Homeric catalogues are repeatedly used by the poet to evoke narratives, perhaps whole poems. Ultimate failure of Homer’s catalogues to coalesce into true, cohesive narrative form is a desired effect that draws attention to speakers’ rhetorical aims, failure of divine omniscience, or the limitations of mortal speakers or the poet himself. On the thematic level, there is often a mismatch between a catalogue and the main narrative; this assignable to similar causes but also allows the poet to explore alternatives to his own story. Sometimes the poet seems to use his catalogues to delineate an ideal of the epic genre while at the same time showing that such an ideal is unattainable, and perhaps not particularly desirable. Hence it must always be considered whether the poet uses his catalogues to polemically depict other poems, real or imagined, in such a way as to highlight the excellence of his own work.
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