Erotic literature comprises fictional and factual stories and accounts of human sexual relationships which have the power to or are intended to arouse the reader sexually. Such erotica takes the form of novels, short stories, poetry, true-life memoirs, and sex manuals. A common feature of the genre is sexual fantasies on such themes as prostitution, orgies, homosexuality, sadomasochism, and many other taboo subjects and fetishes, which may or may not be expressed in explicit language.
Other common elements are satire and social criticism. Despite cultural taboos on such material, circulation of erotic literature was not seen as a major problem before the invention of printing, as the costs of producing individual manuscripts limited distribution to a very small group of readers. The invention of printing, in the 15th century, brought with it both a greater market and increasing restrictions, like censorship and legal restraints on publication on the grounds of obscenity. Because of this, much of the production of this type of material became clandestine.
In ancient Sumer, a whole cycle of poems revolved around the erotic lovemaking between the goddess Inanna and her consort Dumuzid the Shepherd.Many erotic poems have survived from ancient Greece and Rome. The Greek poets Straton of Sardis and Sappho of Lesbos both wrote erotic lyric poems.
The poet Archilochus wrote numerous satirical poems filled with obscene and erotic imagery. Erotic poems continued to be written in Hellenistic and Roman times by writers like Automedon (The Professional and Demetrius the Fortunate), Philodemus (Charito) and Marcus Argentarius. Notable Roman erotic poets included Catullus, Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, Martial and Juvenal, and the anonymous Priapeia.
Some later Latin authors such as Joannes Secundus also wrote erotic verse.The Seven Beauties (Persian: هفت پیکر) also known as Bahramnameh (بهرامنامه, The Book of Bahram) is a romantic epic by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi written in 1197. This poem is a part of the Nizami’s Khamsa. The original title Haft Peykar can be translated literally as “seven portraits” with the figurative meaning of “seven beauties.” The poem is a masterpiece of erotic literature, but it is also a profoundly moralistic work. During the Renaissance period, many poems were not written for publication; instead, they were merely circulated in manuscript form among a relatively limited readership. This was the original method of circulation for the Sonnetsof William Shakespeare, who also wrote the erotic poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.