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Classics in discussion

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Epic Poetry: from Homer to Virgil

21:16, Sun 24 May 2009

David Fearn and Andrew Laird of Warwick’s Classics department discuss the vagaries of epic poetry.

War and peace, love and longing, and a hero’s home-coming—these are epic themes. We have all encountered them somewhere: on the big or small screen, in books, or perhaps even ourselves. Epics tell great tales of immortal gods and mortal men, of whole civilisations rising and falling. And yet, they also team with the many facets of the human condition, with grief and guilt, bereavement and betrayal, passion and persecution, death and desire.
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey mark both the end of oral poetry and the beginning of literature. In the Aeneid, Virgil continues the tale of Troy and recounts the epic events leading to the foundation of Rome.
But what are these epics really about? How is the ambient social and political order reflected in these great classics? And how do small people feature in these grant narratives?