HEROES AND PENTADS: OR HOW INDO-EUROPEAN IS GREEK EPIC?

Authors


  • I would like to thank seminar organizers and questioners in the universities of Harvard, McMaster, Brasilia, and Birmingham, who have contributed to the development of this paper.

Abstract

Students of the narrative content of Greek epic usually ignore the hypothesis that it shares a common origin with the Sanskrit epic, and even Georges Dumézil, the best known Indo-European cultural comparativist of the last century, emphasized the contrast between the two traditions. However, since Dumézil's death, it has been argued that his ‘trifunctional’ theory of Indo-European ideology needs to be subsumed within a pentadic framework. This framework suggests that the sets of protagonists in the Massacre of the Suitors and in the Trojan War are comparable with those at the heart of the Sanskrit Mahābhārata. Despite some blurring, the influence of the pentadic ideology is recognisable in a ‘canonical’ set of Achaean heroes, as regards not only their participation in certain Homeric episodes but also the sequence of their deaths and their relationship to geographical space.

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