Significant early novels in various languages and genres include:
(This list is far from definitive. For example, there are earlier Chinese novels than Romance of the Three Kingdoms and chivalric romances in prose before Le Morte d'Arthur in several European languages. And what about other languages?)
- Xenophon, The Education of Cyrus (Greek, 4th century BC). A fictional account of the education of King Cyrus the Great of Persia. A strong candidate for the first novel.
- Petronius, Satyricon (Latin, 1st century).
- Apuleius, The Golden Ass (Latin, 2nd century).
- Chariton, The Loves of Chaereas and Callirhoe (Greek, 1st century–2nd century).
- Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon (Greek, 2nd century).
- Longus, Daphnis and Chloe (Greek, 2nd century).
- Xenophon of Ephesus, Ephesian Tale (Greek, 2nd century–3rd century).
- Heliodorus, Ethiopian Tale (Greek, 3rd century–4th century)
- Anon, Joseph and Aseneth (Greek, 1st century–5th century).
- Anon, The Story of Apollonius, King of Tyre (Latin adaptation of lost Greek original, 5th century–6th century).
- Dandin, The Adventures of the Ten Princes (Sanskrit, 6th century–7th century).
- Banabhatta, Kadambari (Sanskrit, 7th century).
- Anon, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Japanese, 10th century).
- Anon, The Tale of Ochikubo (Japanese, 10th century).
- Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji (Japanese, 11th century).
- Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron (Italian, 1353).
- Luo Guanzhong, Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Chinese, 14th century).
- Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur, (English, 1485).
- García de Rodríguez de Montalvo, Amadis of Gaul (Spanish adaptation of lost 13th century original, 1508).
- Thomas More, Utopia (Latin, circa 1516).
- François Rabelais, Pantagruel, (French, 1532).
- Anon, Lazarillo de Tormes (Spanish, 1554).
- Cervantes, Don Quixote (Spanish, 1605).
- John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (English, 1678).
- Aphra Benn, Oroonoko (English, 1688).
- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (English, 1719).
Qualities of the novel
Most novels have the following qualities, but in each case there are exceptions:
- Intended as entertainment (but The Education of Cyrus is didactic).
- The subject matter is wholly fictional (but Moby Dick by Herman Melville has digressions into fact).
- The subject matter is realistic (but many have surreal or fantastic elements, from Satyricon onwards).
- The subject matter is human beings, their actions and relations (perhaps in disguise, for example as animals). Exceptions?
- There are a small number of central characters (but 253 by Geoff Ryman has many characters none of whom is central).
- A single plot links the events and characters (but The Decameron is a loosely connected series of tales).
Literature, the short story, theater, poetry, novella, first novel in English.
Novel is also the name of a commune of the Haute-Savoie département in France.