Section 3 - Ancient Epic (Homer and Vergil)

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Homer

"The river from which all literature flows."

Epic

long, narrative poem in which the central character, usually depicted as a hero of some sort, struggles against great odds—sometimes death literally—to achieve a noble end

The Iliad

The epic about the siege of Troy

Troy

The walled fortress-city that the Greeks were trying to take over in the Iliad

Ilium

Another name for Troy

Achilles

Greatest of the Greek warriors at Troy

Agamemnon

Leader of the Greek expedition that insults Achilles

Hector

The greatest of the Trojan warriors, who kills Patroclus, Achilles best friend

Priam

Hector's father, the elderly King of Troy

Sack of Troy

Not included in the Iliad

Trojan Horse

The horse story not included in the Iliad

The Odyssey

Takes place after the Trojan War. Main character is Odysseus

Odysseus

A thinking man who doesn't rush home like Agamemnon but ultimately sneaks back into town

Ulysses

The Latin name for Odysseus

Clytemnestra

Agamemnon's wife. She kills Agamemnon

Penelope

Odysseus' wife, whose very name has come to represent marital fidelity

Hera

Zeus' wife

Seduction of Zeus

When Hera tricks Zeus to get her way because she's really mad at him.

Odysseus and Argus

The story about Odysseus' dog, who dies after seeing him finally come home

Weak joins

the incoherence of some passages which are widely separated from each other

Milman Parry

an American scholar working in the 1920's and 1930's, who studied a type of poet called an oral bard

Oral bard

composed poems "orally"—that is, they made up long epic poems on the spur of the moment in front of an audience—and though it's hard to imagine such a thing today, Parry showed that it was, in fact, possible for trained poets to compose complex verse like Homer's seemingly off the cuff

Oral formulas

repetitive phrases which fit certain metrical slots in a line of verse.

Rhapsodes

(literally, "stitchers of song"), performers who recited Homeric epic before the Greek public centuries after Homer's day,

Vergil

Roman poet, the other great master of ancient epic

The Aeneid

replete with the sort of detail which only countless revisions and close attention to the niceties of written style provide

Augustus

The Roman Emperor who recruited Virgil to compose a grandiose epic about Rome

Aeneas

The fictional hero who led the Trojans to Italy after the Greeks destroyed their city

Venus

A goddess, who is Aeneas' mother, and rescues him

Pius

Latin for loyal or dutiful. Aeneas wasn't strong but he was pius

In medias res

"into the middle of things"

Juno

Hera's Roman name, sent a storm on Aeneas at the beginning of the Aeneid

Jupiter

Zeus's Roman name. He wants the Roman people to someday conquer the world, in the Aeneid

Dido

The queen that Aeneas falls in love with

Carthage

The settlement where Dido and Aeneas live and fall in love. He gets there by washing up on shore. In real life, early Romans had defeated the Carthaginians and cleared the way for their conquest of the Mediterranean

Priam

Aged king of Troy

Pyrrhus

Achilles brutal teenage son, who slaughters Priam in The Aeneid

Pompey

Caesar's most formidable rival, lost the Battle of Pharsalus and was forced to flee to Egypt. Greeted there by people he took to be allies, he was instead ruthlessly butchered, his beheaded corpse left floating in an Egyptian tidal pool

Turnus

Kills Aeneas' best friend Pallas, and steals his armor. Aeneas and Turnus have a final showdown. Also fighting to marry Lavinia. Aeneas ruthlessly murders him, and the book ends.

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