SUPERVISED BY: Prof. Barbara Graziosi
The aim of my PhD research is to find new perspectives on how ancient audiences would have appreciated the Iliad in the context of the wider epic tradition, and how all epic poems gained resonance over time through audience reception and interpretation. Rather than investigating how the poems were formed, composed, and eventually monumentalised, my emphasis puts the audience first, and concentrates instead on how the poems and the tradition were perceived. This will be done through a specific comparative focus on how the stories of the Trojan and Theban sagas interact with each other. The Theban Wars were the particular subject of two poems from the Epic Cycle: the Thebaid related the first, failed, assault on the city by the Seven, led by Polynices, and the Epigoni was concerned with the second, successful, attack by the sons of the next generation. There are two other related poems which can be grouped within the Theban strand of the Cycle; the Oedipodea, the events of which precede the two wars, and the Alcmeonis, which follows them. By dividing the Epic Cycle in this way, the Theban Cycle can be seen as a companion to the Trojan Cycle, which consisted of eight poems including the Homeric epics. The two strands also reflect the two great siege conflicts that marked the end of the age of the heroes, according to Hesiod, with the Theban Wars occurring in the generations before the conflict at Troy. My study will illuminate further how these two strands formed part of the wider web of interrelated myth, and increase our understanding of, as Jasper Griffin has called it, the ‘uniqueness’ of the Iliad.