What is it?
• Epic. An extended narrative poem
recounting actions, travels, adventures,
and heroic episodes.
• May be a character from history or from
legend. His traits generally reflect ones
that were most valued by the society from
which the epic came from.
• Characteristics of the classical epic
• The main character (protagonist) is heroically larger than life, often
the source and subject of legend or a hero
• The deeds of the hero are presented without favoritism, revealing
his failings as well as his virtues or good deeds
• The action, often in battle, reveals the more-than-human strength of
the heroes as they engage in acts of heroism and courage
• The setting covers several nations, the whole world, or even the
• The episodes, even though they may be fictional, provide an
explanation for some of the circumstances or events in the history of
a nation or people
• The gods and lesser divinities play an active role in the outcome of
• All of the various adventures form an organic whole, where each
event relates in some way to the central theme
Typical in epics is a set of conventions (or
epic machinery). Among them are these:
• Story begins in medias res (in the middle of things)
• Histories and descriptions of significant items (who made a sword or
shield, how it was decorated, who owned it from generation to
• Epic simile (a long simile where the image becomes an object of art
in its own right as well as serving to clarify the subject).
• Frequent use of epithets ("Aeneas the true"; "rosy-fingered Dawn";
"tall-masted ship") characteristics of things
• Use of patronymics (calling son by father's name): "Anchises' son"
• Long, formal speeches by important characters
• Journey to the underworld
• Use of the number three (attempts are made three times, etc.)
• Previous episodes in the story are later recounted
Passed down traditionally by word of mouth,
just like the short stories.
Was created to entertain people by
Was not written down on paper until
hundreds of years later.
Included great Gods and heroes.
• The stories were composed in poetic lines since
they were long and had to be memorized.
• The stories are false, but relate to history so
people took the stories as fact.
• The Illiad and the Odyssey relate to the Trojan
War, which occurred about 1200 BC.
• Although the purpose of the stories were for
entertainment, they also taught about religion
• Loyalty, devotion, and fortitude
• The Greek ideal of a strong body and a
• The wandering hero
• The triumph of good over evil
• Obedience to the laws of the gods
• Alcinous Perimedes
• Odysseus Eurylochus
• Calypso Tiresias
• Circe Persephone
• Zeus Telemachus
• Apollo sirens
• Agamemnon Scylla
• Poseidon Charybdis
• Athena Lampetia
• Polyphemus Hermes
• Laertes Eumaeus
• Cronus Antinous
• Eurynome Eurymachus
• Penelope Amphinomis
• Born sometime between 700 and 1000 BC
• In Western Asia possibly
• According to tradition he was blind
• Created the Illiad and the Odyssey, but
orally remember and recited through poem
• They were the basis of the Greek and