The Epic Cycle: A Commentary on the Lost Troy Epics by Martin L. West

By Martin L. West

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First entire remark at the misplaced Troy epics
Includes a considerable creation which discusses the overall concerns and old context to the texts
Fully documented and recent, together with the newest fabric and scholarship
The Iliad and Odyssey don't conceal the most tale of the Trojan warfare. the complete saga, which include Zeus' plan to lessen the world's inhabitants, the Judgment of Paris and seduction of Helen, the beginning of the crusade, the wood Horse, the autumn of Achilles, the homecoming of Agamemnon, and the eventual demise of Odysseus, used to be similar in six different epics, relationship from 630-560 BCE, that have been influential for lyric poets, tragedians, and artists of the classical age yet are recognized to us basically via fragments and short prose summaries.

In this publication Martin West provides the entire resource fabric and gives the 1st complete remark on it, making complete use of iconographic in addition to literary facts. Discussing the person fragments and testimonia, he endeavours to reconstruct the connections among them, as far as attainable, and to accumulate an image of the plan and process each one poem. In a considerable creation he addresses basic concerns, together with the character and formation of the Epic Cycle, the prestige of the summaries of the Troy epics preserved lower than the identify of Proclus, the validity of the attested ascriptions to specific poets, the reflexes of the Cycle in early artwork and literature, and its fortunes in and after the Hellenistic period.

Readership: For students and graduate scholars of Classical reviews, specially these attracted to classical texts and the epic tradition.


M. L. West, The Epic Cycle: A remark at the misplaced Troy Epics. Oxford; big apple: Oxford collage Press, 2013. Pp. ix, 334. ISBN 9780199662258. $150.00.

Reviewed through Patrick O’Sullivan, collage of Canterbury, New Zealand ([email protected])

Martin West’s research of the misplaced Trojan epics is one other significant contribution of this pupil to Classics in a profession spanning good over part a century. because the subtitle makes transparent, this observation doesn't care for the Theban saga, or the fragments of alternative epic poems, corresponding to the Heraclea of Panyassis or the Theseis. as a substitute, the focal point is on these poems, except the Iliad and Odyssey, which whole the total Trojan saga and its aftermath. Such poems contain episodes starting from Zeus’ Malthusian choice to reason the struggle at Troy (and Thebes) to alleviate Earth of over the top human inhabitants within the Cypria—the world’s first-known prequel—to the dying of Odysseus as acknowledged within the Telegony

In the preface West declares that he intends to move past studying particular fragments and testimonia; he additionally goals to reconstruct the overall narratives of the misplaced epics (cf. additionally pp. 51-4). to do that he is based, unavoidably, yet now not exclusively, at the prose summaries now we have from Proclus’ Chrestomathy; yet he additionally takes into consideration what historical literature and paintings depicting a similar tales can let us know concerning the cyclic epics. The statement, then, is huge in scope, and is the entire extra attractive therefore. evidently, there'll be moments while readers will disagree with a few of West’s reconstructions. yet, as a complete, this paintings is a version of readability, jam-packed with scholarly insights and exhibiting command of an enormous diversity of fabric mixed with believable research. because the first of its style, this observation vastly complements our figuring out of those vital and influential, if moderately preserved, poems.

In the wide-ranging creation we discover an exceptional education for the observation forward. It explores many matters and subject matters regularly that obtain extra particular remedy in all the six chapters which follow—one for every of the six Trojan cyclic epics (Cypria, Aethiopis, Little Iliad, Iliou Persis, Nostoi, Telegony). West means that our significant resources for the Cycle, Proclus’ Chrestomathy and Apollodorus’ Bibliotheke, derive their debts from digests of the cyclic epics datable to the Hellenistic interval. yet West curiously makes an attempt to track the formation of those epics as a ‘Cycle’ past the Hellenistic interval to the shadowy mid-fourth-century determine Phayllos, pointed out through Aristotle (Rhet. 1417a15) as placing jointly a succinct precis of ‘the Cycle’, which the thinker compares to Odysseus’ precis (ἀπόλογος) of his adventures to Penelope on his go back (cf. Od. 23.310-41). through ‘cyclic’ poetry West ability poems designed to shape a phase of a vaster narrative series, filling in components no longer coated through present epic poems, resembling the Iliad and Odyssey, either one of that are thought of free-standing and whole in themselves (p. 17, cf. p. 20).

West additionally issues out that the cyclic poems will not be all solid within the comparable mildew: the Aethiopis looks to were extra unified than, say, the Cypria, in its continuation of the Iliad and in finishing the tale of Achilles. Nor have been all of the cyclic epics created ex nihilo after the Iliad and Odyssey had accomplished pre-eminence; relatively, what finally grew to become the Epic Cycle relies on oral poems, latest in a little bit fluid shape, relationship to the 8th and 7th centuries BC (pp. 21-6).

The creation additionally offers in most cases with such matters as ascriptions and authorship and the methodological problems of trying reconstructions of misplaced fabric via later literature or artistic endeavors (pp. 40-47). Many could baulk altogether at utilizing iconographic fabric to reconstruct misplaced literature, yet West is true in my opinion to contemplate what mild such fabric can shed on at the very least a few misplaced epics. whereas closing wary, he plausibly entertains the opportunity of allusions to convinced misplaced epics in scenes or figures that commonly might don't have any ‘organic’ connection to one another, yet seem jointly on an artifact, after they are remarkable good points of a misplaced epic. One instance is a portray of the Judgment of Paris through the Kadmos Painter of c. 420 (= LIMC Eris 7) which on an higher point contains Eris and Themis in dialog, figures who characteristic within the Cypria (Arg. 1a, cf. Arg. 1b), yet differently aren't attached to every other.

Treatment of every poem is at the start divided into sections facing problems with its attestation in historic literature and artwork, authorship, date, the scope of its contents and its relation to the nice Homeric epics. Then stick to the fragments and commentaries. The texts should not translated; West recommends utilizing the translations that seemed in his Loeb variation of the Greek epic fragments in 2003. a number of outstanding alterations emerge among this remark and the Loeb variation: for example, Cypria Fr. 29a and F 14 of the Nostoi don't look within the Loeb variation. somewhere else, West has revised his considering on a couple of issues on the grounds that 2003, and indicates an admirable willingness to reconsider his previous released paintings at the Cycle (see pp. 238-9 the place he evaluations considered one of his emendations to Arg. 3b of the Iliou Persis).

Considerations of house hinder a close account of West’s commentaries, yet a number of issues are worthy stating all of the related. West stocks Aristotle’s view (Poet. 1458a37) that either the Cypria and Little Iliad are episodic (πολυμερῆ); and this is often probably to be anticipated at the least of the previous poem, that is designed to deliver the hearer/reader up to the mark at the first 9 years of the Trojan conflict. West discusses textual difficulties within the Cypria, suggesting occasional emendations, and notes ways that the poet not just displays the language of Homer and Hesiod but in addition monitors novelty in adapting the older poets’ formulae (e.g. F 10.6, cf. Hesiod, Th. 413; Il. 14.204; etc.). fascinating speculations abound the following, and West toys with historicizing readings every so often (p. ninety three, 116), in addition to noting the poem’s impression on Pindar, between others (p. 106, etc.).

West dates the Aethiopis to the past due 7th century, contemplating it to predate the Odyssey and restates his view that it really is one of many extra unified of the cyclic epics, with the occasions top as much as the dying of Achilles as its critical topic; this, he indicates, has its roots in past compositions dealing individually with Memnon and Penthesileia which turn into mixed into what we all know because the Aethiopis this present day. He sees Memnon as a post-Iliadic determine, (pp. 145-6) and rightly issues out that says that the Iliad borrows a lot of its motifs from the Aethiopis—so a lot an indicator of Neoanalytical scholarship—can be simply as plausibly reversed.

Aristotle’s view of the disjointed nature of the Little Iliad is reiterated via West (p. 169), and he posits a ‘programme’ of occasions over a twelve-day interval to hide all of the significant episodes at Troy from the competition over the armour of Achilles to the Sack. regardless of its obviously episodic constitution, West however attractively indicates a unifying trajectory through the poem that starts off with the melancholy of the Greeks over the dying of Achilles and suicide of Ajax and ends with the Greeks victorious on the sack of Troy. Like different students, West additionally sees the Little Iliad as just a little strange in the Epic Cycle in its inclusion of earthy, light-hearted components, equivalent to the Greeks’ identifying to enable an overheard dialogue among Trojan women make a decision who should still win Achilles’ palms. From this he infers a later playful transforming of the older epic culture. Such parts are undeniably found in the poem, yet as early because the Iliad Homer may reveal earthy humour, corresponding to in booklet 14 in Hera’s comical seduction of Zeus, or the obnoxious Ajax, son of Oïleus slipping over within the footrace in the course of Patroklos’ funeral video games and finishing up with a mouthful of cow-dung. it's superb then, that West needs to delete χέσαιτο γάρ, εἰ μαχέσαιτο from Little Iliad F 2, within which one of many women discussing who may still get Achilles’ armour mentions lady ‘would shit herself if she fought’ in conflict. the truth that Aristophanes in his Knights (1057) fees this a part of the fragment may also weaken the case for deletion or emendation here.

In distinction, the potentially older Iliou Persis exhibits no signal of light-heartedness, at the least in its scanty is still, and West means that it by no means completed huge foreign money, hence prompting the poet of Little Iliad to compose a brand new account of the Sack.

The Nostoi would appear to be one other episodic cyclic epic, integrating a number of narratives of varied heroes’ returns from Troy, together with Agamemnon, Menelaos and Neoptolemos; the poet, it's endorsed, might suddenly swap from one narrative to the subsequent to create the unique cliff-hangers. West sees during this poem an in depth engagement with the Odyssey and dates either to the overdue 7th century; he additionally sees, if no longer an analogous poet for either, then broad contacts among the composers to give an explanation for the narrative and structural parallels (p. 250). between those West argues for a Nekuia scene to parallel that during Odyssey eleven; in this interpreting, the Nostoi has Menelaos encountering the ghost of his murdered brother, who tells him the wretched story of his homecoming. whereas primary connections among the 2 poems certainly exist, they can be defined by means of a poet operating less than the effect of the Odyssey, which arguably had attained its pre-eminence many years, if now not generations, past; it doesn't appear essential to me to work out the poems as coeval or by means of an identical hand.

Discussion of the Telegony through Eugammon concludes with a desirable conjecture that Odysseus’ unique demise used to be now not by the hands of his son Telegonos, who stabbed him with a spear that had the barb of a sting-ray as its element (Proclus Arg. four; cf. F 5). given that antiquity, with the striking exception of Aristarchus, this was once thought of to be what the Homeric Teiresias was once pertaining to while he prophesied that Odysseus’ ‘mild death’ (θάνατος ... ἀβληχρὸς) might come from the ocean (Odyssey 11.134-7). West, even if, noting that discomfort because of a sting-ray barb is whatever yet gentle, argues that Teiresias is concerning an occasion defined within the Psychagogoi (F 275) through Aeschylus within which a heron defecates at the bald head of an aging Odysseus; the hero’s dying is as a result of a fish barb inside the bird’s droppings which poisons his scalp. this sort of death, in response to West, additionally conforms to a few folktale traditions in Greece and somewhere else during which the shape of loss of life is posited as a riddle. The demise by the hands of Telegonos is, following this interpreting, a post-Homeric invention by means of Eugammon so as to add grandeur to Odysseus’ loss of life, and raise him from his unique folk-tale prestige as a trickster to 1 of the good heroes of the Trojan saga.

Any reconstruction of fabric as fragmentary because the (Trojan) Epic Cycle will comprise a lot that's speculative, and West admits that at the very least one in every of his makes an attempt may possibly stretch credulity (p. 281-2); in different places he appears to be like overly reliant on decide on assets, reminiscent of Pausanias, in his bid to reconstruct the ultimate occasions of Little Iliad (pp. 212-22). but there's a lot that's believable and insightful during this wealthy and invaluable paintings, seeing that a lot of the dialogue is expert via an impressive erudition which sits flippantly on its writer. The writing is obvious and fascinating, the standard of proofreading excessive; typos are infrequent and risk free (e.g. on p. 142 n. 15; on p. 202 learn Plato Republic 493d, now not 439d). scholars and students will derive nice reap the benefits of West’s labours, for his handy assortment and research of the traditional resource fabric for the Cycle (e.g., attestations in literature and art), up to for his wide-ranging and coherent therapy of the Cycle total. English readers may perhaps hardly ever ask for a greater synoptic research of the forever attention-grabbing is still of this corpus of poetry, as a way to shape the root for destiny discussions of the Cycle for many years to come back.

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Com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2014. All Rights Reserved. com/page/privacy-policy). 65–8 and 5. 49–51. 20–30; 8. 50– 5); Clytaemestra’s murder of Agamemnon and Cassandra (with a look back at the sacrifice of Iphigeneia), and the killing of her and Aegisthus by Orestes with Pylades (Pyth. In the Sixth Paean (73–120) he skims through the whole saga from the Judgment of Paris to the war, the death of Achilles, the fetching of Neoptolemos from Skyros, his sack of the city and the slaughter of Priam at his house altar, and his nostos.

How widely was the Telegony ever performed anyway? Conclusions Despite the common tendency in the classical period to treat all epic poetry as being by Homer, we have seen that several other names were known in connection with Cyclic poems as early as the fifth century: Stasinos, Thestorides, Lesches, perhaps Diodoros. If we cannot follow any of them back into the sixth century, it is surely only because of the lack of potential source texts for that period. In the same way they may have had names for the poets of the Cypria, the Aethiopis, and the other epics.

6) On them see Sadurska; Valenzuela Montenegro; Michael Squire, The Iliad in a Nutshell: Visualizing Epic on the Tabulae Iliacae (Oxford 2011). 11, but he does not supply the name. Was 14,400 lines a total for a group of two or three poems taken together? (9) The central title ΤΡΩΙΚΟΣ on the Tabula Capitolina (Valenzuela Montenegro 32) has sometimes (as by Heyne 312; Wilamowitz (1884), 333, 360) been taken to stand for Τρωϊκὸς κύκλος, but the noun to be supplied is more probably πίναξ, ‘tablet’ (as Wüllner 4).

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