In Homer's Odyssey, in Books One and Two, why are some words and phrases often repeated?

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Throughout the Homeric epics, both the Iliad and the Odyssey, audiences will note instances of repeated words, repeated lines, and sometimes even entire passages repeated word for word.

This sort of repetition is a feature of epic poetry that has emerged from an oral tradition. Poets like the ones who recited the Iliad and Odyssey as entertainment for various groups relied on repetitive words, lines, and passages to help them in their recitations.

We also need to keep in mind that those who recited epic poetry had to make sure their word fit a particular metrical pattern. In the case of Homer's poetry, this pattern is called dactylic hexameter. If we were to look at the Greek text of Homer, which I highly recommend, we would find that Homer's choice of adjectives (aslo called epithets) to describe Odysseus, for example, is almost always based on the metrical situation in which the poet finds himself.

For a modern parallel to oral poetry, think of "rapping". Modern rappers frequently end their lines with the sound "uh" to make the rhyme work, even if that means spellingĀ a word incorrectly. We should note, however, that Homer's poetry is one of rhythm and not of rhyme.


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