Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2017

Access Restrictions


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Ketterer, Robert C

First Committee Member

Gibson, Craig

Second Committee Member

Berrey, Marquis

Third Committee Member

Wilcox, Jonathan

Fourth Committee Member

Smith, Frederick M


Few works have created such memorable characters as the Iliad and Odyssey. Readers come away from these works with the impression that the characters described in the stories are larger than life: Achilles is strong, Ajax is enormous, Patroclus is bloodthirsty, Nestor is ancient, Stentor is loud. Nobody leaves Homer’s epics thinking his heroes are not worthy of their lasting fame.

This study argues that, although the heroes of the two Homeric epics are meant to be impressive, their characterization in the Iliad and Odyssey is the result of a process of rationalization whereby the hyperbole traditionally ascribed to such figures was toned down when the two poems were finally committed to writing. I argue this by showing that the hyperbole used to describe these heroes is paralleled across many Indo-European epic traditions and that, for the most part, it is much more exaggerated in these related epics. From the scant remains of the Epic Cycle, there is reason to believe that the context in which Homeric poetry was formed was receptive to the fantastic. The best explanation of these two pieces of data is that the Iliad and the Odyssey rationalize traditional hyperbole. This was done so that the poems would have a broader appeal and greater clarity, vividness, and simplicity, traits which have long been considered hallmarks of Homer’s style.


comparative, epic, Homer, hyperbole, Indo-European, rationalization


vii, 446 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 410-446).


Copyright © 2017 Matthew Aaron Horrell

Included in

Classics Commons