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Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

Benjamin Sammons

Published in print July 2017 | ISBN: 9780190614843
Published online July 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780190614867 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190614843.001.0001
Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

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From a corpus of Greek epics known in antiquity as the “Epic Cycle,” six poems dealt with the same Trojan War mythology as the Homeric poems. Though they are now lost, these poems were much read and much discussed in ancient times, not only for their content but for their mysterious relationship with the more famous works attributed to Homer. This study shows that these lost poems belonged, compositionally, to essentially the same tradition as the Homeric poems. It demonstrates that various compositional devices well-known from the Homeric epics were also fundamental to the narrative construction of these later works. Yet while the “cyclic” poets constructed their works using the same traditional devices as Homer, they used these to different ends and with different results. The essential difference between cyclic and Homeric epics lies not in the fundamental building blocks from which they are constructed, but in the scale of these components relative to the overall construction of poems. This sheds important light on the early history of epic as a genre, since it is likely that these devices originally developed to provide large-scale structure to shorter poems and have been put to quite different use in the composition of the monumental Homeric epics. This study includes many new suggestions about the overall form of lost cyclic epics and about the meaning and context of the few surviving verse fragments.

Keywords: Epic Cycle; Trojan War; epic fragments; oral composition; Homer

Book.  272 pages. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

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Narratives in Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

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Catalogue and Catalogic in Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

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Narrative Doublets in Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

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Character Roles and Narrative Design in Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

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Aristeia in Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

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The Role of the Gods and the Divine in Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

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Conclusions in Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle

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