Elements of an Epic in Homer's The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Elements of an Epic


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Activity Overview

Generally, epics are mythological histories, meaning they are a melting pot of famous figures from history and historical events. In the case of The Odyssey, the battle of Troy is the beginning of the epic with the famous Odysseus, warrior of Ithaca, as its hero.

Epics typically begin as oral traditions being passed down for generations before being written down. To this end, epics have an order and repetition of the events that made them easier to remember. Due to their length, these works often took days to tell!

Six Elements of the Epic

A Hero of Legendary Proportions

The epic hero is typically well known in his time, often reaching superstar status. In ancient legends, the hero often is either partially divine, or at least protected by the gods.

"You may have heard of me, Odysseus...inventor of the Trojan Horse." In cell one this quote shows Odysseus’s notoriety. He came up with the idea of using the Trojan Horse to infiltrate Troy and seize the city. For this, and acts like it, he was celebrated as a great leader and warrior.

Adventures of Superhuman Strength and Valor

The hero accomplishes feats no real human could, both physically and mentally.

Odysseus shows his strength many times. However, it is his defeat of the suitors that proves his superiority to normal men. After 20 years at sea, he returns home to find his estate overrun with men squandering his storerooms and trying to take his wife. Outnumbered ten to one, he kills them all, and restores his kingdom.

Multiple Settings

The actions of the hero span the continent, other realms, or even worlds.

In the Odyssey, much of the action takes place in the Mediterranean Sea, on various islands. However, the hero also travels to the underworld in search of the prophet Tiresias.

Involvement of the Supernatural

Gods, demons, angels, time/space travel, cheating death, immortality, and other supernatural elements.

The gods play a significant role in this epic. Athena is Odysseus' aide, Poseidon is his enemy, and Zeus...well he doesn't really want to get involved.

Epic Style of Writing

The style of is frequently ornate, drawn out, or exaggerated.

Homer was not always subtle with his poetry.This is expected of an epic story. Some use of exaggerated style includes:

Epic similes and metaphors: Her mind in torment, wheeling like some lion at bay, dreading the gangs of hunters closing their cunning ring around him for the finish.

Epithets: That man skilled in all ways of contending.

Omniscient Narrator

The narrator sees and knows all.

Throughout The Odyssey, the narrator uses third person omniscient. He writes as though from a god’s point of view, witnessing and experiencing everything that takes place in the story.

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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the six elements of an epic in The Odyssey.

  1. Identify events or characteristics of the story that fit into the elements of an epic.
  2. Illustrate the examples for each event or characteristic.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates The Odyssey as an epic.

Elements of an Epic Template


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