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THE ODYSSEY HOMER Greek Culture Gods advised the mortals Hosts always gave gifts to their guests Guests asked host permission to leave Gave food to beggars; helped strangers Bathe feet of guests Nicknames Pray to gods after awakening Greek Culture (cont.) Gods wore disguises when visiting mortals Fighting is sport Consulted prophets (Tiresias) Rewarded servants with land (Eumaeus) Feasted first before speaking Bridal gifts given by suitors (Penelope) Public heralds led sacrificial victims through streets Greek Values Kings were treated with respect Beggars were not shameful; was honorable to give to beggars Family responsibility Lying was acceptable Murder was an acceptable revenge Not unmanly to kill women Patience Gods protected the mortals Greek Values (cont.) Belief in omens Respected the advice of the gods Acceptable for men to cry openly Love between father and son Honor the dead Epic Hero Characteristics Rule over many Stay calm men Strong-willed Fight for a cause Bold Overcome peril Good actor Patient Brood over vengeance Humble Trust the gods Resourceful Plan ahead Confident Listen to others Epic Conventions There are many conventions established by Homer that were subsequently developed over the centuries. Lengthy Narrative - An epic poem must be a work of considerable length, spanning several books, cantos, or chapters. Epic Conventions (cont.) Epic Hero—The protagonist of an epic poem is a figure who unmistakably represents his nation, culture, or race. He must also be a figure of noble mien, considerable military prowess, and undying virtue. Epic Conventions (cont.) Lofty Tone and Style - The poem itself must assume a grave and serious tone. Although many epics contain lighter moments, these are always secondary to the primarily somber mood of the entire work. The poem must also be written in a grandiose, exalted style to distinguish it from works of lower orders. Epic Conventions (cont.) Epic simile – an extended simile. The epic simile is an extended comparison between one element or character of the poem and some foreign entity. The simile is highly visual, and either forces the reader to consider the object of the simile in a new light or helps reveal a secret about the element which would be too complex to detail didactically. Epic Conventions (cont.) Catalogs/Genealogies —An epic poem will often include copious inventories and catalogs of characters, equipment, or some other pertinent element of the plot. The poem will also supply expansive genealogies for important characters or artifacts, to lend an air of antiquity and authority to the respective element in the poem. Epic Conventions (cont.) Supernatural Involvement: Divine machinery – active presence of gods in epic is traditional. The epic always features some form of divine intervention in the poem’s main action. These other-worldly figures will either assist or antagonize the epic hero, although their involvement in matters will always be limited to some degree (i.e. they cannot dominate the entire narrative). Epic Conventions (cont.) Invocation – prayer to a muse or god for help; statement of purpose. Most epic poems begin with an invocation to some higher power. The poet often invokes the Muses, or a particular Muse (Usually Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry). Other times, the poet might summon a particular deity or great power to lend inspiration to his endeavor. No matter the object of the request, the invocation serves as an introduction to the action that is about to unfold. Epic Conventions (cont.) In media res – in the middle of things Many epics commence in medias res, or “in the middle of things.” The story opens at a point well along in the narrated sequence of events. As part of the convention, a character will recount the bypasses episodes later in the narrative, so that the reader will become familiar with the prehistory of the poem. Epic Conventions (cont.) Voyage Across the Sea The epic hero and/or other characters will often journey across the sea to discover new lands or explore distant regions. The voyage serves to expand the setting of the drama considerably, and this helps to magnify the overall significance of the epic’s action. Epic Conventions (cont.) Journey to the Underworld – purpose is to reflect or to prophesize A visit to the underworld is also a common epic motif. The epic hero will often gain intelligence from the departed spirits that he encounters. The journey both to and from the nether regions is most often fraught with peril. Epic Conventions (cont.) Flashback – interruption of the narrative to show an episode that happened in the past Epithet – an adjective expressing some characteristic quality ie. “nimble-witted Odysseus” or “bright-eyed Athena” Epic Battles Vivid descriptions of mighty battles, either one-on-one duels between universal champions or the amassed engagement of powerful armies, are a common feature of the epic poem. These mighty contests may indeed appear to glorify war, but they also personify the conflicts endured by the given nation, culture, or race that the epic hero symbolizes.
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