Even Herakles had to die: Homeric ‘heroism’, mortality and the epic tradition

Barker, Elton and Christensen, Joel (2014). Even Herakles had to die: Homeric ‘heroism’, mortality and the epic tradition. Trends in Classics, 6(2) pp. 249–277.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tc-2014-0014

URL: http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/tcs.2014.6.issue-2...

Abstract

Our purpose in this chapter is not to try to reconstruct the lost epics of Heracles but rather to use the conceptual framework of interformularity and intertraditionality to explore the ways in which the Iliad represents Heracles and makes his tradition speak to the concerns of this narrative. We begin by sketching out the antiquity of Heracles in myth and assessing its resonance in the fragmentary and extant poetry from the archaic period. After establishing Heracles’ independent existence outside Homer, we explore how speakers in the Iliad relate – and relate to – the accomplishments of this hero, in trying to make sense of or influence their situations. Finally, we consider how Heracles’ appearances in the Iliad communicate the poem’s sustained engagement with Heracles traditions through the adaptation of traditional structures and the manipulation of formulaic language. This analysis helps us reconsider Achilles’ curious statement as part of an agonistic process by which the Iliad appropriates and marginalizes a hero ill fit to its tale.

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