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 Iliad and Odyssey’s Single Self-Understanding
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.
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.
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  —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.
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.
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.
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
rhaptō̂n epéōn tà póll’ aoidoí
árkhontai, Diòs ek prooimíou, kaì hód’ anḗr
katabolàn hierō̂n agṓnōn nikaphorías dédektai prō̂ton, Nemeaíou 
en poluumnḗtōi Diòs álsei.
singers of epic poems pieced together,
start out for the most part with a prelude to Zeus, so too this man
has begun to collect victories in the sacred contests of Nemea
in Zeus’ celebrated sacred grove.
That the word epéōn (epic poems) in this passage’s second line alludes to the Iliad and Odyssey is indicated by the scholia to Nemean 2.1d, whose description of the aforementioned rhapsodes includes “[t]he expression hekatéras tē̂s poiḗseōs ‘each of the two poems[,’ which] implies that the Iliad and the Odyssey are meant.” 
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.
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.
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.
Herodotus’ attribution of the Iliad and Odyssey
tō̂i d’ oú pṓ tis homoîos epikhthónios génet’ anḕr
kosmē̂sai híppous te kaì anéras aspidiṓtas∙
And there was no man at all on earth
who could array horses and shield-carrying men as he could …
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.
And, just as Homer is the paragon of epic poets for Pindar and Herodotus, the Iliad and Odyssey are their ideal epics. 
The Ongoing Elevation of the Iliad and Odyssey in the Twentieth Century
Generic identity and the Homeric epics
Epicness in form
Epicness in content
- The hero’s need to separate himself from his social surroundings
- His social surroundings’ destabilization by conflict
- His ability to reorder his life
- His mortal limits
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.