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Why is The Odyssey an epic poem?

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kassybt | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 24, 2010 at 11:31 AM via web

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Why is The Odyssey an epic poem?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 24, 2010 at 11:48 AM (Answer #1)

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The Odyssey is an epic poem because of the following:

  • it is a long, narrative poem
  • it focuses on an epic subject: the suffering of Odysseus
  • it champions an epic hero, Odysseus,
  • it characterizes the values and ideals of the Greeks
  • it is passes on orally from a bard, or scop to a live audience over many sittings
  • it contains elements of mythology and the supernatural, but its focus is primarily on humans
  • it begins in medias res: "in the middle of the action"
  • it chronicles many years and settings
  • begins with an invocation of a muse
  • uses formal, lengthy monologues


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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 24, 2010 at 11:40 AM (Answer #2)

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The term epic refers to a long narrative about a hero or god. In this situation the narrative actually takes the shape of epic poetry because it is written in meter.

One regularly comparable epic today is the Star Wars series. However, being in screenplay format, it differs in that it is not a poem.

Odysseus is the hero for whom the epic poem was written to celebrate. The poem is about his adventures from the point at which he finished the Trojan War until he is completely united with his wife.

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allie344 | TA | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 12, 2015 at 3:35 AM (Answer #3)

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The Odyssey begins as all epic poems do in Media Res, or in the middle of things. Nearly all modern novels begin from the beginning of a story and work their way through the plot while epic poetry will start in the middle of a story before explaining the events that came before it. In the case of the Odyssey, the story begins with Odysseus stranded on Calypso's island before narrating how he came to be shipwrecked on the island.

Also, while epic poetry does not rhyme, it was written in a meter that helped the bards of that day recite it from memory. Epic poetry is also quite frequently scattered with heroic epithets about noteworthy characters, hence the many references to Dawn with her Rosy Red Fingers. Other common themes include the invoking of deities such as Athena. And typically heroic epithets begin with a calling upon a muse. The Odyssey famously begins with the words "Sing to me of the man, Muse" thus fulfilling this as well. Additionally, epic poetry centers around a single great hero.

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