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Myth and Epic

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DOI: 10.4236/als.2014.21005    3,182 Downloads   7,059 Views  
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ABSTRACT

Anthrologists and literary critics tend to read even sacred ancient literature in the manner of Homer’s and Virgil’s epics, that is, as fiction with historical elements. They don’t, however, always follow up with the implications of that. Mesopotamian myths and epics are similar to Greek and Roman ones in that regard. The pertinent questions are who believed what and what effect literal belief in myths hadon given social orders. One answer in the Hebraic tradition is typical of other traditions, namely that calls for reform at home and for campaigns against enemies abroad rely heavily on the presumed historicity of the texts. For the Israelites, that means the unquestioned validity of covenants struck between legendary patriarchs and Yahweh, at least within the Yahweh cult itself. The hybrid forms of Dante, Milton, and others in the Christian European tradition draw on both well-traveled epic conventions and the veracity of biblical traditions, as Milton does in turning a Homeric invocation of the muse into an appeal to the Holy Spirit. Much as Milton, too, is now read as a poet rather than an inspired seer, so probably were earlier authors who claimed direct personal revelations. If that was in fact the case, it would have weakened moral teachings less than cult recruitment andthecall for military campaigns against foreign powers. Whereas legal and ethical matters have muchto recommend them independently of their origin, waging war on religious grounds requires strong convictions.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Toliver, H. (2014) Myth and Epic. Advances in Literary Study, 2, 19-26. doi: 10.4236/als.2014.21005.

References

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