Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XI, Homeric marginalizations of Hēraklēs as an epic hero
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CitationNagy, Gregory. 2019.10.04. "Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XI, Homeric marginalizations of Hēraklēs as an epic hero." Classical Inquiries. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:Classical_Inquiries.
AbstractThis essay, dated 2019.10.04, for which I give the abbreviated title TC XI, continues from the essay TC X, dated 2019.09.27, the subtitle for which was “A Homeric lens for viewing Hēraklēs.” In the subtitle for TC XI here, “Homeric marginalizations of Hēraklēs as an epic hero,” I view the term “Homeric” more narrowly than the term “epic.” To put it more accurately, I view Homeric poetry is a special kind of Greek epic poetry, not the general kind as reconstructed by way of comparative philology. And my point is that the heroic character of Hēraklēs, while he is central to epic poetry as reconstructed by comparatists, has become marginalized in Homeric poetry, where the central heroic characters are Achilles and Odysseus. In the illustration for my essay here, I show by way of a three-part picture this trio of heroes—Achilles, Hēraklēs, Odysseus—as imagined by artists. I have positioned Hēraklēs at the center of the three-part picture, indicating this hero’s centrality in the epic tradition inherited by Homeric poetry. In terms of the point I am making in this essay, however, Homeric poetry would have squeezed out Hēraklēs from the center of our three-part picture, and we would now have to look for him at the two margins of what could now be rethought as a four-part picture. So, we would now find Hēraklēs to the left of Achilles and we would find another Hēraklēs to the right of Odysseus. In Homeric poetry, after, all, Hēraklēs no longer has a single central role but rather a dual marginal role, both as an older version of Achilles and as an older version of Odysseus.
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