The Greatest "Ancient Literature, History" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 313 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Ancient Literature

Ancient Literature refers to the body of written works produced during the earliest periods of human history, typically up until the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. This category encompasses a diverse array of texts, including religious scriptures, epic poetry, philosophical treatises, historical accounts, and dramatic plays, originating from various civilizations such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Indians, among others. Notable works within this genre include the "Epic of Gilgamesh," Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey," the plays of Sophocles and Euripides, the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle, the "Mahabharata" and "Ramayana" from India, and the foundational texts of Confucianism and Taoism in China. Ancient literature provides invaluable insights into the thoughts, beliefs, and cultural practices of early societies, and continues to influence modern storytelling, philosophy, and ethics.


The category of "History" in books refers to the study and interpretation of past events, societies, and cultures. It encompasses a wide range of topics, including political, social, economic, and cultural developments, as well as the lives of individuals and groups who have shaped the course of history. History books can be written from various perspectives and may focus on specific time periods, regions, or themes. They aim to provide readers with a deeper understanding of the past and its impact on the present.

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  1. 1. The Histories of Herodotus by Herodotus

    "The Histories of Herodotus" is an ancient text that provides a comprehensive account of the Greco-Persian Wars. It is often considered the first work of history in Western literature. The author, often referred to as the 'Father of History', provides a narrative that not only discusses the conflicts between the Greeks and Persians, but also delves into the customs, geography, and history of each civilization. This detailed and pioneering work has greatly contributed to our understanding of the ancient world.

    The 278th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. Bhagavad Gita by Unknown

    The book is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the Indian epic Mahabharata. It takes the form of a dialogue between Prince Arjuna and the god Krishna, who serves as his charioteer. On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, just as the war is about to begin, Arjuna is filled with doubt and moral dilemma about fighting in the battle. Krishna imparts spiritual wisdom and guidance to Arjuna, addressing his concerns and leading him through a profound discourse on various philosophical concepts, including the nature of life, the soul, and one's duties. The text covers topics such as righteousness, devotion, and the paths to spiritual liberation, ultimately encouraging Arjuna to rise to his duty as a warrior with the understanding that the true self is eternal and beyond physical conflict.

    The 1271st Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. The Theogony by Hesiod

    "The Theogony" is an ancient Greek epic poem that explores the genealogy of the gods. The narrative begins with the primordial deities Chaos, Gaia, and Eros, then progresses through the generations of Titans, Olympian gods, and mortal heroes. It provides an account of the struggles and power dynamics among these divine beings, culminating in the reign of Zeus as the king of the gods. The poem is a significant source of Greek mythology and offers insights into the ancient Greeks' worldview and their understanding of the universe's origins.

    The 1297th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. The Book of Songs by China

    "The Book of Songs" is a collection of ancient Chinese poetry, providing a rich cultural and historical insight into early Chinese society. The anthology includes various types of poems, such as folk songs, hymns, and courtly songs, reflecting the life, customs, and beliefs of different social classes. It serves as a significant literary work and historical document, revealing the evolution of the Chinese language, thoughts, and values over centuries.

    The 1807th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. The History of Rome by Livy

    This historical work offers a comprehensive narrative of the history of Rome, from its mythical origins to the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus. The author chronicles the major political, military, and social events of the Roman Republic, including the founding of the city, the establishment of the Republic, the Punic Wars, and the rise of Julius Caesar. The book is a significant source of information about the early history of Rome and is often considered one of the most important works of Roman history.

    The 2181st Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. Anabasis by Xenophon

    "Anabasis" is a historical narrative detailing the journey of 10,000 Greek mercenaries who are hired by Cyrus the Younger to help him seize the Persian throne from his brother, Artaxerxes II. After Cyrus's death in battle, the Greeks are stranded deep in enemy territory with no supplies or means of escape. The narrative follows their perilous journey home through hostile lands, under the leadership of one of their own, a young soldier who emerges as a capable and inspiring leader.

    The 2983rd Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. The Book Of The Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione

    This Renaissance classic is a seminal work on etiquette and courtly manners, presenting an idealized vision of the perfect gentleman and lady at the courts of Italy. Through a series of dialogues set over four evenings, the book explores the attributes of a well-rounded courtier, emphasizing skills such as martial arts, physical grace, and intellectual pursuits, alongside the importance of moral virtue and the art of conversation. The text also delves into the complex interplay of love, the role of women in court, and the philosophical underpinnings of what it means to live a noble life, ultimately providing a guide to the refined behavior expected in aristocratic circles of the time.

    The 4282nd Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. The Apocrypha by Unknown

    "The Apocrypha" refers to a collection of ancient Jewish writings that are included in some versions of the Bible, particularly in the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, but are not considered canonical by all Jewish and Christian traditions. These texts include a variety of genres such as historical narratives, wisdom literature, additions to canonical books, and apocalyptic visions. They provide valuable insights into Jewish thought and practice during the Second Temple period and are revered in some Christian denominations for their historical and spiritual significance, despite their varying levels of acceptance across different religious communities.

    The 6195th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Moralia by Plutarch

    "Moralia" is a collection of essays and dialogues that delve into various ethical, religious, physical, political, and literary topics, reflecting the author's profound interest in the moral issues of his time. The work is not a single coherent piece but rather an eclectic compilation of thoughts and inquiries, ranging from the proper behavior at a banquet to discussions on the nature of virtue and the influence of superstition. Through these texts, the author explores the conduct of daily life and the philosophical underpinnings of human actions, often drawing on historical examples and the wisdom of Greek and Roman thinkers to illustrate his points. The collection serves as a rich source of insight into the intellectual climate of the early Imperial period and the enduring questions of human morality.

    The 6195th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Pharsalia by Lucan

    "Pharsalia," also known as "The Civil War," is an epic poem that delves into the intense and tumultuous period of the Roman Republic's downfall, focusing on the conflict between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. The narrative, rich in rhetorical and dramatic elements, presents a grim and philosophical reflection on the nature of power, the moral decay of Rome, and the catastrophic consequences of civil strife. Through its vivid and often gruesome depictions of battles, political intrigue, and the personal ambitions that drive men to treachery and violence, the poem serves as a cautionary tale about the fragility of political systems and the human cost of war.

    The 6195th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Paradise Regained by John Milton

    This epic poem is a sequel to a much longer work and focuses on the biblical story of Jesus Christ's temptation by Satan in the wilderness. Over the course of four books, the narrative explores the intellectual and spiritual battle between the Son of God and the devil, who attempts to seduce him with various arguments and worldly temptations. However, Jesus remains steadfast in his faith and virtue, ultimately reclaiming the paradise that was lost by Adam and Eve's fall from grace. The poem celebrates the themes of redemption, the triumph of good over evil, and the wisdom and strength gained through suffering and temptation.

    The 6195th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Mark Antony by Robert Garnier

    The book in question is a classic French Renaissance tragedy that delves into the complex and tumultuous life of a renowned Roman general and politician. Set against the backdrop of the Roman Empire's decline, the narrative explores themes of love, power, betrayal, and the tragic consequences of human flaws. The protagonist's story is one of a passionate and ill-fated love affair with a foreign queen, political strife, and the ultimate downfall of a once-great leader. Through poetic language and dramatic scenes, the play examines the intricate interplay between personal desires and the harsh realities of political life, leading to a catastrophic end that reflects on the nature of fate and the inescapable flaws of humanity.

    The 6195th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. Gorgias/Gorgias : The Sicilian Orator And The Platonic Dialogue by Coleen P. Zoller, Jurgen R. Gatt, S. Montgomery Ewegen

    This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the Platonic dialogue centered on the figure of Gorgias, a renowned Sicilian orator and sophist. It delves into the philosophical conversations between Socrates and Gorgias, along with other interlocutors, exploring themes such as rhetoric, justice, and the nature of the good life. The text examines the intricacies of Socratic dialectic and the contrast between philosophical inquiry and the art of persuasion practiced by sophists. Through this exploration, the book sheds light on the enduring questions about the relationship between power, knowledge, and ethics in the context of human discourse and action.

    The 9887th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.