CLAS1005 09-29-08 homeric hero and epic genre - 2 9 SEPTEMBER 2008 THE HOMERIC HERO AND THE EPIC GENRE Summary The epic genre The impact of the Homeric

CLAS1005 09-29-08 homeric hero and epic genre - 2 9...

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29 SEPTEMBER 2008 THE HOMERIC HERO AND THE EPIC GENRE Summary The epic genre The impact of the Homeric epics Literary characteristics The Homeric hero The Epic Genre The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer are “epic” poetry Epic has several principal characteristics o Heroic literature o Legend, mythic o Gods and goddesses Generally in “dactylic hexameter” – the meter of epic poetry o ᵕᵕ- / ᵕᵕ- / ᵕᵕ- / ᵕᵕ- / ᵕᵕ- / -- o Two short beats, one long except for last foot which is usually two long beats Narrates great deeds of gods, heroes, and great men Homer credited with the invention of Greek epic - Note: Standard themes of Greek epic already present in Near Eastern epic (i.e. Epic of Gilgamesh) Regarded in Greece as highest form of poetry o Everything else was second rate Even political speeches o Ideally suited to serious issues Homer believed by many ancient Greeks to have achieved literary perfection o Verb in Greek meaning to “Homerize” All sought to imitate Homer Homeric epics = the standard by which all other literature was evaluated The Influence of Homer and the Homeric Epics Homer = literary “gold-standard” Iliad and Odyssey objects of study and discussion from their inception Homeric scholarship = integral part of intellectual life (esp. in the Hellenistic Perdiod – 323 BCE – 30 BCE) o Basis of education o Highly educated Greeks needed to know Homer because it was not just literature, but considered history o Libraries tried to attract best Homeric scholars who studied texts and analyzed discrepencies o Texts come to us through translations and transcriptions Errors get recopied and compounded Roman national epic, Virgil’s Aeneid , rooted in the work of Homer o Not only Greek nationalism, but influenced people around them
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Aeneid Romans wrote themselves into epics Anglo-Saxon kings tried writing themselves in, trace lineage back to Iliad as beginning of nation’s history Homer said to be an authority on religion & myth, geography, natural philosophy, ethics, politics, warfare etc. (i.e. all paths to knowledge start with Homer) o Quasi-biblical authority o WWHD: What Would Homer Do? Scenes from Homer’s epics ubiquitous in Greek art from an early date Aristocratic clans tried to trace lineage to Homeric characters (cf. esp. Book 2 – Catalogue of Ships) Warrior elite of Greece attempted to imitate personal qualities of Homeric heroes o i.e. Alexander the Great modelled himself after Achilles Values of the Homeric hero coextensive with those of Greek aristocrats Many of the standard literary techniques and poetic devices of Western literature originate with Homer Impact of Homer on Epic Tradition Epic style considered the highest literary form Imitation of Homer in both style and content (i.e. Apollonius, Argonautica – ca. 250 BCE; Virgil, Aeneid – ca. 19 BCE) “Moved by the god of song, I set out to commemorate the heroes of old who sailed the good ship Argo into the Black Sea and between the Cynean Rocks in quest of the Golden Fleece.”
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