Reading Homer and the Epic Cycle through ekphrasis: Philostratus’ epic Imagines

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Throughout his Imagines, Philostratus draws on a variety of literary and artistic traditions, reflecting a cultural framework shared by the sophist and his contemporary audience. At the heart of this cultural framework lies an education that begins with, and in many ways centres on, the works of Homer. Philostratus’ engagement with the epic past, however, goes far beyond the events covered in Iliad and Odyssey, bringing together oral, literary, and artistic re-imaginings of heroic narrative. This chapter explores Philostratus’ visual retellings, his ekphraseis, of three stories from the Homeric epics and the wider Epic Cycle: the battle between Hephaestus and Scamander, the fall of Antilochus, and the death of Memnon. It argues that Philostratus’ foregrounding of Homeric and visual traditions at the expense of the cyclical poems reflects contemporary paideia and literary tastes, sophistic admiration for, and competition with Homer, and shifting cultural touchstones in the Imperial Period.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSophistic views of the epic past from the classical to the imperial Age
EditorsPaola Bassino, Nicolò Benzi
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781350255791, 9781350255777
ISBN (Print)9781350255760
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2021

Publication series

NameBloomsbury classical studies monographs


  • Imagines
  • Ekphrasis
  • Visuality
  • Homer
  • Iliad
  • Aethiopis
  • Epic cycle
  • Heroes
  • Death


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