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The hero’s role in the polis: The evolution of Homeric iconography and literary archetypes in classical tragedy

HALL, ALISTAIR,STEPHEN (2022) The hero’s role in the polis: The evolution of Homeric iconography and literary archetypes in classical tragedy. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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This dissertation examines adaptations of the themes and archetypes of Homeric epic in fifth century tragedy. It will propose that Athenian playwrights often highlight the contrast between the themes of individualism and monarchism inherent to these narratives and their own democratic states. Athens reinterpreted the figureheads of Pan-Hellenic mythology to comment on its own state or bolster its legacy across Greece.

The first chapter will explore the core traits of the ἥρως in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, as identified in scholarship. It will then compare them against later literature including lyric poetry and philosophical texts which either homage or discuss epic. Through this, one can gauge the reception of heroism within classical Athens, especially by setting it against the rise of hero cults in the sixth century onwards and identifying where this new mould of heroism resembled and differed from what came before. This will form the framework of how an ancient Athenian audience would understand heroism when they began watching a tragic play.

The rest will explore interpretations of different heroic characters on a case-by-case basis. Each chapter will examine portrayals of a specific mythological hero. This involves comparing portrayals of the same character in different plays by different authors. Each chapter will follow the same basic structure, breaking down how the ἥρως is characterised, how they relate to the people around them, and how their actions impact the surrounding πόλις. The thesis will conclude that tragedy’s response to heroism encapsulates how any art form responds to its earlier traditions, maintaining what is still relevant, changing what is not, and developing a springboard to create something that resonates with a new audience.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:"drama" "tragedy" "epic" "heroism" "Athens" "democracy" "gender"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Aug 2022 12:52

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