How Literature Has Shaped History

History and literature have always been greatly distinguished both in high school and in college courses. History courses tend to rely on rote memorization of major events with a grasp of specific concepts and chronology. Whereas literature courses I’ve taken have always relied on being able to read into and decipher allegory, themes, foreshadowing, and other literary elements.

In my 17th century theater history course, it was interesting to learn the reasoning behind the adoption of the Phoenician alphabet from 750-700 B.C.E. This was during a time when pictographic communications such as hieroglyphics were being used, which were helpful for accounting purposes at the time, but much more difficult to learn. However with the adoption of the Phoenician alphabet, few symbols were needed to create various sounds. This was done not only for convenience, but rather to preserve oral literature!

The Iliad and the Odyssey were so important to so many people, that an entirely new alphabet was adopted in only 50 years. This helped to preserve these stories in a written standardized form. This was also done to preserve tales of war, Oedipus, and other stories of history. This all just goes to show the importance of literature and its relevance to not just other disciplines, but rather the shaping of world history.


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