According to Aristotle (Poetics, ii. 5), Hegemon of Thasos was the inventor of a kind of parody; by slightly altering the wording in well-known poems he transformed the sublime into the ridiculous. In ancient Greek literature, a parodia was a narrative poem imitating the style and prosody of epics "but treating light, satirical or mock-heroic subjects". Indeed, the components of the Greek word are παρά para "beside, counter, against" and ᾠδή oide "song". Thus, the original Greek word παρῳδία parodia has sometimes been taken to mean "counter-song", an imitation that is set against the original. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, defines parody as imitation "turned as to produce a ridiculous effect". Because par- also has the non-antagonistic meaning of beside, "there is nothing in parodia to necessitate the inclusion of a concept of ridicule." Old Comedy contained parody, even the gods could be made fun of. The Frogs portrays the hero-turned-god Heracles as a glutton and the God of Drama Dionysus as cowardly and unintelligent. The traditional trip to the Underworld story is parodied as Dionysus dresses as Heracles to go to the Underworld, in an attempt to bring back a Poet to save Athens.
In the 2nd century AD, Lucian of Samosata, a Greek-language writer in Syria, created a parody of travel/geography texts like Indica and The Odyssey. He described the authors of such accounts as liars who had never traveled, nor talked to any credible person who had. In his ironically named book True History Lucian delivers a story which exaggerates the hyperbole and improbable claims of those stories. Sometimes described as the first Science Fiction, along the lines of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the characters travel to the moon, engage in interplanetary war with the help of aliens they meet there, and then return to the earth to experience civilization inside a 200 mile long creature generally interpreted as being a whale. This is a parody of Ctesias' claims that India has a one-legged race of humans with a single foot so huge it can be used as an umbrella, Homer's stories of one-eyed giants, and so on.
Roman writers explained parody as an imitation of one poet by another for humorous effect. In French Neoclassical literature, parody was also a type of poem where one work imitates the style of another to produce a humorous effect. The Ancient Greeks created satyr plays which parodied tragic plays, often with performers dressed like satyrs.