Divine yet Human Epics: Reflections of Poetic Rulers from Ancient Greece and India

  Pathak, Shubha. 2014. Divine Yet Human Epics: Reflections of Poetic Rulers from Ancient Greece and India. Hellenic Studies Series 62. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_PathakS.Divine_Yet_Human_Epics.2014.

1. The Epic Identity of the Iliad and Odyssey: Pindar and Herodotus’ Lofty Legacy

The Homeric and Hindu epics appeal to their audiences as religious instructors by dint of addressing important existential issues in entertaining manners. Each pair of poems offers a couple of complementary solutions to a particularly pressing human problem. Because these solutions are found in the accounts that the epics place in the mouths of their poetic kings, accounts that mirror the epics in which they occur, understanding the relationship between the coupled epics in which the kings’ songs are embedded provides insight into the epics’ distinct approaches to their central existential concern. Illuminating the similarity that connects each epic with its partner simultaneously casts into relief the contrasts that exist between them.

The connection between each pair of contrasting epics originates with the poems themselves and is reinforced by their early readers. Hence, examining how each epic set represents itself and how its self-representation informs its designation by its early exegetes makes sense. This designation continues today to influence not only interpretations of the epic set itself, but also the conceptions that literary critics offer of the epic genre.

The earliest influence on critical conceptions of epic is the portrayal that the Iliad and Odyssey present of their interrelationship. The poems’ self-reflection shapes the Classical (ca. 500–323 BCE) Greek notions of epic that found modern ideas of this kind of literature, and that thus must be taken into account in any classificatory study of the epic genre’s representative works.

The Iliad and Odyssey’s Single Self-Understanding

In the Iliad, Achilles’ father figure Phoenix calls up kléa andrō̂n (men’s glorious deeds) at a point in the poem when the inclusion of Achilles’ own acts among these illustrious exploits appears to be at risk. Seeking to convince the soldier to set aside his anger at his commander Agamemnon and to return to combat, Phoenix plays on Achilles’ aspiration to prestige:

nûn d’ háma t’ autíka pollà didoî, tà d’ ópisthen hupéstē,
ándras dè líssesthai epiproéēken arístous
krinámenos katà laòn Akhaiïkón, hoí te soì autō̂i
phíltatoi Argeíōn∙ tō̂n mḕ sú ge mûthon elénxēis
mēdè pódas∙ prìn d’ oú ti nemessētòn kekholō̂sthai.
hoútō kaì tō̂n prósthen epeuthómetha kléa andrō̂n
hērṓōn, hóte kén tin’ epizáphelos khólos híkoi∙
dōrētoí te pélonto parárrētoí t’ epéessi.

But now [Agamemnon] is giving you many things at once, and has promised more to come,
and has sent men to entreat you,
having selected the best among the Achaean army, the men who are
dearest to you of the Argives. Nullify neither their appeal
nor their approach, though before that no one could blame you for being angry.
To this effect, too, we have heard the glorious deeds of men of yore—
warriors who, when waves of anger washed over them,
would be propitiated by presents and open to persuasive words.

Iliad 9.519–526

In trying to steer Achilles back to his storied trajectory, a path to poetic immortality, Phoenix aligns the Iliad—an inchoate account from his perspective because Achilles has yet to attain in battle the kléos that the Iliad is being composed to celebrate [
2] —and earlier tales that already have been entrenched within his society’s world view. By placing Achilles, the Iliad’s protagonist, on a par with characters known for their kléa, Phoenix implicitly adds the poem in its future full form to this repository of records of renown as he attempts to persuade the hero of the Iliad to reenter the Trojan War and thus to make possible the completion of this poem’s presently suspended composition.

The Odyssey argues for its own classification as one of the kléa andrō̂n as it portrays a poetic performance:

autàr epeì pósios kaì edētúos ex éron hénto,
Moûs’ ár’ aoidòn anē̂ken aeidémenai kléa andrō̂n,
oímēs tē̂s tót’ ára kléos ouranòn eurùn híkane,
neîkos Odussē̂os kaì Pēleḯdeō Akhilē̂os,
hṓs pote dērísanto theō̂n en daitì thaleíēi
ekpáglois epéessin, ánax d’ andrō̂n Agamémnōn
khaîre nóōi, hó t’ áristoi Akhaiō̂n dērióōnto.

But, when their desire for food and drink subsided,
the Muse incited the singer to sing of men’s glorious deeds
from that song whose glory at that time reached widespread heaven,
namely, the quarrel between Odysseus and Peleus’ son Achilles—
how they once wrangled at the gods’ bountiful banquet
with violent words, and the king of men, Agamemnon,
exulted at the idea that the best of the Achaeans were wrangling.

Odyssey 8.72–78

This conflict between Achilles and Odysseus symbolizes that the kléa andrō̂n encompass the Iliad and the Odyssey alike, as Nagy has hinted: “The quarrel between Achilles and Odysseus in the first song of [Phaeacian singer] Demodokos, viii 72–82, dramatizes the antithesis of two inherited central themes built into the Iliad and the Odyssey, namely, the qualifications of [their heroes] Achilles and Odysseus respectively for the title ‘best of the Achaeans.’ Their epic actions are striving to attain what is perhaps the most distinctive heroic epithet that the kléos of the Achaeans can confer upon a mortal. In the first song of Demodokos, the poet—or let us say Demodokos—comments not only on the Odyssey but also on the Iliad itself.” [

Pindar and Herodotus: Exegetes Identifying the Iliad and Odyssey as Epics

Pindar’s praise of the Iliad and Odyssey

Moreover, Pindar refers to events in these epics as he parallels himself to Homer, the prototypical epic poet, [11] in Isthmian 4:

kaì krésson’ andrō̂n kheirónōn
ésphale tékhna katamárpsais’∙ íste mán Aíantos alkán, phoínion tàn opsíai
en nuktì tamṑn perì hō̂i phasgánōi momphàn ékhei paídessin Hellánōn hósoi Trṓiand’ éban.
all’ Hómērós toi tetímaken di’ anthrṓpōn, hòs autoû
pâsan orthṓsais aretàn katà rhábdon éphrasen
thespesíōn epéōn loipoîs athúrein.
toûto gàr athánaton phōnâen hérpei,
eí tis eû eípēi ti∙ kaì pánkarpon epì khthóna kaì dià pónton bébaken
ergmátōn aktìs kalō̂n ásbestos aieí.
prophrónōn Moisân túkhoimen, keînon hápsai pursòn húmnōn
kaì Melíssōi, pankratíou stephánōm’ epáxion,
érneï Telesiáda. tólmai gàr eikṓs
thumòn eribremetân thērō̂n leóntōn
en pónōi, mē̂tin d’ alṓpēx, aietoû há t’ anapitnaména rhómbon iskhei∙
khrḕ dè pân érdont’ amaurō̂sai tòn ekhthrón.
ou gàr phúsin Oariōneían élakhen∙
all’ onotòs mèn idésthai,
sumpeseîn d’ akmâi barús.

And the skill of inferior men
overtakes and overthrows the mightier man. No doubt you know of the might of Ajax, which he slew bloodily late
at night with his own sword, being blamed as a result by all of the Greeks’ sons who traveled to Troy.
But Homer has honored him among people,
having gotten straight and recounted his every heroic act in the measured verse
of divine epic poems for successors to sing.
For, if someone says something well, it issues forth as an immortal utterance;
and over the earth full of all kinds of fruit and through the sea has ranged
the splendor of noble deeds, never to be extinguished.
May I gain the grace of the Muses so that I may ignite this torch of song
for Melissus too—for this offshoot of Telesiadas, a wreath worthy of his boxing-and-wrestling contest.
For in courage his heart resembles
those of roaring lions
in the thick of fighting, but in craftiness he is like a fox, which stays the swoop of an eagle by tumbling to its back.
The man must do anything to enfeeble his enemy.
For he was not allotted Orion’s size,
but rather summons scorn on sight.
His strength, however, makes him hard to combat hand-to-hand.

Isthmian 4.34–51

I have translated the word epéōn in line 39 as “epic poems” in order to emphasize the sources that supply Pindar with the material from which he fashions his own poetic persona. He begins this passage by citing the suicide of Ajax depicted in the Aethiopis (scholium to Isthmian 4.58b), but quickly contrasts with the warrior’s demise his heroism highlighted in the Iliad and indicated in the Odyssey. Thus, although Pindar—like most of his colleagues—probably attributed the Aethiopis and other Cyclic epics to Homer, he associated Homer’s expertise as an epic author with the Iliad and Odyssey.

The hero’s double identity here hinges on an ambiguity in Isthmian 4 to which its scholiasts have attended (scholia to Isthmian 4.58c–d; 4.63a, b–c). The inference that Homer is said to have immortalized Ajax in Isthmian 4.37 follows from Pindar’s portrayal of Ajax’s self-destruction in the same poem. After explaining that Ajax has incurred the Achaean army’s censure by taking his own life, Pindar about-faces to emphasize how Homer has restored the warrior’s reputation (Isthmian 4.35–42). Pindar thus contrasts Ajax’s blame by the army to his praise by Homer.

Yet Pindar also may be opposing the stealthy shrewdness of Ajax’s physically overmatched opponent Odysseus in the Iliad and the Odyssey to the poetic publicity that Homer provides for Odysseus in these epics. Appropriately, Pindar initially only intimates Odysseus’ surreptitiousness, by advancing an aphorism (“… the skill of inferior men / overtakes and overthrows the mightier man. …” [… krésson’ andrō̂n kheirónōn / ésphale tékhna katamárpsais’∙ …] [Isthmian 4.34–35]) that the encounter of Ajax and Odysseus in Iliad 23.700–739 instances. Here, the two take part in a wrestling contest in honor of their deceased compatriot Patroclus, and Ajax appears at first to have the upper hand—both literally and figuratively—once he has hoisted Odysseus. Odysseus, however, surprises Ajax by hitting him on the back of his knee so that he falls backward; and, not long afterward, Achilles intercedes and awards the same prizes to both warriors. Their next confrontation, which occurs after Achilles’ death (and thus without his intervention), is much more one-sided. As Odysseus recalls in Odyssey 11.543–551, he and Ajax vie for Achilles’ arms; the contest judges—a group of Trojan men and Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war who is known in the Odyssey for her partiality to Odysseus—grant him the weapons; and Ajax dies as a result (as the Aethiopis makes explicit). Although Odysseus does not describe himself deceiving Ajax in their second struggle, Pindar seems to presume such a stratagem, elaborating the outcome of this engagement—Ajax’s suicide—immediately after alluding to Odysseus’ underhandedness in their first one. In fact, in Pindar’s own retelling in Nemean 8 of Ajax and Odysseus’ second conflict, the poet accuses Odysseus of swaying the contest judges (who are Achaeans rather than Trojans) with his lies (Nemean 8.25–26). The reason Pindar recasts the judges as Achaeans can be inferred from the contrast that Nisetich draws between the Homeric and Pindaric accounts of the contest. On the basis of the scholia to Odyssey 11.547, Nisetich deduces that “Agamemnon asked the Trojan captives named together with Athena as judges in line 547 who had hurt them more, Ajax or Odysseus; presumably, Athena moved them to name Odysseus. There is not much room here for the operation of Odysseus’ rhetorical skills, of which Pindar makes so much in Nemean 8.” [16] Pindar, in his quest to demonstrate Odysseus’ deceit, thus alters the identity of the judges so that Odysseus has an audience likely to be receptive to his deceptive report of his heroic deeds.

Pindar also points to Odysseus by commenting in Isthmian 4.40–42 on the persistence and pervasiveness of poetry, for in Pindar’s characterization of poetic speech as immortal and spanning the fruitful earth as well as the sea are compressed several of the images that an incognito Odysseus himself once employed in Odyssey 19.107–114. Here, disguised as Aethon the beggar, he tells his wife, Penelope, that her glory reaches heaven—as does that of a righteous king for whom the earth produces grain; the trees, fruit; and the sea, fish. This king’s identity is evinced by Odysseus’ earlier avowal that his own glory extends to heaven, and by the abundance of his orchards (Odyssey 9.20, 24.336–344).

The only other evidence of Pindar’s employment of the plural form of épos to indicate a particular epic occurs in the Varia Historia of Roman writer Aelian (ca. 170–235 CE), who cites Pindar’s pronouncement that “[Homer,] lacking the means to marry his daughter off, gave her the Cypria epic to have as her dowry” ([Hómēros] aporō̂n ekdoûnai tḕn thugatéra, édōken autē̂i proîka ékhein tà épē tà Kúpria) (Pindar fragment 265, quoted in Varia Historia 9.15). Although the original context of Pindar’s comment currently is unavailable, this fragment probably is not part of anything tantamount to his treatment of the transmission of the Iliad and Odyssey. Unlike the aforementioned excerpts from Nemean 2 and Isthmian 4, which evince Pindar’s efforts to procure for himself the prestige of performers of the Iliad and Odyssey, his remark on Homer’s handing down of the Cypria (a Cyclic epic) seems simply to be a statement of fact. If, from Pindar’s perspective, the Iliad and Odyssey are immortal poems on a par with their prefacing prayers to Zeus (the king of the gods), the Cypria is a commodity in a human transaction. Pindar thus places the Iliad and Odyssey in a celestial sphere consonant with his own lofty poetic aspirations, but relegates the Cypria to a mundane realm consistent with quotidian concerns. Hence the relevance of classicist Edward Fitch’s assertion “To say that Pindar knew and followed the Cypria and held the Cypria to be Homeric is not to affirm that the Cypria was as great as the Iliad [or, for that matter, the Odyssey], or that Pindar was undiscerning.” [20]

Herodotus’ attribution of the Iliad and Odyssey

More precisely, Herodotus reports in Histories 7.161.3 that Iliad 2.552–554 was cited by the Athenian representative in the Greek delegation sent to Sicily before the Greeks defeated the Persians at sea at Salamis in 480 BCE, in support of his opposition to Sicilian command of the Athenian navy. In this excerpt from the Iliad, the Athenian leader Menestheus is praised for his military prowess:

tō̂n aûth’ hēgemóneu’ huiòs Peteō̂o Menestheús.
tō̂i d’ oú pṓ tis homoîos epikhthónios génet’ anḕr
kosmē̂sai híppous te kaì anéras aspidiṓtas∙

what is more, these [young Athenian men] were led by Peteus’ son, Menestheus.
And there was no man at all on earth
who could array horses and shield-carrying men as he could …

Iliad 2.552–554

In referring to this passage, Herodotus’ Athenian delegate evokes Iliad 2.556 (where Menestheus is said to have led a force of fifty ships) and thereby counters the inferior alternative of Sicilian supervision.

Like Pindar, Herodotus does not denote only the Iliad and Odyssey with the plural of épos. Yet the historian differs from the poet in his means of setting apart these epics from their Cyclic counterparts. Whereas Pindar reserves for the Iliad and Odyssey the kind of praise that he hopes that his own compositions will elicit eventually, Herodotus regards the two poems as the only epics that Homer authored indubitably, and thereby calls into question Homer’s connection to the Cyclic poems. For example, Herodotus observes that Homer has mentioned the Hyperboreans in the Epigoni, but quickly qualifies this statement with the phrase “if in fact Homer composed this epic” (ei dḕ tō̂i eónti ge Hómēros taûta tà épea epoíēse) (Histories 4.32). In the case of the Cypria, moreover, Herodotus does not merely interrogate, but rather altogether denies, Homeric authorship: “[T]he Cypria epic is not by Homer but by someone else” (ouk Homḗrou tà Kúpria épeá esti all’ állou tinós) (Histories 2.117).

Another way in which Herodotus highlights the Homeric composition of the Iliad and Odyssey is by coining terms for this type of poetry and its maker. [28] Herodotus invents the new genre name as he speculates that Homer heard the story of how Proteus had hosted Helen of Sparta in Memphis, but did not include this tale in the Iliad “because it was not as well suited to an epic poem as the other [story] of which he did make use” (ou gàr homoíōs es tḕn epopoiíēn euprepḕs ē̂n tō̂i hetérōi tō̂i per ekhrḗsato) (Histories 2.116.1 [emphasis added]). Herodotus dubs Homer an “epic poet” (epopoiòs) in the course of citing his praise of Athenian power in the Iliad (Histories 7.161.3). The application of these two new terms (epopoiíē and epopoiós) in connection to the Odyssey as well as to the Iliad is implied both by Herodotus’ inclusion of Odyssean as well as Iliadic passages as he presents Homer’s references to Helen’s stay in Egypt, soon after employing the word epopoiíēn (the singular accusative form of epopoiíē); and by the similar way in which Herodotus relies on the Odyssey for rhetorical support as he does on the Iliad, whose source he sees as the aforementioned epopoiós (Iliad 6.289–292 and Odyssey 4.227–230, 351–352, quoted in Histories 2.116.3–5). In How and Wells’ estimation, the Odyssean extracts “are probably interpolations,” as Herodotus does not go on to discuss them. [29] But, even if Herodotus himself did not adduce any of the Odyssey to demonstrate what an epic poem entailed, the fact that some redactor of his deemed Odyssean material appropriate to incorporate into his description is telling. If, in this regard, “the question to ask is not where the disparate elements originated, but why they were put together, and why kept together,” [30] at least one answer is that, in light of the remainder of the Histories, the Odyssey exemplifies Homer’s epic poetry no less than does the Iliad, and thus contains the kind of plot elements that Herodotus would have expected to find in one of Homer’s epic poems.

The Ongoing Elevation of the Iliad and Odyssey in the Twentieth Century

The Iliad and Odyssey thus imitate as well as innovate, as their identification as epics implies. As a particular kind of composition, the Iliad and Odyssey resemble poems that preceded them, but at the same time have brought to the literary world something new that has become inextricable from the idea of what an epic is. This apparent paradox of originary model poems made in the mold of older ones usefully highlights the constructed character of the Homeric compositions’ archetypicality. Recognizing that the Iliad and Odyssey themselves have poetic ancestors, in spite of being represented as the first forebears of a poetic tradition, reveals that interpretative pains have been taken to portray the Homeric poems as prototypes. This portrayal probably arose from two attributes of the Iliad and Odyssey. First, they are the earliest attested works of ancient Greek literature, so critics studying this corpus conveniently see these extant compositions as its head and ascribe an identity to this body on the basis of the poem pair’s features. Second, the Iliad and Odyssey have long inspired aesthetic appreciation, and thus seem to be suitable exemplars for subsequent literary efforts. [48] Even if somehow recovered and proved to precede the Homeric poems, the Cyclic epics would be hard pressed to dethrone them as standards of artistic beauty, because—no matter what current critics beheld—they probably would still heed the dissatisfaction with the Cyclic poems that has been resounding for centuries.

The longstanding influence that the Iliad and Odyssey have had on later literary composition and criticism explains why identifying what these works contribute to the conception of epic that they inaugurated is important. This conception—which would serve as a standard of composition and comparison not only for ancient Greek authors and exegetes, but also for their counterparts in later periods and other lands—can be clarified by applying philosopher Panayot Butchvarov’s idea of generic identity.

Generic identity and the Homeric epics

This account of generic identity applies to the classification of the Iliad and Odyssey as epics. “Iliadness” and “Odysseyness,” the respective qualities of the Homeric poems, share “epicness,” their generic characteristic; and the specific characteristics of these qualities—namely, being unique to the Iliad and being unique to the Odyssey—are a subset of epicness.

Epicness in form

Thus, the structure of the Homeric epics is such that audiences wending their way through the woods of the Iliad and of the Odyssey retrace some steps and sidetrack while circumambulating. Beneath the strollers’ feet, both paths parallel the styles of these poems, and thus are made of the same materials. The Iliad and the Odyssey exhibit like styles, relying on like types of poetic formulae and language.

Epicness in content

The ground common to the epic forests that underlies their trees, as well as their paths, is their poetic tradition. The plot of this land on which the Iliad and the Odyssey stand yields four types of trees, four themes that constitute columns of epic content:

  1. The hero’s need to separate himself from his social surroundings
  2. His social surroundings’ destabilization by conflict
  3. His ability to reorder his life
  4. His mortal limits

To make a name for himself, an epic hero has to act exceptionally. Yet action in the epics is inextricable from a nexus of social relationships. The strong connections between warriors and their families and compatriots put recognizable faces on the society that would celebrate the successes of these fighters or deride their defeats, and provide a social context for the men’s individual deeds. [53] A man who hopes to be a hero, however, can cement his local status only by isolating himself from others:

Yet venture out the Homeric heroes must, and enter the fights forged by their aspirations, for conflict creates opportunities for these men to prove their martial prowess. While the seizure of the Spartan queen Helen and its aftermath incite Achilles to lay down the lives of legions as well as his own on the Trojan battlefield, the encroachment of the suitors upon Odysseus’ Ithacan estate spurs him to slaughter them after his arduous journey home.

These two problems threaten to cloud the surroundings of the Homeric poems in such a way that they seem likely to soar in mid-air, above not only other texts of the same tradition, but also similar texts of other traditions. Fortunately, however, the fresh zephyrs of two analyses keep clear the epics’ rarified air, and account for their abstraction from works of their own and other cultures. One analysis, involving generic identity, has shown how the notion of epic has been built from the attributes of the Iliad and Odyssey, rather than from the attributes of later Greek texts, and thus indicates that this concept could be reconstructed from the characteristics of other apparently ur-works. The other analysis, which will make use of metaphor, will exhibit the reconstruction of the epic idea on the basis of two ancient Indian poems. Thus, I will turn to these works, the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata, in Chapter 2.


[ back ] 1. I assume that the Homeric epics were composed more or less simultaneously in the latter half of the eighth century BCE, because problems with definitively dating these texts preclude me from arguing that the affirmative Iliad preceded the interrogative Odyssey.

[ back ] 2. Classicist Andrew Ford (1992:109) makes a similar point while analyzing the epic poem that Phemius performs in the first book of the Odyssey: “The fundamental character of epic as poetry of the past is reversed when it appears in the looking glass of epic. What were the ‘fames of men’ for Homer’s audience were fresh rumor and recent news for the heroes; the literate’s trope would be to say that the faded parchments we keep in museums were the daily newspapers of old. And this makes sense, for it is an appropriate glorification of these men greater than we to say that, just as their own deeds and lives are destined to become the stuff of immortal poetry, so the poetry they prefer comes closest to these deeds.”

[ back ] 3. Nagy 1999:59. An earlier version of the following two paragraphs has appeared in Pathak 2013:36–37.

[ back ] 4. Summaries of the Iliad and Odyssey include those prepared by mythographer Thomas Bulfinch (1912:220–232, 241–262) and by classicist Edith Hamilton (1942:178–192, 202–219) for their popular mythological compendia. An even briefer account of the epics that is addressed to even younger readers appears in children’s book authors Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire’s (1962:183–184) Book of Greek Myths.

[ back ] 5. Oxford English Dictionary 1989–2013, s.v. “epic, a. and n.”

[ back ] 6. Chantraine 1984–1990, vol. 1, s.v. “épos”: “employé largement chez Hom. pour désigner les paroles, à côté de mũthos qui s’applique plutôt au contenu des paroles.”

[ back ] 7. Liddell, Scott, and Jones 1940 (hereafter cited as LSJ), s.v. “épos,” IV.a.

[ back ] 8. Nagy 1990a:215.

[ back ] 9. Like classicist-poet Richmond Lattimore (1976:103), I read Nemeaíou with the rest of line 4 rather than with line 5. (In fact, C. M. Bowra [1935], the classicist who edited the text on which Lattimore’s translation is based, includes no comma between the words prō̂ton and Nemeaíou.)

[ back ] 10. Scholia to Nemean 2.1d, quoted in Nagy 1996b:84n56.

[ back ] 11. If Homer is “the protopoet whose poetry is reproduced by [a] continuous succession of [such] performers” as the Homeridae (Nagy 1996a:76), then Pindar seeks a spot at the end of this line.

[ back ] 12. Nisetich 1989:9.

[ back ] 13. Nisetich 1989:9–11.

[ back ] 14. Odyssey 11.469–470, 550–551, cited in Nisetich 1989:9.

[ back ] 15. Nisetich 1989:13.

[ back ] 16. Nisetich 1989:17.

[ back ] 17. Nagy 1999:49–50.

[ back ] 18. Detienne and Vernant 1978:35.

[ back ] 19. Nagy 1999:45–49, 61, 147, 317–321.

[ back ] 20. Fitch 1924:65.

[ back ] 21. Pfeiffer 1968–1976, vol. 1:44–45.

[ back ] 22. As classicist Barbara Graziosi (2002:168) has observed, “discussions about authors were a powerful way of expressing thoughts about [Archaic epic] poetry, especially at a time in which written texts were not the focus of attention.”

[ back ] 23. Foucault 1977:123, 126.

[ back ] 24. By Herodotus’ reckoning, Hesiod and Homer belong to the ninth century BCE, preceding him by no more than four centuries (Histories 2.53.2). Most scholars today, however, would place Hesiod’s poetry after Homer’s, in the early seventh century BCE. For perhaps the most vociferous dissenting view, see M. L. West’s (1966:46–47) prolegomena to the Theogony.

[ back ] 25. How and Wells 1912, vol. 1:4.29n.

[ back ] 26. Havelock 1963:61, 292.

[ back ] 27. How and Wells 1912, vol. 2:5.67.1n.

[ back ] 28. LSJ, s.vv. “epopoiía,” “epopoiós.”

[ back ] 29. How and Wells 1912, vol. 1:2.116.4n.

[ back ] 30. O’Flaherty 1973:12.

[ back ] 31. Nagy 1996b:21.

[ back ] 32. An earlier version of the current chapter’s remainder has appeared in Pathak 2013:37–43.

[ back ] 33. Crotty 1994:159.

[ back ] 34. Kirk 1962:80.

[ back ] 35. Kirk 1962:159, 265; Griffin 1977:39, 52; Thalmann 1984:182.

[ back ] 36. Nagy 1999:15; Redfield 1983:218; Pucci 1987:18.

[ back ] 37. Griffin 1987:86.

[ back ] 38. Beye 1993:30.

[ back ] 39. Kirk 1962:98, 254.

[ back ] 40. Griffin 1977:52, 53.

[ back ] 41. Scott 1921:243.

[ back ] 42. On this striking contrast between the Homeric and Cyclic epics, see Huxley 1969, Finley 1978:73, and Nagy 1999:7–8 and 2005:85, 86.

[ back ] 43. Burgess 2001:1, 5, 174–175, 134–145, 154–156. For an overview of the differences between the Homeric and Cyclic epics, see Burgess 2005:350–351.

[ back ] 44. Whitman 1958:309.

[ back ] 45. Beye 1993:x.

[ back ] 46. Whitman 1982:92.

[ back ] 47. Whitman 1982:92; Beye 1993:5.

[ back ] 48. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Homeric poems have been complimented constantly as primary epics by the conscious composition of secondary, tertiary, quaternary, and quinary epics on the Homeric pair’s basis over succeeding centuries. For a survey of such developments, see Preminger et al. 1993, s.v. “EPIC.”

[ back ] 49. Butchvarov 1966:163–164, 165.

[ back ] 50. Butchvarov 1966:164, 166.

[ back ] 51. Scott 1921:267.

[ back ] 52. Scott 1921:262–263, 257–258.

[ back ] 53. Dodds 1951:17–18; Crotty 1994:211.

[ back ] 54. Finley 1978:42–43.

[ back ] 55. Finley 1978:194.

[ back ] 56. Finley 1978:211.

[ back ] 57. Whitman 1982:25, 22.

[ back ] 58. Doniger 1998:9, 2, 95.

[ back ] 59. Lévi-Strauss 1963:229.

[ back ] 60. Doniger 1998:9.

[ back ] 61. Hainsworth 1991:3–4.