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Midterm

CLA160H1 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Dactylic Hexameter, Epithets In Homer, Homeric Greek


Department
Classics
Course Code
CLA160H1
Professor
Timothy Perry
Study Guide
Midterm

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Terms to Know
Dactylic Hexameter: rhythm of one long syllable followed by two short syllables
All Greek poetry is based around syllable lengths (long or short)
With very few exceptions ancient epic is always written in dactylic
hexameter
Meter: rhythmical form and structure of poetry
Substantial length
Ancient poetry is generally substantial in length, very long
Any poetry in the ancient world, especially in the Greek world, that is written in
dactylic hexameter and that is of substantial length is considered "epic"
Sometimes include "didactic" epics such as Hesiod's Works and Days
Is wisdom poetry, meant to teach something
Hesiod is trying to teach his brother on how to be a good farmer
Term "epic" is used more broadly in the ancient world than used in
modern thought
Modern definitions emphasize content
Serious treatment of gods and heroes
Aristotle noted that Homer always represented individuals who are
greater than "us"
Depictions of bards performing within epic poems
The epic representing itself within its text
Klea Andrōn: famous deeds of men
Epics often represents this
Always of people of importance, of gods and heroes
Dactylic hexameter is still recognized as the meter and form of epic
Length as well is still regarded as a defining feature
Formal features are ultimately what distinguishes epic from other genres which deal
with similar content
Epic is not the only genre that deals with heroes and gods
e.g.) Tragedy
o Much less of a distinction made in antiquity between myth and history
Ancient Greeks and Romans thought of myths as early history
Continuum between myth and history
All 3 books are composed in the Archaic Age
Oral Tradition
Oral tradition derives from a Mycenaean oral tradition
Difficult to reconstruct what exactly the Mycenaean influence was
But the 8th Century BC is more influential
Developed over time and through the mouths of many poets who each had
their own versions
Each version is composed in performance, lots of flexibility in the telling
Over time changes are made, poets embellish, omit, add as they are
passed on from generation to generation

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Literary context is very much based around "orality"
Very hard to relate the end product to the original story
Don't have any means of reconstructing the origin of the stories
Brief Notes on the language of the Iliad and Odyseey
All written in a literary dialect, one that was never actually spoken anywhere at
anytime in the Greek world as an everyday language
Takes various features from different Greek dialects and puts them all
together
Dominant dialect in this literary language is Ionian
Ionia is the central part of modern-day Turkey
Tells us about WHERE this oral tradition were developed
Since Ionian was so important presumed that the stories developed
in or around Ionia
Epiphyte
A characteristic of Homer's style is the use of epithets, as in "rosy-fingered" dawn or "swift-
footed" Achilles. These epithets were metric stop-gaps as well as mnemonic devices for the
aoidos (singer) both, signs of the deep oral tradition that preceded the written codification of
the Iliad and Odyssey.
Moreover, epithets in epic poetry from various Indo-European traditions may be traced to a
common tradition going much deeper into prehistory. For example, the phrase approximating
"everlasting glory" or "undying fame" can be found in the Homeric Greek kleos aphthiton and
the Sanskrit śrávo ákşitam. They "were, in terms of historical linguistics, equivalent in
phonology, accentuation, and quantity (syllable length). In other words, they are descendants
from a fragment of poetic diction (reconstructable as Proto-Indo-European *klewos ņdhgwhitom)
which was handed down in parallel over many centuries, in continually diverging forms, by
generations of singers whose ultimate ancestors shared an archetypal repertoire of poetic
formulae and narrative themes."[1]
A name plus an epithet constitute a formula which exactly fits the metric structure of the verse.
The use of formulas is characteristic of ancient epic poetry.
Homer used epithets not merely to complete rhythm patterns. Epithets increase the meaning of
each noun that they alter. Epithets can tell of the character‟s origin, parentage, appearance or
state, skill-set, position, or heroic quality. At the same time, he distinguishes between Homer‟s
two different types of epithets: the special and the generic. Special epithets are used exclusively
for a particular character, while generic epithets are used repeatedly for a class of characters. Yet
this distinction is not always clear; thus, the epithet “master of the war-cry” is used
predominantly with Menelaus, yet on occasion also to describe Diomedes.[2]
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Type Scene
In addition to a large repertoire of formulaic expressions and epithets, the oral poet is able
to utilise stock „type-scenes.‟ While the details vary, these scenes, which tend to revolve
around actions that are central in the society of the epic, contain a consistent sequence of
actions. Anyone who has read the Iliad will have noticed the great similarities between
different arming and battle-scenes.
may be regarded as a recurrent block of narrative
with an identifiable structure, such as a sacrifice, the reception of a guest, the
launching and beaching of a ship, the donning of armor. Many of the
commonest of these were identified and studied nearly sixty years ago as
“typischen Scenen” (Arend 1933). In narratological terms, an amplified
type-scene is not necessary to the “story,” the “content or chain of events
(actions, happenings), plus what may be called the existents (characters,
items of setting)” (Chatman 1978:19; de Jong 1987:31 uses the term fabula
for this), but is a part of the “discourse,” “the expression, the means by
which the content is communicated” (Chatman ibid.; “story” in de Jong).
The poet could have told how Telemachus went on his adventures, and met
old Nestor (the “story”), without necessarily narrating for us the fullest
extant example of the type-scene of sacrifice (Od. 3.417-72).
Verbal repetition between different instances of a type-scene may or
may not occur; Lord‟s later definition of “theme” as “not simply a repeated
subject, such as a council, a feast, a battle, or a description of horse, hero, or
heroine.... The „theme‟ in oral literature is distinctive because its content is
expressed in more or less the same words every time the singer or storyteller
uses it. It is a repeated passage rather than a repeated subject”
(1991:27) does not apply to Homeric type-scenes.
Nagler (1974:112) includes the type-scene in his “motif sequence.”
His definition is “an inherited preverbal Gestalt for the spontaneous
generation of a „family‟ of meaningful details” (1974:82). Nagler‟s
theoretical analysis (see 1.3 below), and his insistence that there is no
“standard” form of a type-scene from which given examples may be said to
deviate more or less, is useful in eliminating the question whether (for
example) the arming of Ajax (simply Aias de korussetai nôropi chalkôi,
“Ajax armed himself in gleaming bronze,” Il. 7.206b) should be called an
arming type-scene. “Arming” is a preverbal Gestalt” in the poet‟s mind,
286 MARK W. EDWARDS
emerging into language as a more or less amplified type-scene, or as a verb
alone, depending upon the poet‟s intention at that moment.
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