"I would recommend this volume both for scholars of epic and heroic literature (especially if they have interests in comparative literature or in questions of orality and historicity), who will no doubt enjoy its generally succinct essays with pertinent bibliography for each tradition." (Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 9 February 2011)
"Essential. Graduate students and researchers." (Choice, October 2010)
Heroic epics have existed in many cultures, from antiquity to the modern day, offering an important means by which societies commemorate the past and transmit memories over time. Yet few attempts have been made to compare these epics systematically or to establish a typology of heroic epic. Nor is it always clear to what extent heroic epics reflect history, or what methodologies might be used to retrieve historical information from epics.
Addressing these issues, Epic and History invites comparison across a broad variety of cultures in which traditions of epic – oral and written – existed and continue to exist. It makes a unique and conscious effort to take full advantage of this cross-cultural comparison to enhance our understanding of this important topic, presenting crucial insights into how history is treated in narrative poetry.
Contributors are leading scholars on epic and heroic poetic traditions. They base their analyses on profound knowledge of the wide range of cultures discussed throughout the book, from the ancient Near East and South Asia, the Greco-Roman world, and medieval Europe – from Scandinavia to Spain – to today’s Egypt, Southern Africa, and Central America.
About the Author
David Konstan is the John Rowe Workman Distinguished Professor of Classics and the Humanistic Tradition at Brown University; he is also a Professor in Comparative Literature, and a member of the Graduate Faculty of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies. He is the author of Roman Comedy (1983); Sexual Symmetry (1994); Greek Comedy and Ideology (1995); Friendship in the Classical World (1997); Pity Transformed (2001); The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks (2006); Terms for Eternity: Aiônios and aïdios in Classical and Christian Texts, (with Ilaria Ramelli, 2007); and A Life Worthy of the Gods: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus (2008).
Kurt A. Raaflaub is David Herlihy University Professor, and Professor of Classics and History at Brown University. His numerous publications include The Discovery of Freedom in Ancient Greece (2004) and Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece (2007, co-authored with Josiah Ober and Robert Wallace). He is also the editor of Social Struggles in Archaic Rome (Blackwell, 2005), and War and Peace in the Ancient World (Blackwell, 2007), and co-editor of Democracy, Empire, and the Arts in Fifth-Century Athens (1998), War and Society in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds (1999), A Companion to Archaic Greece (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), and Geography and Ethnography: Perspectives of the World in Premodern Societies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).
Table of Contents
List of Figures and Tables vii
Notes on Contributors viii
Series Editor’s Preface xiv
1 Introduction 1 David Konstan and Kurt A. Raaflaub
2 Maybe Epic: The Origins and Reception of Sumerian Heroic Poetry 7 Piotr Michalowski
3 Historical Events and the Process of Their Transformation in Akkadian Heroic Traditions 26 Joan Goodnick Westenholz
4 Epic and History in Hittite Anatolia: In Search of a Local Hero 51 Amir Gilan
5 Manly Deeds: Hittite Admonitory History and Eastern Mediterranean Didactic Epic 66 Mary R. Bachvarova
6 Epic and History in the Hebrew Bible: Definitions, “Ethnic Genres,” and the Challenges of Cultural Identity in the Biblical Book of Judges 86 Susan Niditch
7 No Contest between Memory and Invention: The Invention of the Pa08ava Heroes of the MahAbhArata 103 James L. Fitzgerald
8 From “Imperishable Glory” to History: The Iliad and the Trojan War 122 Jonas Grethlein
9 Historical Narrative in Archaic and Early Classical Greek Elegy 145 Ewen Bowie
10 Fact, Fiction, and Form in Early Roman Epic 167 Sander M. Goldberg
11 The Song and the Sword: Silius’s Punica and the Crisis of Early Imperial Epic 185 Raymond D. Marks
12 The Burden of Mortality: Alexander and the Dead in Persian Epic and Beyond 212 Olga M. Davidson
13 Slavic Epic: Past Tales and Present Myths 223 Susana Torres Prieto
14 Historicity and Anachronism in Beowulf 243 Geoffrey Russom
15 The Nibelungenlied – Myth and History: A Middle High German Epic Poem at the Crossroads of Past and Present, Despair and Hope 262 Albrecht Classen
16 Medieval Epic and History in the Romance Literatures 280 Joseph J. Duggan
17 Roland’s Migration from Anglo-Norman Epic to Royal French Chronicle History 293 Michel-André Bossy
18 A Recurrent Theme of the Spanish Medieval Epic: Complaints and Laments by Noble Women 310 Mercedes Vaquero
19 History in Medieval Scandinavian Heroic Literature and the Northwest European Context 328 Robert D. Fulk
20 Traditional History in South Slavic Oral Epic 347 John Miles Foley
21 Lord Five Thunder and the 12 Eagles and Jaguars of Rabinal Meet Charlemagne and the 12 Knights of France 362 Dennis Tedlock
22 History, Myth, and Social Function in Southern African Nguni Praise Poetry 381 Richard Whitaker
23 Epic and History in the Arabic Tradition 392 Dwight F. Reynolds
24 Comments on “Epic and History” 411 Dean Miller
What People are Saying About This
"A remarkably wide-ranging collection, deeply learned, ecumenical in spirit, and diverse in its approaches." Martin Mueller, Northwestern University “This book is an ‘epic’ undertaking in its own right, extending across four millennia in time, and most of the globe in setting. The challenging mosaic of studies takes shape as an exploratory chart of how memory, story-telling and the desire for heroes may relate to what we might want to call ‘History’”. Oliver Taplin, Magdalen College, Oxford University “Answers come and go. Questions persist. One of the many virtues of this volume of collected essays is its ability to re-open some fundamental discussions about epic, history, genre, and memory. It does so in a sophisiticated, learned, and wide ranging manner. This book problematizes the relationships between literary form, fact, and tradition in a way that will inform and excite scholars in many fields for many years.” Ahuvia Kahane, Royal Holloway, University of London