Historical and Mythological Epic

This essay explores the boundaries that separate historical epic from mythological epic, concluding that these are much more malleable than one may think.

By analyzing specific structural elements that recur indiscriminately in both mythological and historical epic (e.g. type scenes, topoi, and similes), I emphasize the similarities between these two modes of epic. In fact, diachronic, intertextual analysis of the epic tradition underscores how productive the cross-fertilization between these two strands was.

Select examples treated in this essay come from Homer, Choerilus of Samos, Apollonius, Ennius, Vergil, Lucan, and Flavian epic.