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"The river from which all literature flows."


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


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


Another name for Troy


Greatest of the Greek warriors at Troy


Leader of the Greek expedition that insults Achilles


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


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


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


The Latin name for Odysseus


Agamemnon's wife. She kills Agamemnon


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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

In medias res

"into the middle of things"


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


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


The queen that Aeneas falls in love with


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


Aged king of Troy


Achilles brutal teenage son, who slaughters Priam in The Aeneid


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


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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