Fictions, narratives, dramatisations, special poetic modes of language --these have been produced in all societies from the very earliest times. But it is one matter to produce them, another to think and theorise about them. As in so many other areas, it was the Greeks who first recognised that there were questions to be asked and answered about these forms of verbal composition.
Not that the Greek forms were equivalent to “literature” in our modern understanding of the term. In the first place, they were tied in very tightly to specific social occasions. Thus, plays were performed only during certain festivals; there were special occasions for the recitation of Homeric epics; and epinician or victory odes were composed during the actual ceremonies of celebration. Such forms belonged within larger rituals, quite unlike the free-floating books of modern literature. It is no wonder that concepts of genre sprang up almost automatically in Greek ‘literary’ theory. The different genres did not have to be discovered by a sampling of contents; they were defined in advance by different categories of social occasion.【我没打错，第一页人家就把epinician改成了epimician，我诙谐你妹啊，人家都说epinician or victory odes，你译成“诙谐句或庆功诗”就没发现or吗？人家指的是同一种东西啊大哥！】
At the same time, the element of ritual was modified by the element of agon or contest. In the Athenian drama festivals, for example, the plays of different dramatists were presented competitively, for judging and the awarding of prizes; and a similar competitiveness applied to many other occasions of poetic performance. This suggests an evaluative stance on the part of the audience going beyond pure communal involvement in ritual. An evaluative stance naturally leads on to a critical stance, to asking questions about what makes one work better than another.