Greek Terms to Know

Greek Terminology of
The Iliad
 Excellence
 Prowess as a warrior
 Aristos – to be the best; man of excellence
 Arete - excellence in battle, sport or council
 Excess pride or arrogance; this was Odysseus’ flaw at the
beginning of his journey home. Why? What did he do?
 And how was he changed by the end?
 May show disrespect for gods and man (or their
 Glory
 Often implying fame or immortality (in memory of
 Achieved as a result of one’s time (acts of excellence
meriting honor)
 A social community or city-state
 Troy as an example
 It is a complex hierarchical society built around the
notion of citizenship
 Legal equality, male citizenship
Temple of Apollo, Thermon
City States - Polis
Xenia and Philos
 Hospitality
 Related to the tie between guests and hosts
 Involves obligation and giving of gifts
 Remember when this happened in The Odyssey?
Philos – friendship, used particularly to indicate family and
friendship ties with those of the same group,
usually implies explicit or implicit
expectations of reciprocity
pronounced “tee-may”
 Honor
 Value
 Public acknowledgement of one’s value, glory through
awarding prizes
 Acclaim for achieving excellence in battle, sport of
 Personal time can conflict with the time of one’s
Epic Poem
a LONG narrative poem (it tells a story) on a great and
serious subject that
- is told in an elevated, formal style (fancy words,
very serious, almost ceremonial)
has a heroic or quasi-divine character on whose
actions depend the fate of something huge like a
nation or the whole human race or the universe.
 Traditional epics developed from the Oral Tradition,
which means historical and legendary tales passed
down through generations of story-telling.
 They are often during a period of expansion and
 Classical Epic poems: the Illiad, the Odyssey; AngloSaxon epic: Beowulf
 Later ones written in deliberate imitation of those
above: Virgil’s Aeneid, Milton’s Paradise Lost
There are all sorts of rules/conventions these
types of tales must follow:
 hero has to be of great national or cosmic
importance. In the Greek ones, he is usually
related to the gods somehow (Achilles, Aeneas)
 the setting must be VAST. So the hero will
often go on a long journey that takes years,
during which he visits many different lands.
 There must be superhuman deeds in battle
(Achilles, Odysseus, Beowulf)
 Gods and/or supernatural folks take an active
interest or even participate and offer advice
Rules for the Writing Style
 narrator begins with an invocation to the muse.
He’s asking for inspiration so he can tell his tale
better. There are 9 muses; one of them (Calliope)
is the muse of epic poetry.
 story begins in medias res, in the middle of the
action, and then the narrative has flashbacks to
catch up to where you began, and then it moves on
from there.
Other Elements of Style That You’ll
 Epics reflect the important conventions of their
time, like the importance of the patriarchal lineage
(who’s your daddy?) or xenia, Greek hospitality
 Because these stories were performed, there are
lots of repetitive clues and wordplay to keep the
characters straight, like Homeric Epithets (Greyeyed goddess…what else?)