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Defining Greek Narrative$
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Douglas Cairns and Ruth Scodel

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748680108

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748680108.001.0001

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Homeric Battle Narrative and the Ancient Near East

Homeric Battle Narrative and the Ancient Near East

(p.29) 3 Homeric Battle Narrative and the Ancient Near East
Defining Greek Narrative

Adrian Kelly

Edinburgh University Press

The dominant model of interaction between early Greece and the civilisations of the Ancient Near East and Egypt sees the Hellenic world as absorbing almost everything in its narrative poetry all the way down to individual expressions. This model confuses the difference between genealogy and analogy. This chapter proposes to highlight the essential Hellenicity of Homeric poetry by taking the battle narrative of the Iliad as its demonstration piece. Taking one of the many cases where Homeric battle episodes have been seen to be derived from other traditions, the discussion will compare the Diapeira in Iliad Book 2 and the episode of the army's testing by the hero Gideon in the Book of Judges from the Hebrew Bible (7.2–3), arguing that the passages are so different that they cannot be linked genealogically. The traditions for narrating battle of the Ancient Near East and Egypt are very different from the Iliad's – lacking the scale, variety, aestheticisation and narrativisation of Homer's battles. However we account for it, combat in the Iliad, which comprises roughly two-thirds of the poem's narrative, is a Greek feature in ancient Greek narrative.

Keywords:   Battle narrative, Near Eastern literature, Judges, Diapeira

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