Were Books a Thing in Ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece is known for its rich cultural heritage and contribution to literature, philosophy, and science. But were books a thing in Ancient Greece The answer to this question is not straightforward as we know books today did not exist in the same form back then.

What was the Form of Literature in Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece, literature was primarily an oral tradition. People used to tell stories, recite poetry, and share knowledge through spoken words. This tradition was passed down from generation to generation, with different poets and storytellers adding their own twists to the stories they heard or created.

It was only later that these stories were written down on papyrus scrolls. These scrolls were the closest thing to a book in ancient times. However, they were expensive to produce and not widely available for everyone to access.

What Were Papyrus Scrolls

Papyrus scrolls were made from thin strips of papyrus plant that were glued together side by side. These strips were then rolled up around a wooden or ivory rod to make a scroll. The text was written on one side of the papyrus strip using ink and a reed pen.

These scrolls were fragile and could easily break or tear if handled roughly. They also took up a lot of space as they had to be stored vertically in special containers called “baskets”.

What Kind of Literature Existed in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greek literature consisted of various genres such as epics, dramas, comedies, histories, and philosophical treatises. Some of the famous works include Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Aeschylus’s Oresteia trilogy, Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, Aristotle’s Poetics, and Plato’s Republic.

These works were not written in the form of a book but rather in the form of papyrus scrolls. They were often performed in public theaters or recited at private gatherings among friends.


In conclusion, books as we know them today did not exist in Ancient Greece. Literature was primarily an oral tradition and later recorded on papyrus scrolls.

These scrolls were expensive to produce and not widely available for everyone to access. However, despite the limitations, ancient Greek literature has left a lasting impact on Western culture and continues to inspire writers and thinkers today.