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Epic Conventions

1. The story begins in medias res. In Medias Res is Latin for "it begins in the middle of

things" and then has flashbacks to explain action leading up to that point. In THE ILIAD, for example, the story begins after the war between the combined forces of Greece and the forces of the walled city of Troy and their allies has been in progress for nearly ten years.

To begin the story/in the middle is not typical it may confused/mislead the readers because its not easy to predict what comes next. However, it motivates readers to read more and more just to find out the surprises that lie ahead. Like in the epic of Iliad, at first readers find it hard to figure out why the certain thing happened, however as the story progress, readers find excitement in reading. This means that a story begin in the middle. It is not a typical story where the first things came first like a woman who has been successful in her chosen.

2. The story begins with an invocation (prayer) to a god or gods. The poet, who in those days would have been reciting the epic to an audience, say, at a banquet, began by calling for a blessing--for a god or gods to attend this effort of his. They probably literally believed that the called upon god or muse came into them and, therefore, that it was not the poet who recited, but the god in the poet's body. Poet's, then, were considered very sacred, for they could call down a god and have the god in them, at least temporarily. We continue to have remnants of this belief, of course. We often think of poets or of any true artist as being different or touched by a special hand. In the case of the beginning of THE ILIAD, the poet says something like. "Sing, goddess of epic poetry, the story of the anger of Achilles." The Greeks followed a formula in uttering a prayer. A prayer generally had 3 parts: 1st invocation in which the god was invoked through his titles in the most respectful way to address him. 2nd sanction in which the one praying mentioned the services that he has given to the God which asserts his credentials & readers him worthy of the gods favor. 3rd entreaty in which the god us asked to do something or to grant something, an urgent need of the one praying. Greek prayers contained no

regrets for shortcomings or promises of amendment. They contained only a practical appeal for help. We often open up any event by a prayer, but it a story or epic is not an exception to this. As have been said THE ILIAD was opened by the poet by a simple glorification or by offering the poem to the god or gods. An epic opened by prayer clearly shows that the poet is guiding for the blessing of the god or gods, commonly we can read such kinds of epic in stories of war or glorifications.

3. The story begins with a statement of theme. Always, because these poems are so long

and so complex, although the basic stories would have been familiar to the audiences, the poet would begin with announcing what the recitation was to be about. That way, everyone could focus and appreciate, not so much WHAT was being said, but the WAY THAT IT WAS PRESENTED. We are no stranger to that concept: we go to concerts where we may already know all of the songs. So, we go to hear the presentation of the songs, which add to our concepts of the meaning and significance of those songs. Theme of Iliad & Odyssey:

The affirmation of the truth that mans fate is the result of his actions. Ill ask of troy fate is the results from ignorance, unguided & immoderate passions. The gods give only what man asks for his destiny is largely a master of his own making. Oftentimes, we feel learned when we are reading poems that are so long most especially when the words were so deep that we find it hard to comprehend so we read it so slowly that sometimes we have to pause and look up some of the words meaning in the dictionary. Hence we always fall to appreciate the essence of the poem or of how the poem was presented with a statement of their theme which is very helpful to the readers. With them stating the theme at the very beginning readers now can give full attention or the appreciation of the poem not on the words that are too deep to understand. They now come to feel and even more the emotion that the poet/author embedded in their piece.

4. The story has many epithets. These epithets are re-namings of the characters, gods,

or things by stock phrases. An example is the re-naming of Agamemnon and Menelaus as "Atreus' two sons" or "the twin eagles." It is important for us to notice

these epithets, first, because they add description, and second, because we get confused about who is doing what if do not recognize the epithets as well as the names.
During their time as we notice Greeks only have their names but no distinguishes surnames and to be able to really address that person in his true self they added some descriptions. However it way also causes confusion to the readers of epic; if they try dont know well the names as well as epithets. Poets & authors are fun using descriptive words so as to add more light to their master piece. They also use some words that tend to confuse the readers minds that is why it is a must for every reader to know and understand which the epithets of every story or poem are. These epithets are words used to rename and or replace the words already used by the poet or author. For readers not to be confused who these epithets are pertaining to, it is deemed recovery to first & foremost know what the epithets are pertained to make reading a worthwhile experience.

5. The story uses catalogues of things and characters; there are many lists, both long

and short. Just as the Old Testament has catalogues of genealogies--you remember all those begets--just so do ancient epics keep track of the lists of history. In one book of THE ILIAD, for example, there is a list of the ships that sailed from Greece to Troy.

Catalogue is very important part/factor in epic, because usually epics are long, in sometime readers forgot somethings/characters descriptions in along the way, so in that case they can look back to the catalogues to confirm or know why those character behave in that manner.

6. Gods intervene in the affairs of human beings in these stories. For example, in Book I of THE ILIAD, Achilles, getting very angry at Agamemnon, starts to pull out his dagger to kill him. Suddenly, a goddess rushes to the side of Achilles (Of course, no one else present can she her. I am not making this up.) to warn him not to be so hasty.

In Greek stories/epic, their gods walked with theme upon the earth & even conversed and mingled in some events such as feasts, funerals, wedding, etc. This only means that their gods influence their lives. And they need not to resist/reproached their gods for Greek believed true in doing so they may fall in ill fate. The epic shows that it is in their culture to

honor or give respect to their gods, for nothing to blame for whatever fate they were may be, only themselves.

7. The settings of these stories are vast. The known world was used, from the top of the

--mountains to the homes of the gods to whatever islands the culture knew of.10. The stories use the epic simile. An epic simile is a long comparison of two things that are in different classes. They make vivid an image and describe or clarify. An example can be found in the long comparison of Paris Alexander, a Trojan prince, to a fine horse that has been manger fed a long time in a stable. When released to pasture, it races out with quick, sure strides, neck arched, knees high, mane flowing, proud it its beauty and strength , to race to drink from a clear flowing stream. So Paris ran to battle.

In make the epic/story more appealing it in them style to use simile in compares two contrasting rings. And in using so, it enriches the story and become more delightful to the readers. And their style is already become the trademark in making a story/epic.


The heroes embody the values of their civilization. The physical strength and stamina of Achilles, for example, is made much of. The lifting of the latch of the door of his stockade requires the strength of three soldiers, but Achilles lifts it with one hand. His spear, thrown so lightly, is eighteen feet long. He is a power machine. Today, we all know, a tiny female can have more killing power than Achilles ever dreamed of. We have created compensations--weapons.

This means that during their time they usually valued some values/traits as the standards under which the Greeks judged themselves. During their time, they believed in 4 cardinals witness: courage, temperance, justice & wisdom & these 4 writers represented the 4 aspects of man physical, moral, aesthetic and intellectual. So it only means that they are men with an upholding dignity & values, thats why they were guided on what & how to live their lives according to the set of standards of Greeks.

Tiwi Community College

Tiwi, Albay

Submitted by:

Amy Crucillo

Submitted to:

Ms. Desiree Mae Coros