Ancient Greek History

All About Epic Poetry in Ancient Greece

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Although epic poetry began well before the Ancient Greek civilization came about, it was an important part of the Greek culture starting in around the 6th century B.C. There is evidence that there were epic poems that were written as early as the 20th century B.C through civilizations such as the Mesopotamians, which is credited for producing the oldest surviving epic poem. However, once the Ancient Greeks started producing epic poetry, they were incredibly prolific and the poets produced works that are still popularly enjoyed today. Here’s a look at the history of epic poetry in Ancient Greece:

Information About Epic Poetry

So, what is an Epic poem exactly? All works of epic poetry begin en media res, which is a term that means, ‘in the middle of things.” On other words, each epic poem starts while the action of the story is already underway. For example, the Iliad begins as the Trojan War had already been going on for about nine years. There was still a year of fighting left to the war before the story actually began.

Another key feature of epic poetry is that it was actually designed to be performed with music. Traveling bards would perform the poetry orally and the words were sung and often accompanied with music. As a result of this, many of the stories that we know of today were widely known and recognized by the people of Ancient Greece since hearing these performers was one of their top forms of entertainment.

Epic Poets in Ancient Greece

Epic poetry existed in Ancient Greek literature long before other forms of poetry and writing became common. In particular, the Iliad and the Odyssey, are considered to be at the center of Ancient Greek literature and are looked at as the earliest, most enduring examples of epic poetry. Homer, who is credited as being the author of both of those poems, is one of the most well known writers in all of Ancient Greece.

However, he is also a mysterious figure and there is some controversy as to whether he was real or not. Some scholars believe that Homer was a real person and there are others who maintain that Homer was the name given to several poets who all contributed to composing the works of the Iliad and Odyssey over time.

Another popular epic poet was Hesiod and unlike Homer, Hesiod actually mentions himself in his own works, which leaves little question as to the true other of each of the pieces he composed. Hesiod wrote Works and Days and Theogony. Both of these works had an impact on the culture of Ancient Greece.

As you can see, epic poetry had an important place in Ancient Greece. They were not only a form of entertainment and enjoyment for the people, but many believe that the works of Homer and Hesiod formed the basis of the Ancient Greek religion of the time. Many of the stories concerning Greek mythology originated in the Iliad, Odyssey, and Theogony.


Wikipedia – Ancient Greek Literature

Wikipedia – Epic poetry

Wikipedia – Homer

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This post was written by Greek Boston