Book in print

ANCIENT EPIC
LITERARY AND LINGUISTIC ESSAYS
SUMMARIES

I. Revolt vs. dharma: West Heroes and Indian Heroes
(J. V. GARCÍA)

This essay is aimed at analysing the contrast between the “political” characterisation of “western” epic characters – including both classical epic and European medieval epic – and Indian epic heroes. Hence, we will be taking the traditional classifications of epic heroes as a starting point. In western “non-constructed” epic traditions, the King and the Hero are rivals and they even get involved in open confrontation more often than not. It is this rivalry that configures a space of “political tension”, which can even give way to the impugnation of the legitimacy of the monarchy. This “western” impugnation contrasts, clearly, with Indian epic, where there is no such a thing, in spite of the fact that is also rooted in the Indo-European tradition. I pledge that Indian epic ideology was forged at the same time as the “strategic alliance” between priests and warriors; the main axis of this ideology of supremacy that guaranteed the dominion of the two superior castes was the dharma, a concept that unified the “established order” and “justice”. This ideological unification prevented the dissociation of the “king” and the “hero” in India, two characters that in certain western contexts – at least – ended up symbolising the tension between the “established power” and “justice”.

 

II. What is Expedient (τὸ σύμφερον) in the Iliad
(Mª J. MARTÍN)

Aristotle’s Rhetoric and rhetoric in general involve the systematization of certain principles that were already in force in the earliest Greek literature. Negotiation and persuasion are more important than authority in the society depicted by Homer. The noblemen’s desire to take part in the common cause fades away when the honour code is broken and to re-establish such honour codes a rhetorical mechanism must be implemented. The values comprising that honour code act then as a source of persuasion and as a referent for deliberation. This dynamic could even be said to configure the whole poem, which opens with the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon and ends with the reconciliation of Achilles and Priam.

 

III. Plato’s descensus ad inferos: the Nekuia in Plato’s Works(M. DÍAZ DE CERIO)

Plato refers to the same Homeric passage (the catalogue of heroes from the past from the Nekuia in Od. XI 568-635) in two different occasions (Protagoras 315-316a and Gorgias 523a-527); this unique situation allows for a multiple analysis, focusing on the contrast between the Homeric text and the Platonic recreations, as well as between formal procedures, structural function of the quotation and conceptual use of the text in each of the two dialogues.

 

IV. The Subordination of the Epic to Mystic Poetics: the Example of Polyphemus in Love
(Y. GARCÍA)

The legend of Polyphemus in love and pagan mysticism are closely bound. This study intends to show this linkage, which has been overlooked up to the present. After reviewing the first (poetic) version of the myth in order to rescue some data that are usually forgotten by scholars, I will concentrate on Ovid’s version, and on one of the main codes of mystic discourse in Antiquity: the treatment of religious symbology and its philosophical interpretations as a continuum. I will also try to prove that this code and the mystic background explain the relation between Ovid’s Polyphemus in love and Sophocles’ Trachiniae.

 

V. Thebes, Athens and Rome. The Troubled Relationship between Myth and History in Roman Literature
(C. CRIADO)

In this paper I will try to argue the statu quo established for mythical Thebes and for historical Athens and Rome during the last quarter of the twentieth century. I will prove that Roman authors destabilized the civic Athenian myth in such a way that the Attic polis became -to say the least - as similar to Rome as ancient Cadmean city. I will analyse the relevant role of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in this process, and I will conclude that, in spite of Seneca and Lucan’s frenzied re-writing of the “civil passages” in Ovid’s Thebaid (met. II 836-IV 603), the political implications of the Theban material in the Metamorphoses are not the main concern of the Augustan poet.

 

VI. Vates in fabula: Chiron and Orpheus in Valerius Flaccus
(A. RÍO)

Chiron and Orpheus’ presence in Valerius Flaccus’s book I – unprecedented in Apollonius Rhodius but with an interesting parallel in the Orphic Argonautica – is used by the Roman poet to compare the different types of epic bard. Chiron’s voice cannot be heard in the poem, but he embodies the Homeric rhapsode, the ideal teacher of heroes such as Achilles. Still, the epyllium Orpheus sings for his crewmates, which focuses on Phrixus and Helle’s escape riding the ram with the golden fleece, has a markedly Alexandrian tone. Thus, the antagonism hereby established between both bards brings about a contrast between Orpheus’ soft epic and the Centaur’s strong, homer-style epic. This way, Valerius stresses the tensions behind his own task as author of an epos which is necessarily rewriting a complex literary tradition.

 

VII. Direct Speech and Lexical Presence of esse in Virgilian Epic
(C. CABRILLANA)

The study of the behaviour of verb sum in the Aeneid provides seemingly amazing data: data such as the greater lexical presence of verbal forms in direct speech – as this discursive type is, initially, more suitable for the elision of this verbal form – than in narration. An initial statistical analysis shows that the occurrences are inversely proportional: the longer the narrative text is, the fewer verbal forms of sum are found.
This essay proposes several factors to account for this behaviour of the verbal form, and the method used encomprises different levels of linguistic analysis. The analysis comes to prove that the fact that there is a higher demand of grammatically marked verbal forms for the tense, mood, person and number categories in direct speech conditions, in a way, the lexical presence of such forms; as to co-causal factors, the most outstanding ones are pragmatic (focalization of the verbal form, presence of impressive illocutionary force) and lexical-semantic ((quasi)-formulaic constructions or the expression of a specific semantic notion through esse).

 

VIII. Homerus Callaicus
(J. J. MORALEJO)

This paper studies widely-known Greek and Latin texts about myths on the presence of Homeric heroes in Gallaecia. It is taken for granted that such presence is a creation, based on previous models and tradition, of the erudition that in the Hellenistic period extends to the Atlantic area the exploitation and formal and semantic manipulation of the indigenous onomastic forms in consonance to a certain extent with the Hellenic ones. The Greek and Latin texts will serve as a basis to expose the arbitrariness and ingenuity with which they were used in medieval times and in the humanism from the 16th to the 19th century to give ancestry and distinction to some Galician cities and, above all, to show that the manipulation of onomastic forms continued and imagined Hellenic origins for other cities.