The Epicness of Poetry part two
Today we look at Homer.
Not this one:
Homer wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey, but you knew that.
These are both considered epic poems and boy, oh boy are they epic in the sense of BIG. They are big in size (The Iliad is nearly 16,000 lines and The Odyssey is about 12,000), big on adventure, and have big heroes as well. These two poems have also made a big impact on literature, culture, and on Hollywood.
The Iliad is mainly about Achilles and his fighting in the Trojan War (yes, think Brad Pitt in Troy), while The Odyssey is mainly about Odysseus and his adventures trying to get home from the Trojan War.
You want large scale clashing armies? You’ve come to the right place. Even matched duels or obviously unmatched duels? Check out the long one-on-one combat descriptions, or that crazy nonsense between Paris and Menelaus. Spy thriller? Odysseus’s nighttime raid totally fits the bill. Nail-biting special ops missions? The Trojan Horse ruse has your name written all over it. Swords-and-sorcerers magic adventure? Try anything with the gods busting in on the action, like, say, that whole Laocoon fiasco. Snakes—yikes. In short, anything exciting you’ve ever seen or heard or read started right here.But that’s not all. Not only does the Iliad put the act into action, but it puts the philosophy in there, too. This isn’t just a reductive Good Guys versus Bad Guys bit of disposable nothing. Instead, what’s behind all that fighting is a whole lot of thinking about what the fighting means.
Do you like stories full of adventure, danger, and suspense? How about stories set in fantastic worlds full of strange creatures like Cyclopses, witches, sirens, and gods? If so, then you’re in luck, because Homer’s Odyssey is Western literature’s original adventure story, and its first foray into the fantasy genre. If you need any proof of how much Homer’s poem defined this genre, just consider the fact that we now use the word “odyssey” simply to mean adventure.
Beowulf, The Iliad, and The Odyssey are old, or classic, epic poems. We now move on to contemporary, or considerably younger epic poems.
Next Post: Lost in Paradise is not the same thing as Paradise Lost
- Review of “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller (rhapsodyinbooks.wordpress.com)
- Study suggests Homeric epics were written in 762 BCE, give or take (santafe.edu)