Ēthos

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Ὅμηρος δὲ ἄλλα τε πολλὰ ἄξιος ἐπαινεῖσθαι καὶ δὴ καὶ ὅτι μόνος τῶν ποιητῶν οὐκ ἀγνοεῖ ὃ δεῖ ποιεῖν αὐτόν. αὐτὸν γὰρ δεῖ τὸν ποιητὴν ἐλάχιστα λέγειν· οὐ γάρ ἐστι κατὰ ταῦτα μιμητής. οἱ μὲν οὖν ἄλλοι αὐτοὶ μὲν δι’ ὅλου ἀγωνίζονται, μιμοῦνται δὲ ὀλίγα καὶ ὀλιγάκις· ὁ δὲ ὀλίγα φροιμιασάμενος εὐθὺς εἰσάγει ἄνδρα ἢ γυναῖκα ἢ ἄλλο τι ἦθος, καὶ οὐδέν’ ἀήθη ἀλλ’ ἔχοντα ἦθος. δεῖ μὲν οὖν ἐν ταῖς τραγῳδίαις ποιεῖν τὸ θαυμαστόν, μᾶλλον δ’ ἐνδέχεται ἐν τῇ ἐποποιίᾳ τὸ ἄλογον, δι’ ὃ συμβαίνει μάλιστα τὸ θαυμαστόν, διὰ τὸ μὴ ὁρᾶν εἰς τὸν πράττοντα· ἐπεὶ τὰ περὶ τὴν Ἕκτορος δίωξιν ἐπὶ σκηνῆς ὄντα γελοῖα ἂν φανείη, οἱ μὲν ἑστῶτες καὶ οὐ διώκοντες, ὁ δὲ ἀνανεύων, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἔπεσιν λανθάνει. τὸ δὲ θαυμαστὸν ἡδύ· σημεῖον δέ, πάντες γὰρ προστιθέντες ἀπαγγέλλουσιν ὡς χαριζόμενοι.
(Aristotle, Poet. 1460a5-18)

Homer deserves praise for many other qualities, but especially for realising, alone among epic poets, the place of the poet’s own voice. For the poet should say as little as possible in his own voice, as it is not this that makes him a mimetic artist. The others participate in their own voice throughout, and engage in mimesis only briefly and occasionally, whereas Homer, after a brief introduction, at once “brings onto stage” a man, woman, or other figure (all of them rich in character). In tragedy one needs to create a sense of awe, but epic has more scope for the irrational (the chief cause of awe), because we do not actually see the agent. The entire pursuit of Hector, if put on stage, would strike us as ludicrous—with the men standing and refraining from pursuit, and Achilles forbidding them—but in epic this goes unnoticed. Awe is pleasurable: witness the fact that all men exaggerate when relating stories, to give delight. (tr. Stephen Halliwell)

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