Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer, Apollonius, Virgil: With a Chapter on the Gilgamesh Poems

By Charles Rowan Beye | Go to book overview

6
The Argonautica

She would have taken out her soul from her breast,
and given it to him, so thrilled was she at his desiring her.
Desire cast its sweet flame out from Jason's blond head;
It captured her gleaming eyes. Her wits relaxed in the warmth,
melting, fading, as the dew fades, warmed in dawn's early rays.

Argonautica 3.1016–21

Relentless Love, great bane of the human race, abomination,
from you comes destructive strife, come groans and lamentations,
from you come countless woes to trouble and cause confusion.

Argonautica 4.445–47

Tradition had it that the sixth-century Athenian tyrant Pisistratus established the custom of reciting the Iliad and the Odyssey at the Panathenaic Festival. Whatever the truth of that tradition, it is probably fair to say that as the sixth century B.C.E. came to its end, the Homeric poems had become an institution. And one might also assume that the original social needs and aesthetic impulses that had led to creating epic poetry were by this time beginning to dissipate. But the Homeric poems, which seem to have been universally acknowledged as superior to all other epic poetry, were valuable as cultural icons. Their preservation became almost a religion. On the island of Chios, for instance, there appeared a guild known as the Homeridai, "the men of Homer" (if not "the fans of Homer"), who took it upon themselves to maintain an authoritative tradition of the recitation of the poems. It is said that they preserved the original pronunciation of the Iliad and the Odyssey down to Alexandrian times.

As noted earlier, we have little knowledge and only minimal frag

-187-

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Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer, Apollonius, Virgil: With a Chapter on the Gilgamesh Poems
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the Second Edition vii
  • 1: Oral Poetry 1
  • 2: The Poet's World 43
  • 3: Poetic Technique 74
  • 4: The Iliad 113
  • 5: The Odyssey 144
  • 6: The Argonautica 187
  • 7: The Aeneid 219
  • Further Reading 257
  • 8: Gilgamesh 279
  • Further Reading Revisited 303
  • Index 311
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