introduction to epic poetry


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INTRODUCTION to EPIC POETRY. 1.What is epic poetry? What does “epic” mean?. Epic. It comes from the ancient greek “epikòs”meaning “related to “epos”. Epos means “word, story, verse/line”. What is Epic Poetry?. Long narrative poem - PowerPoint PPT Presentation



  • 1.What is epic poetry?What does epic mean?

  • EpicIt comes from the ancient greek epiksmeaning related to epos.Epos means word, story, verse/line.

  • What is Epic Poetry? Long narrative poem Written in an elevated style (it does not dwell on the banal details of life) Celebrates the deed of legendary or traditional heroes.

  • 2.Lets draw a brief history of epic poetry from the beginnings to the Renaissance

  • 1.Ancient epics date back to the 20th / 10th century BC.2. Epic poetry begins with The Epic of Gilgamesh (2500 BC), set in Arab Peninsula of Ancient Mesopotamia. 3. The European epic tradition starts with with Homer in Greece around 800 BC with Iliad and Odyssey and continues with Virgils Aeneid (during Roman empire) and the epic poems of the Medieval time (La chanson de Roland) and the Renaissance (Orlando furioso e Gerusalemme Liberata).4. The novel, a new literary genre, marks the end of epic poetry (XVII century).

  • Epic of Gilgamesh2500 BC 11 Clay Tablets (story)Most important epic poem in human historyVarious adventures of hero-king searching for immortality An account of the flood CharactersGilgamesh (2/3 god & 1/3 human)Enkidu (wild man)

  • Homer 800 BCDid he exist?Creator of the Epic Poems The Iliad and The Odyssey Most likely a minstrel Traveling singer/storytellerPoems were oral for centuries before written down

  • The Trojan War 1184 BC/ 800 BC (written) Main topic of The Iliad by Homer and latter The Aeneid by Virgil Achaeans vs. Trojans (10 yrs.) Helen of Troy abducted by Paris Achilles withdraws from the war and then rejoins in 10th yr. & kills Hector the Trojan Prince Wooden horse City captured & Helen returned to Menelaus

  • The Odyssey 800 BC Tale of Odysseus 10 yrs. in Trojan War10 yrs. to get home Presumed dead wife Penelope fighting off suitors Consists of 24 books

  • 3.What were the primary functions of an epic? .

  • Epics typically served as historical records (whether accurate or not) in societies that did not yet have written documentation. They also included customs and beliefs that were the ideals of a given culture, so that they were passed down to succeeding generations.2.Educational:the heroes provide a model of good behaviour3.Entertainment: the audience enjoyed the performance of epic poetry by a bard or a professional singer.

  • The main features and themes of epic poetry

  • 1.It is focused on the adventures and accomplishments of heroic figures (mainly war, journeys, various adventures).2.Human and divine are closely intertwined: deities and other supernatural agencies are often involved in human affairs.3. Culture and history of a nation is often reflected in an epic. For example, Greek poet Homers great epics Iliad and Odyssey- are vastly based on Greek mythology and thus it reflects the Greek culture.

  • The story is usually set in a remote and obscure past with few archeological and historical evidence.The language is elevated and dignified. The poet uses metaphors and epithets (such as patronomics which are used repeatedly).Repetion is the rule: the poets tend to use many times the same set of lines to describe a scene (a battlescene, for instance) or to refer a particular episode (a contest, a fight, the preparation of a meal). Repetition goes back to oral tradition: the poems were written down after centuries of oral transmission.

  • Why is Epic Poetry Important today?

  • Stories are still being passed down from generation to generation (children still go mad for Achilles, Ulixes and the likes). We see these same plots, heroes, struggles, archetypes, and events happening in life today (think of Marvels superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman and so on). References to these epic poems are in our books and movies today.

    ***The Epic of Gilgamesh

    Gilgamesh is one of the oldest recorded stories in the world. It tells the story of an ancient King of Uruk, Gilgamesh, who may have actually existed, and whose name is on the Sumerian King List. The story of Gilgamesh, in various Sumerian versions, was originally widely known in the third millennium B.C. After a long history of retellings, this story was recorded, in a standardized Akkadian version, in the seventh century B.C., and stored in the famous library of King Assurbanipal.

    Later, the story of Gilgamesh waslost to human memory, except for occasional fragments. The story was rediscovered in the mid-nineteenth century A.D., and made available in translation to German by the beginning of the twentieth century. People were especially amazed when they read this most ancient of stories, and realized that the flood story in Gilgamesh was a close analogue of the flood story in the Hebrew Bible.

    The story of Gilgamesh was first discovered in the library of King Assurbanipal of Nineveh, written on twelve tablets. "Gilgamesh's life and his adventures during his unsuccessful quest for immortality are told on eleven of the twelve tablets." The twelfth tablet is "a description of the nether world, in which Gilgamesh rules after his death as divine judge over the shades, guiding and advising themThe Epic of Gilgamesh is a fascinating tale of great historical importance. Composed 1500 years before Homer's epics, the story is one that modern man can readily understand and appreciate. Gilgamesh was the more than capable ruler of the ancient town of Uruk; his strength and physical beauty were unmatched by any in the land, and his subjects adored him. Although he possessed so much, Gilgamesh wanted desperately to live forever like a god. He was two-thirds god and one-third human, but he refused to accept his destiny to die. If it were his lot to die, he wanted to perform great deeds so that his name would never be forgotten.

    *Homer, Greek Poet> No one is exactly sure who Homer was. Theories abound, and some even think he never existed. Regardless, he is traditionally recognized as the original creator of two epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Living sometime in the second half of the 8th century B.C., Homer was probably a minstrel - a man who traveled constantly, singing songs and telling stories. His two works were probably handed down orally for centuries before they were actually put down on paper, which means the versions we have today may or may not be close to the original.

    *Troy : The Trojan War>

    The Trojan War is the main issue of the Iliad by Homer, and its later sequence is described in the Aeneid by Virgil. The war took place between Achaeans and Trojans, and raged for ten years. As a consequence of the Judgement of Paris , Helen (wife of the Spartan king Menelaus) was abducted by Paris (son of king Priam of Troy). Through most of the war, because of Achilles' withdrawal, Agamemnon ( king of the Achaeans and brother of Menelaus) was unable to penetrate the fortified city of Troy. On the tenth year, Achilles joined the Achaian's army and killed Hector, the Trojan prince. After the death of Achilles, the Achaeans built a Wooden horse, filled it with warriors and brought it into the city. Once the city was captured, it was destroyed by the Achaeans. The Trojan king Priam and most of his family were killed, Cassandra, his daughter, was raped and taken as slave to Greece, and Helen, whose abduction had started the war, returned to Menelaus.

    *The Odyssey, Homer>

    First and foremost, the Odyssey is a great tale. It is at heart an adventure story of Odysseus's return to his home after the 10 year Trojan War. Because Odysseus has upset the wrong god, he has to spend another 10 years journeying home. Meanwhile, suitors for his wife, Penelope's, hand have gathered at his home trying to win her heart, and, in the meantime, eating Odysseus out of house and home.



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