How old is the worldbuilding phenomenon in writing? What is the earliest writing that can be categorized as such?
The worldbuilding wikipedia page says that the term first appeared in 1965; however, in retrospect there are earlier stories that most would now happily classify as falling into that category - such as those by JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.
I now see many sci-fi and fantasy stories scrutinized under that lens, although I believe that some of their authors never had worldbuilding as their priority. So it could be that the phenomenon has more to do with the reader's perception of why sci-fi / fantasy authors write, rather than something inherent to the authors or the fiction itself.
That said, I am wondering what the earliest example of this might be. In my definition, in order to qualify the story must be fictional, large (either one large story or a series of many short ones), greatly prioritize in-universe consistency, and come with the understanding that it is not describing our own reality the way religious texts might.
I considered asking the worldbuilding stack exchange, but my guess is that here may be a better database for existing literature, rather than for writing technique.