Thirty years ago this book would have been aimed at sixth formers and first year undergraduates. Perhaps it is a good thing that this is no longer possible. Reading Epic, instead, has four targets: senior undergraduate students who are reading ancient epic for the first time in classical or modern literature courses; scholarly tyros and graduate students requiring something with which to orientate themselves in the field of ancient epic; and even hard-pressed university teachers (especially those outside the trade) who need a ready guide to authors beyond their normal range. I hope these groups will find some help in my critical overview. But I would hope too that there is something here for the more patient general reader. For these sorts of readers my book is intended as a suggestive and, I hope, provocative starting point. I must stress, however, that this survey could never hope, nor does it try, to make definitive or critically 'truthful' statements. It represents just one attempt at a reading of the body of ancient epic.
The individual discussions may seem crabbed. There is such an amount of ground to be covered in such a short space that I thought it best to compress as much as possible. Quotation, therefore, has been all but excluded. (The few translations are mine.) The discussions of the individual epics presuppose a fair knowledge of the narrative. Where this fails, a text handy with proper line numbers for easy reference should make the course of events clear.
Compression has also meant getting rid of footnotes. The bibliography exists in their place. Citations are keyed into this. The citations are included not always to indicate my source, but as often to provide a starting place for further reading. These references have been weighted towards later epic. It is easy to find books about