The Iliadic Catalogue of Ships
This chapter examines the famous “Catalogue of Ships” from Iliad (2.484–760). It argues that the catalogue functions as a kind of episode that caps off the narrative and thematic structure of Book 2. The difficulties of the catalogue’s introduction, usually taken as a testament to the bard’s close relationship to the Muses, at the same time establish the poet as an autonomous and responsible agent. The problems of the invocation are reflected by peculiarities of the catalogue itself; these call into question the breadth of the poet’s undertaking and his own traditional role as guardian of memory and kleos, such that the poet uses his catalogue to explore some of the problems inherent to epic as a genre. In the final part of the catalogue, which includes Achilles’ entry, there is a fundamental change that addresses these problems and repositions the poet’s own story in relation to the larger tradition.
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