By Charles Rowan Beye

Charles Rowan Beye's seriously acclaimed interpretive advent to the epic poetry and poets of historical Greece, Rome, and Assyria is the following reprinted in an multiplied moment variation with a brand new preface, new bankruptcy on Gilgamesh, and an Appendix of extra interpreting 1993-2005. for hundreds of years the beginnings of the literary historical past of the West have been outlined by way of the Hebrew Bible what most folks name the previous testomony and Homer's epic poems, the Iliad and Odyssey. those texts have been as soon as naively speculated to have occur in wonderful isolation both as a miracle of divine construction or the spontaneous combustion of the 'Greek genius'. The robust circulation of phrases down over the millennia to our personal time are such a lot of generations of offspring nonetheless by some means beholden to their preliminary begetters.

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Extra resources for Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer, Apollonius, Virgil with a Chapter on the Gilgamesh Poems

Sample text

H esiod recounts that he goes to contests and sings heroic poem s w hich are very unlike the tw o of his that have been preserved; of these the Works and Days is a veritable m élange of poem s and stories w hich one im agines m ay often have been delivered in larger format from the capacious treasure-house of H esiod's repertory. C orrespond ­ ences identified by the neoanalysts and intertextualists are better d e­ scribed as the result of using stock material in more than one place. It is axiomatic that oral perform ance creates a product that has ab­ solutely no shelf life: once enunciated, once heard, forever gone.

Sus­ tained writing, sustained com position on the scale dem anded by the size of either of the tw o Homeric poem s im plies material conditions and a special p sychology w hich no effort of the im agination w ill assign to the eighth or seventh century b . c . e . O r the fifth for that matter. The notion of persons m anaging to read long texts w ritten on the materials available at the time, let alone going back and forth in these cum bersom e texts to locate allusions or significant repeated passages, is truly ludicrous.

The poets of the Epic C ycle had no talent for such sophisticated narration, it seems; their aim w as the simpler, more straightforward one of furnishing a chronicle. Certainly the last, Eugam m on of Cyrene, m anages to tie the strands of saga into a m arvelous bow . His Telegonia is the story of O d ysseu s's son by Circe, Telegonus, w h o goes in search of his father. W hen the tw o m eet on the shores of Ithaca, unknow n to each other, they fight— one to protect his land, if not to act out the m asculine obsession w ith territoriality; the other to have his w ay, if not to respond to the inborn m asculine need to kill one's father.

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