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What is the earliest evidence of pop culture/viral trends throughout history? By pop culture I mean music, theater etc... Basically "gangam style" of the olden days. I understand that any sort of trends would be much more localized than nowadays, but does anyone have any good examples of this sort of pop culture?

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I'm gonna guess looking at funny cats. Why ELSE would someone domesticate the bloody nuisances all those thousands of years ago? – DVK Mar 3 '13 at 0:56
Well, that would explain the ancient Egyptian cat obsession... – eskimo Mar 3 '13 at 1:25
This is not earliest evidence, but I think about Renaissance. Although artists like Michelangelo or Leonardo created mainly for nobility, but William Shakespeare would be a very good example of "mass culture". – Voitcus Jun 12 '13 at 7:43
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Probably the oldest examples of this that we still have are the epic poems. Poems like the Iliad or Mahabharata or Epic of Gilgamesh long before being written down were recited orally (most likely sung) by people who had the entire work memorized. In this way, early bards would have combined the the roles of entertainer, historian, cultural propagandist, and sometimes priest. (They also clearly had to have amazing memory)

There were certainly other popular songs (just as there are today) but most of the shorter ones wouldn't have achieved the cultural importance required for somebody to bother to write them down. Some of the few that did can be found in Psalms, and in much of our recorded ancient Tamil poetry.

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At first I was thinking about mythology, but I'd definitely count Aesop's Fables becoming one of the first virals, with such epigons as Babrius or Phaedrus in ancient times, spreading later across nations and languages as their own fairy tales or poetry.

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+1. Hower, according the wikipedia entry, Aesop's fable are much older than Aesop (if he ever existed). " Modern scholarship reveals fables and proverbs of "Aesopic" form existing in both ancient Sumer and Akkad, as early as the third millennium BCE." They where already virally spreading accorss nations before Aesop ! – Frédéric Grosshans Jun 12 '13 at 13:44

I think, despiet being imprecise definition of "pop culture" in your question, it is implied that this is a phenomena of bourgeois culture to the masses, stating there commercialization of cultural goods in high levels of market, with these products available in electronic medias.

Failure to consider it obscures any attempt to pinpoint the earliest manifestations of pop culture, allowing them to speculate that tell tales around the campfire is prehistoric pop culture, what sounds somewhat incredible.

For my part I think a lot of pop culture manifestation in time is indented Billie Holyday, but we must also mention Carlos Gardel.

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-1 for the Marxist oriented distortion of the definition of "pop", which flies in the face of History, and the definition outlined in the question itself! And Billie Holiday?! Even according to your definition, you are HUNDREDS OF YEARS OFF, as per some of the other comments, such as Shakespeare. Also, since this is an English site, please do us the courtesy of using a spell checker if you don't know English well. – user2590 Aug 25 '13 at 20:40
" imprecise definition of "pop culture" in your question, it is implied.." That does not give you license to invent your own definition of "pop" and answer the question using that. Add a comment and maybe a downvote to the question - this is not answer to the stated question. Too bad I can't down-vote twice. – user2590 Aug 25 '13 at 20:44

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