Pre-Turkish, Turkish literature?
May 19, 2021 1:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for literature and inscriptions of Turkey in late antiquity- say 7th century and before. I know there are cuneiform texts, but is there anything else?

I'm sure it's my search ability but whenever I google literature of Turkey it tends to take me links to literature in the Turkish language. Is there anything left from the period before that and what are some links to those resources if so? The texts in ancient Hittite and Luwian etc are all from way before late antiquity- I'm wondering if there is anything left from say 200BC-600 AD?
posted by xarnop to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
That's the Hellenistic period--are you looking for specifically non-Greek literature and artifacts? I've seen lots of stuff in museums from time frame in question, from what is currently Turkey, but it's all more-or-less indistinguishable from other regions' Greek and Greco-Roman styles.

I think the only place in Turkey without Greek rulers was Cappadoccia, and that was in the early party of your time range. Focusing on that might help improve your search results.
posted by mark k at 1:33 PM on May 19, 2021

I can't help with specific texts, by maybe you'd get more luck using the terme Anatolia (
posted by domi_p at 1:33 PM on May 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

There's Lucian?

In the period your looking for there will not be any literature written by Turks or other Turkic peoples since written Turkish doesn't come along until later. Also the Turks don't settle in what is now Turkey until the 11th century.
posted by goingonit at 1:43 PM on May 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm ok with it being in the Greek language- I'm just finding it hard to find something that puts together Greek language writings from anatolia. There were a few other languages in use as well during that period in turkey so I'm interested in anything that survived or got copied and preserved in other texts. I did find something on seleucid literature which overlapped a little.

Yeah I'm interested in what was going on Turkey before the arrival of the Turks- I can find things on the neolithic and bronze age, but struggling more with classical and late antiquity time periods. It seems like so many cultures were there with written languages that there would have been some literature preserved from the times.
posted by xarnop at 1:59 PM on May 19, 2021

Is there a reason why Anatolia in particular is the geographic region you're looking for? I just get the sense that it wasn't a super relevant geographical division in late antiquity.

That Paul's epistles count? You may also have luck looking for Syriac Christian literature, or other stuff from early church fathers?
posted by goingonit at 2:05 PM on May 19, 2021

I feel like I'm really confused. Isn't this (at least for the latter part of your period) just the Byzantine Empire?
posted by praemunire at 2:14 PM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Evagrius Ponticus was definitely born in Turkey, has surviving writings, but moved around and died in Egypt. Procopius spent chunks of his life in Asia Minor and Constantinople, and wrote two major histories, but was born in what's Israel. Strabo was from the region and seems to have mostly stayed there. Do those help? I feel like probably not.

Building on goingonit's observation above, I think what happens is people like that (when worth remembering) are thought of as Roman or Byzantine and basically part of the "globalized" world they lived in. So when they wrote on topics they weren't especially regional and aren't organized that way today.
posted by mark k at 2:38 PM on May 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

One local boy named Saul, from Tarsus, is fairly well known as a writer; he's better known as St. Paul.

But that's kind of the thing: Anatolia was part, and an increasingly important part, for the Roman Empire during the period you're after. So there there will be lots of writing in Greek from that period, but it'll be classified as Greek or Hellenistic or Byzantine rather than "from Turkey". You can also try looking for writers from the big cities-- Constantinople, Smyrna, Ephesus.
posted by zompist at 11:45 PM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Before the Turks slowly but surely conquered Anatolia it was the core of what we call the Byzantine Empire and what the Byzantines themselves still called the Roman Empire -- which had survived in the Greek East but collapsed in the Latin West. My understanding is that Byzantine literature isn't very interesting because they were obsessed with Classical Greek literary norms from many centuries before and so produced artificial and formulaic writing. But this might be a cliche due to our ignorance. In any case, good ol' Wikipedia has a thorough article on it.
posted by bertran at 1:14 AM on May 20, 2021

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