Monday, March 14, 2011

the Epithet

An epithet, or an Homeric epithet, but sometimes called an Homeric epitaph, is a recurring feature in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Epithet comes from the Greek for putting (something) on (something). It is a tag or a descriptive quality that can be used on its own or together with the real name, depending on other features of the Greek language. Epithets add descriptive color and also fill out the meter when the name on its own doesn't quite fit. In addition, epithets serve as a mnemonic device reminding listeners that they have, indeed, already heard mention of the character. The epithets, generally compound adjectives, are picturesque, which certainly helps make the assignment of character to epithet memorable.

  • Telemachus has these epithets used (depending on your translation)
    • poised
    • thoughtful
    • discrete


  1. From what I have read, I beleive that Telemachus has the epithet of being peptimistic, and being easily persuaded by Athena. Telemachus seemed to disbelieve what his parents told him about his lineage (being the son of Odysseus), yet as unsure of what he said, he was sure enough to believe Athena when she informed him that Odysseus was alive. This is very strange to me because Athena was disguised as Mentes, the ruler of Taphian. This is stranger to me that Mentes is a stranger to Telemachus, yet Telemachus was so easily inspired and persuaded in believing that his father is alive.

  2. Also! I forgot to add that in this book, the word "Stranger" is constantly brought up, which struck out to me in proving my point that Telemachus is easily persuaded, well for a prince at least.

  3. well as i have found out the epithet is a realy big part for this play or literary work, i think that his is because Homer didn't want to be repetitive.

  4. Yes Victor! I agree with you. That is one reason. As you read more of THE ODYSSEY,I think you'll detect other reasons as well.