Reading Epic: An Introduction to the Ancient Narratives

By Peter Toohey | Go to book overview

APPENDIX: THE EPIC AND THE NOVEL

The generic link between epic and the ancient novel has been mentioned more than once. To clarify this matter further I will briefly outline some of the less contested similarities between epic and the ancient novel. Although the genres were separate there was considerable overlap. Perry (1967:46) described the ancient novel as 'latter-day epic'. Reardon (1969) adds 'in a non-heroic world'.


THE IDEAL GREEK NOVEL

The chief characteristics of the conventional Greek romantic novel may be deduced from the extant works of Chariton, Xenophon of Ephesus, Longus, Heliodorus, and Achilles Tatius (Perry 1967:122ff.). A pair of highly moral young lovers will form the focus of this ideal Greek novel, but their erotic experience will be detailed in a context of travel and adventure. The basic pattern of such stories is constant. Sudden love between hero and heroine is thwarted by 'bizarre obstacles set up by malevolent fortune' (Walsh 1970:8). The lovers-abducted by pirates, carried off by bystanders, concerned or lewd-must overcome a series of trials and temptations in their search for one another. (The theme of the search is what enables the writer to include a variety of adventures, varied travel lore, and a liberal lacing of 'wonders'.) The honour from the favouring gods for their love and loyalty is a final, happy reunion, rewarded by 'perennial bliss'.


THEODYSSEYAND THE GREEK NOVEL

The affinities of the Greek novel with Homer's Odyssey are often mentioned (Perry 1967:50-3; Hägg 1983:110). If Homer's lovers,

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Reading Epic: An Introduction to the Ancient Narratives
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - Epic- The Genre, Its Characteristics 1
  • 2 - Homer, Iliad 20
  • 3 - Homer, Odyssey 44
  • 4 - Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 68
  • 5 - Beginning Epic in Rome 90
  • 6 - The Alexandrian Miniature Epic 100
  • 7 - Virgil, Aeneid 121
  • 8 - Ovid, Metamorphoses 144
  • 9 - Lucan, the Civil War 166
  • 10 - Roman Epic and the Emperor Domitian 186
  • 11 - Ends and Beginnings; Late Ancient Epic 211
  • Appendix- The Epic and the Novel 224
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 242
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