The range of pre-modern, secular Hebrew literature is limited. From the late biblical period on, Hebrew was not a spoken language, and it was used primarily in religious contexts. An exception to this rule was the Hebrew literature that flourished in Spain, Provence, and Italy between the 10th and 14th centuries. Poets such as Samuel HaNagid, Judah HaLevi, and Immanuel of Rome wrote secular verse in addition to their many religious and liturgical poems. Prose fiction was much less common, though Abraham ben Samuel ha-Levi ibn Hasdai's Ben ha-Melek ve-ha-Nazir--a work based on an Arabic version of a classic Indian story about the life of Buddha--is one interesting example.
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