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The Greek Epic

The Greek Epic

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The Greek Epic

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  1. The Greek Epic Mr. Sweeney Southwest High School

  2. Epic Poetry • Epic – a long narrative poem about a larger-than-life hero who is engaged in a dangerous quest that is important to the history of a group of people Fragment from The Epic of Gilgamesh First page of the Beowulf manuscript

  3. Types of Epics • Folk epics – were originally spoken or sung and then handed down through generations by storytellers • Examples: Gilgamesh (Sumeria); Sundiata (West Africa); Beowulf (Scandinavia/England) • Literary Epics – originally written down, borrowing on the style of folk epics • Examples: The Iliad, The Odyssey (Greece); The Aeneid (Rome); The Divine Comedy (Italy)

  4. Features of Epics • Epic Hero – occupies an elevated position in society; may be flawed, but is generally a man of strength • Epic Conflict – plot centers on hero’s struggles against an obstacle or set of obstacles • Heroic Quest – hero’s adventure is usually a journey • Divine Intervention – the gods may help or hinder the hero in his journey

  5. Epic Conventions • Invocation – opening statement of theme; request for help from the gods in telling the story properly • In medias res – Latin for “in the middle of things;” story begins in the middle, then flashbacks tell us the earlier parts • Elevated Style – written as if the characters and events are sacred The opening lines of The Odyssey, which translates as, “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the strongholdon the proud height of Troy.”

  6. Epic Conventions • Epic Similes – elaborate, extended comparisons using “like” or “as” • Epithets – stock, descriptive words and phrases that would allow the poet to quickly describe a character; Homer is famous for these

  7. Homer’s Epics • Virtually nothing is known about Homer, the poet behind ancient Greece’s two greatest stories • He may have been blind and he may have been from what is now Turkey • He did not create the stories behind The Iliad and The Odyssey; he just told them better than anyone else

  8. Homer’s Epics • Homer was likely a bard, a traveling storyteller • He and his audience would have believed that The Iliad and The Odyssey were actual, historical accounts of real people and real deeds • There is likely some truth to this; we know that there was a real Troy, and probably a long Trojan War