SPEECH, SPEECH MODES AND POWER RELATIONS IN ANCIENT EPIC (Iliad, Odyssey, Argonautica, Aeneid, Metamorphoses)

  • Despoina Christou

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis focuses on the comparative analysis of the epic tradition on the basis of two prominent aspects: the speech modes used in interactions between speakers and the depiction of power relations between the speakers in them. My focus is on interactions in the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Argonautica of Apollonius, the Aeneid and the Metamorphoses, which I discuss selectively in order to bring out patterns that relate to the before mentioned aspects. The dynamic nature of power relations reveals the different roles that a same character can acquire in different exchange of speeches, which further defines the features of the characters' speeches and the selection of particular speech modes, but also reveals an unexpected nexus of associations between identical speech exchange situations across epics. In the Homeric epics, both divine and mortal characters are often described and characterised through a high proportion of direct speech. Direct speeches are the most prominent means of structuring one's identity and role in the text, including one's power relations to other characters (Agamemnon and Achilles in Iliad 1). Indirect speech and speech mention are radically less common, even though their limited use signify important aspects of the power relations established between the characters (Odysseus and his companions in Odyssey's assemblies). Moving on to the rest of the epic tradition, the proportion of direct speech is notably reduced. Indirect speech and speech mention replace on numerous occasions direct speech and this has the consequence that power and power relations in speech (and in the epics more widely) also undergo significant changes as compared with Homer (family scenes in the Metamorphoses are shorter, often excluding interaction, e.g. Ligdus and Telethusa in book 1, but they are prominently reduced in the Argonautica as a whole). This thesis focuses on the speech exchange situations of assemblies and family scenes in the divine and the mortal sphere. I discuss episodes that contribute to the exemplification of (the so-called) traditional and extrinsic cases of the above mentioned speech exchange situations (Zeus' absence in the Argonautica 3 as compared to his continuous - albeit differentiated - presence in the rest of the epics). The close analogies and the discrepancies that arise show the extent to which the epic tradition has preserved similar patterns in the treatment of speech and speech modes with reference to the establishment of power relations in these particular speech exchange situations.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlison Sharrock (Supervisor) & Andrew Morrison (Supervisor)


  • relational power
  • silence
  • relational speech
  • types of power
  • power
  • speech modes
  • speech
  • power relations

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