Why would I want to undertake such a task? Does it have any merit? I think the list itself would have some use. (I am secretly hoping it already exists some place and I will find it in one of my searches. So far I have only found lists segregated by their respective cultures or time periods). I think that human culture is more connected than we might at first assume. I think the segregation by culture or time period is artificial to how things really work. I think that ideas, concepts, philosophies, stories, fictions, etc. travel and flow with the human populations. I think that in the past, humanity traveled and with them so did their ideas. And as such through the study of what was preserved in writing we can get a glimpse of how ideas spread about the globe. Did the idea of monotheism spring up naturally in various places, or was it brought from one to another? Or the idea of democracy? Or the way in which armies waged battles and conquered lands? I think a project like this could have many different applications even though it is going to be daunting and I doubt I will get much past the first few centuries of the common era (CE).
So far, I have listed with mostly accurate dating writings from the Greeks and Latins before the common era (BCE). I also have a start into Sumerian and Egyptian literature. The most ancient text that has survived to date appears to be "The Code of Hammurabi" followed closely by the "Epic of Gilgamesh." Both of which seem to come from a pre-Babylonian era (that is from the land of Iraq). It is five centuries before you get to Homer and the Greek classics. There are writings in Asia and Egypt that seem to come from this same era (2500-900 BCE). After 900 BCE, writing seems to begin to grow in volume. But even then each century only has a few surviving authors, thinkers or works.
And so my first insights are:
- Writing seems to have appeared in various cultures around the same time.
- The fact that more of the written record is available the further forward you move in history may stem from either or both of the following: more people are writing and/or less time has elapsed for the record to be lost.
- Humans feel the need to preserve what they deem as important.