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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-02212022-204017

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
The seduction story-pattern in ancient Greek epic: a narratological analysis
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Tulli, Mauro
  • ancient greek epic
  • epica greca arcaica
  • Homer
  • narratologia
  • narratology
  • Omero
  • seduction
  • seduzione
  • story-pattern
Graduation session start date
Release date
In the present thesis I have tried to attach importance to ancient Greek epic seduction story-patterns, narrative sequences which, not included in Arend’s milestone Die Typischen Scenen bei Homer, have generally received little attention in later scholarship, also due to the fact that they have often been confused with other groups of scenes. The thesis aims at analysing a standard epic structure such as the seduction story-pattern from a narratological point of view in order to prove the advantages of resorting to a narratological approach while dealing with standard patterns.
After a brief theoretical framework clarifying the definitions of ‘type-scene’, ‘theme’, ‘story-pattern’ and ‘motif’, I have spoken of seduction as an ancient Greek epic story-pattern, which, unlike type-scenes, has a rather flexible structure and does not necessarily display identical formulaic language. With respect to its content, in the seduction story-pattern a female figure exploits her physical beauty and power of persuasion in order to deceive a male character to achieve certain goals. Accordingly, it contains the following five recurrent key-motifs: SIGHT (and its opposite NOT SEEING), PHYSICAL BEAUTY, EROTIC DESIRE, DECEIT, and PERSUASION.

Before embarking on a narratological analysis of each extant ancient Greek epic story-pattern, I have also tried to distinguish the seduction story-pattern from other groups of scenes erroneously confused with it, such as LOVE SCENES, RAPE AND ABDUCTION SCENES, DRESSING AND ADORNING SCENES – BEAUTIFICATION SCENES, or instances of ‘SPONTANEOUS ENCHANTED REACTION OF A CHARACTER (OR A GROUP OF CHARACTERS) AT THE APPEARANCE OF ANOTHER’-motif. Thus, I have drastically reduced the corpus of seduction passages in ancient Greek epic to four: Helen’s encounter with Paris in Il. III. 121-447; Hera’s seduction of Zeus in Il. XIV. 153-353 – XV. 1-74; Penelope’s deception of the Suitors in Od. XVIII. 158-305; and Aphrodite’s seduction of Anchises in hAphr. V. 45-291.

The narratological commentary on the four extant seduction story-patterns spans the central chapters of the thesis (chapters 1-4), where I have produced a selective, text-oriented and macro-textual lemmatic commentary focused on the narrative aspects of seduction narratives in ancient Greek epic: starting from macro- and meso-structures and proceeding to word-by-word analysis, I have not only reflected on the contextual relevance of epithets or formulae, but also dealt with the role of the narrator and narratees(s), characterization, focalization, the handling of time and the role of space in each seduction narrative.
While the chapters devoted to the narratological commentary have followed a syntagmatic approach, chapter 5 has been devoted to a paradigmatic analysis of the seduction story-pattern in ancient Greek epic by comparing and contrasting its different occurrences: first of all, I have analysed the structure and motifs of each story-pattern in order to explain the reasons behind any deviation from the standard arrangement; secondly, I have dealt with narrator(s) and narratee(s) to reflect on the function of embedded narratives within seduction passages; thirdly, I have analysed direct and indirect speech to consider their distribution and function within these sequences; I have then examined the management of time dimension, by focusing on anachronies and rhythm in the seduction story-pattern; finally, after reflecting on the spatial setting and considering the relationship between open and close spaces for seduction, I have also discussed the narrative function of the seduction story-pattern which, far from being marginal if compared to other more frequently attested type-scenes or story-patterns, turned out to be actually crucial in ancient Greek epic.

The choice to combine both a thematic and a narratological approach and to juxtapose a syntagmatic and a paradigmatic analysis has allowed to further examine the sophisticated narrative technique at the basis of the Homeric poems and the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite; at the same time, it has confirmed the fruitfulness of blending narratological analysis and literary interpretation while dealing with the standard structures in ancient Greek epic.

La tesi è incentrata sullo story-pattern della seduzione nell’epica greca arcaica e propone un’analisi narratologica di quattro macro-sequenze: l’incontro tra Elena e Paride in Il. III. 121-447, la seduzione di Zeus da parte di Era in Il. XIV. 153-353 – XV. 1-74, l’inganno dei Pretendenti ad opera di Penelope in Od. XVIII. 158-305, e la seduzione di Anchise per mano di Afrodite nell’Inno omerico ad Afrodite (hAphr. 45-291).
I primi quattro capitoli ospitano un commento lemmatico di tipo sintagmatico a questi passi; il quinto capitolo, invece, presenta un’analisi paradigmatica delle strategie narrative caratteristiche dello story-pattern della seduzione: particolare attenzione è dedicata al ruolo di narratore e narratari, alla focalizzazione, alla gestione del tempo e dello spazio, alla caratterizzazione dei personaggi, nonché alla funzione narrativa che queste macro-sequenze svolgono nell’intreccio delle opere in cui sono inserite. Oltre a dimostrare la centralità dello story-pattern della seduzione e dei suoi motivi nell’epica greca arcaica, quest’ultima sezione della tesi mira non soltanto a ribadire la straordinaria qualità narrativa e l’altissima elaborazione formale dei poemi omerici e dell’Inno ad Afrodite, ma conferma anche i vantaggi dell’applicazione della narratologia allo studio delle strutture ricorrenti tipiche dell’epica greca arcaica, nell’ottica di una più ampia comprensione del testo.