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Epic poetry


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Epic poetry

  1. 1. Conventions of Epic Poetry An epic poem has… • a hero who embodies national, cultural, or religious ideals • a hero upon whose actions depends the fate of his people • a course of action in which the hero performs great and difficult deeds • a recognition of -- or intercession by -- divine or supernatural powers • a concern with eternal human problems • a dignified and elaborate poetic style
  2. 2. Important “Primary” Epics • • • • • Iliad* (Greek) / Aeneid (Latin) Odyssey (Greek) / Ulysses (Latin) Gilgamesh (Babylonian) Exodus (Hebrew) Beowulf * (Anglo-Saxon)
  3. 3. What do these primary epics have in common? • Each began as part of a culture’s oral tradition • ORAL TRADITION socio-/cultural values transferred generation-to-generation by traveling poets/bards who sang songs about cultural heroes and values • POETRY because rhyme/meter is easier to memorize and more stable as passed-on
  4. 4. The Iliad • “written” by Homer around (c.) 720 B.C. • Homer did not invent the story, but transcribed it into its longest-lasting form • All versions we read are translated from ancient Greek language – Translations can vary greatly • Called Iliad because “Ilium” was the Greek name for Troy – where the war took place. “Iliad” = “about Ilium”
  5. 5. The Trojan War (c. 1250 B.C.) Causes Nuclear weapons? No! Treaty violations? No! Imperial aggression? No! Trade dispute? No! A WOMAN!
  6. 6. Helen of Troy “The face that launched a thousand ships” Legend says that the Trojan War began when Paris – Prince of Troy and son to the Trojan King Priam – stole the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta.
  7. 7. Why would Paris do something that stupid? Legend says that Paris – a desirable man because of his attractiveness, wealth and power – was approached by the goddess Eris. Eris asked Paris to give “The Golden Apple,” inscribed “To the Fairest” to Athena, Hera, or Aphrodite.
  8. 8. Why would Paris do something that stupid? • The three goddesses were arguing over who was the most beautiful and powerful. • Eris chose Paris to settle their dispute. • Eris, in Greek, means “Chaos”.
  9. 9. Tough Choice. • Hera, wife of Zeus Aphrodite/goddess of love, beauty and sexuality, daughter of Poseidon Hera/Wife of Zeus Athena/goddess of wisdom, daughter of Zeus
  10. 10. Which would you choose? Paris, of course, selects Aphrodite.
  11. 11. • Menelaus promptly launches “a thousand ships” in an effort to reclaim Helen and punish Paris. • As King of Sparta, Menelaus has many “allies”.
  12. 12. Troy (aka “Ilium”) Trojan War c. 1250-1200 BC Sparta
  13. 13. A “less sexy” reason for the “real” Trojan War? Black Sea Bosporus Trojan War c. 1250-1200 BC Aegean Sea Dardanelles
  14. 14. Line-ups: The Achaeans (aka Spartans, aka Greeks) • Menelaus, the King • Agamemnon, brother to Menelaus; battlefield leader of the Achaeans • Ajax • Odysseus • Patroclus, cousin to Achilles
  15. 15. Line-ups: The Achaeans (aka Spartans, aka Greeks) • ACHILLES • the central character – the hero – of The Iliad. • a phenomenal warrior; leader of a “special detachment” fighting with Menelaus and the Spartans – the Myrmydons.
  16. 16. Achilles’ mother, Thetis • Thetis was a Nereid, a minor goddess who gave birth to Achilles, a mortal. • Because of her connection with Olympus as a Nereid, Thetis was permitted access to the magical river, Styx, which separated the Earth from Hades. • Thetis dipped her newborn son into the Styx, ensuring his protection against all mortal weapons, except…
  17. 17. Line-ups: The Trojans • Priam, King of Troy • Hecuba, his wife • Hector, his son; prince of Troy and the Trojans’ most valiant warrior • Paris, younger brother of Hector