added intrigue and the love-drama to Greek tragedy.


Homer is the father of poets in the Greco-Roman tradition. We don't know when and if Homer lived, but someone wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey about the Trojan War, and we call him Homer or the so-called Homer. Whatever his real name, he was a great epic poet. Herodotus says Homer lived four centuries earlier. This is not a precise date, but we can date "Homer" to some time following the Greek Dark Age, which was the period after the Trojan War. Homer is described as a blind bard or rhapsode. Ever since, his epic poems have been read and used for various purposes, including teaching about the gods, morality, and great literature. To be educated, a Greek (or Roman) had to know his Homer.  

Lucretius Titus

Lucretius Carus (c. 98-55 B.C.) was a Roman Epicurean epic poet who wrote De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things). De rerum natura is an epic, written in 6 books, which explains life and the world in terms of Epicurean principles and the theory of Atomism. Lucretius had a significant influence on western science and has inspired modern philosophers, including Gassendi, Bergson, Spencer, Whitehead, and Teilhard de Chardin, according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  


Ovid (43 B.C. - A.D. 17) was a prolific Roman poet whose writing influenced Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton. As those men knew, to understand the corpus of Greco-Roman mythology requires familiarity with Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Paul of Tarsus

Paul (or Saul) of Tarsus in Cilicia (d. A.D. 67) set the tone for Christianity, including emphasis on celibacy and theory of divine grace and salvation, as well as eliminating the circumcision requirement. It was Paul who called the New Testament euangelion, 'the gospel'.  


Pindar is considered the Greatest Greek lyric poet. He wrote poetry that provides information on Greek mythology and on Olympic and other Panhellenic Games. Pindar was born c. 522 B.C. at Cynoscephalae, near Thebes.  


Plutarch (c. A.D. 45-125) is an ancient Greek biographer who used material that is no longer available to us for his biographies. His two main works are called Parallel Lives and Moralia. The Parallel Lives compare a Greek and a Roman with a focus on how the character of the famous person influenced his life. Some of the 19 completely parallel lives are a stretch and many of the characters are ones we would consider mythological. Other parallel lives have lost one of their parallels. The Romans made many copies of the Lives and Plutarch has been popular since. Shakespeare, for instance, closely used Plutarch in creating his tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra.  


The dates of Sappho of Lesbos are not known. She is thought to have been born around 610 B.C. and to have died in about 570. Playing with the available meters, Sappho wrote moving lyric poetry, odes to the goddesses, especially Aphrodite (the subject of Sappho's complete surviving ode), and love poetry, including the wedding genre of epithalamia, using vernacular and epic vocabulary. There is a poetic meter named for her (Sapphic).


Seneca was an important Latin writer for the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and beyond. His themes and philosophy should even appeal to us today. In accordance with the philosophy of the Stoics, Virtue (virtus) and Reason are the basis of a good life, and a good life should be lived simply and in accordance with Nature. He served as advisor to the Emperor Nero, but eventually was obliged to take his own life.


Solon First coming to prominence, in about 600 B.C., for his patriotic exhortations when the Athenians were fighting a war with Megara for possession of Salamis, Solon was elected eponymous archon in 594/3 B.C. Solon faced the daunting task of improving the condition of debt-ridden farmers, laborers forced into bondage over debt, and the middle classes who were excluded from government. He had to help the poor while not alienating the increasingly wealthy landowners and aristocracy. Because of his reform compromises and other legislation, posterity refers to him as Solon the lawgiver.  


Sophocles (c. 496-406 B.C.), the second of the great tragic poets, wrote over 100 tragedies. Of these, there are fragments for more than 80, but only seven complete tragedies: Oedipus Tyrannus Oedipus at Colonus Antigone Electra Trachiniae Ajax Philoctetes Sophocles' contributions to the field of tragedy include introducing a third actor to the drama. He is well-remembered for his tragedies about Oedipus of Freud's complex-fame.

Tacitus Cornelius

Tacitus (c. A.D. 56 - c. 120) is considered the greatest of the ancient historians. He writes about maintaining neutrality in his writing. A student of the grammarian Quintilian, Tacitus wrote: De vita Iulii Agricolae 'The Life of Julius Agricola De origine et situ Germanorum 'The Germania' Dialogus de oratoribus 'Dialogue on Oratory' 'Histories'  


Thucydides (born c. 460-455 B.C.) wrote a valuable first-hand account of the Peloponnesian War (History of the Peloponnesian Wa) and improved the way in which history was written. Thucydides wrote his history based on information about the war from his days as an Athenian commander and interviews with people on both sides of the war. Unlike his predecessor, Herodotus, he didn't delve into the background, but laid out the facts as he saw them, chronologically. We recognize more of what we consider the historical method in Thucydides than we do in his predecessor, Herodotus.  

Vergil (Virgil)

Publius Vergilius Maro (Oct. 15, 70 - Sept. 21, 19 B.C.), aka Vergil or Virgil, wrote an epic masterpiece, the Aeneid, for the glory of Rome and especially Augustus. He also wrote poems called Bucolics and Eclogues, but he is chiefly known now for his story of the Trojan prince Aeneas' adventures and founding of Rome, which is patterned on the Odyssey and Iliad. Not only was Vergil's writing continuously read throughout the Middle Ages, but even today he exerts an influence on poets and the college-bound because Vergil is on the Latin AP exam.