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Characteristics of the Epic

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Austin Stevenson

on 24 January 2018

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Transcript of Characteristics of the Epic

blind, reckless behavior
excessive pride
is the action of asking someone for help
Story starts in the middle, rather than at the chronological beginning of the story
Spans many different locations
comparison of two unlike things using like, as, or than
a method of identification in the ancient world
The Heroic Qualities
Epic Conventions
Epic Language
Characteristics of the Epic Poem
the constant struggle for excellence
source of harm or ruin
Through the successes and failures of the characters, the epics demonstrated :
a nickname or phrase attached to a character
"rose fingered dawn"
"grey eyed Athena"
"Apollo, who strikes from far"
"Poseidon, bull of the sea"
"No, he waited Achilles, coming on, gigantic in power.
a snake in the hills, guarding his hole, awaits a man—
bloated with poison, deadly hatred seething inside him,
glances flashing fire as he coils round his lair . . .
Hector, nursing his quenchless fury, gave no ground,"
The Iliad
; Book 22, 93-97
powerful stallions sweeping round the post for trophies,
galloping full stretch with some fine prize at stake,
a tripod, say, or woman offered up at funeral games
for some brave hero fallen—
the two of them
whirled three times around the city of Priam,"

Book 22; 199-204
(for others)
(for self)
The Dead
Ancient Greeks had rituals & customs for mourning the dead.
Guests were welcomed without questions.
demonstrated through bravery, courage, & the quest for glory
In Media Res
The most important value was home and country.
Sacrifices are given to the Gods before important endeavors.
It was more honorable to die in battle than live in fear.

The Greeks wanted fame that lived even after they died.
Involved specific funeral rites: preparing the body respectfully & crying out a specific number of lamentations.
They were given food and drink before they would explain their purpose.

Zeus was the God of supplicants (visitors in need) so it was bad to dishonor guests.
Failure to respect the Gods had serious consequences.
Ajax actually makes it to the cliffs of his home, but when he taunts the Gods, Poseiden shatters the cliff and hurls Ajax into the sea.
This concept of country included both a sense of patriotism and a value for the land.

Home & family were valued, but not as highly.

desire to reach full potential

can include strength, wit, intelligence, morals, etc.
overestimating abilities

can lead to conflict with the gods
Remember Ajax?
can be caused by temporary madness

The word comes from the Greek goddess of these traits.
the unbeatable foe

It is named after the Greek goddess of retribution.

religious stories/rituals
An epic poem is, according to Edward Hirsch, "A long narrative poem, exalted in style, heroic in theme. The earliest epics all focus on the legendary adventures of a hero against the backdrop of a historical event" (208).
What does that mean?
To the Ancient Greeks, epic poems, like
The Odyssey
The Illiad
were many things:
Religious/moral Instruction
Cultural Instruction
Where do you find these things in our modern world?
These are qualities that make the Greek heroes great, but also lead to their downfall and redemption.
Gods & Goddesses are characters

Heroes are bigger than life

Even the language is more elevated (fancy/grand) than regular speech
Epic poems began with the singer asking for the gods' help to tell the story.

Greeks would appeal to the muses.
used to help the singer & audience keep their place
used the father's name

"Austin, Son of Steven"
used to help common people understand fantastic things

Typically (but not always) uses "like" or "as"at the beginning and "so" at the end of the comparison.
“Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.”

The Iliad
“Arms, and the man I sing, who, forced by fate,
And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate,
Expell’d and Exil’d, left the Trojan shore.
Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latian realm, and built the destined town;
His banish’d gods restored to rites divine,
And settled sure succession in his line,
From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long glories of majestic Rome.
O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;
Whar goddess was provok’d, and whence her hate;
For what offense the Queen of Heav’n began
To persecute so brave, so just a man;
Involv’d his anxious life in endless cares,
Expos’d to wants, and hurried into wars!
Can heav’nly minds such high resentment show,
Or exercise Their spite in human woe?”

The Aeneid
“Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of chaos: or if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my advent’rous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me for thou know’st; thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast abyss
And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.”

Paradise Lost
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