's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.24:1-2 The symmetrical arrangement of parallel lines of about the same length (called “cola” or “stichs”) in which meaning, grammar, syntax, form, and stress balance and reinforce one another constitute parallelism.

1:6 In synthetic parallelism the second or third lines of the unit are not synonymous or antithetic to the first line but advance the thought in a variety of other ways.

For example, one of the lines may give a comparison to illuminate the other.

This is emblematic parallelism: As a father has compassion on his children, so the you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.

For Greece and Rome this is the simplest explanation: it is a long narrative written in hexameters (or a comparable vernacular measure) which concentrates either on the fortunes of a great hero or perhaps a great civilization and the interactions of this hero and his civilization with the gods (Merchant 1971: vii) . Koster (1970; compare Thraede 1962) attempts to reconstruct some. Aristotle, in chapters 23 and 24, specifies some of the characteristics which an epic ought to show.

24:3 Less frequently three lines comprise a “tricolon” or a “tristich:” He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.

24:4 Types of parallelism emerge from the common patterns of meaning sustained between these parallel lines.

Synonymous parallelism describes bicola or tricola in which the same or similar thoughts are repeated: Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

1:5 Antithetic parallelism describes couplets or triplets with contrasting thoughts: For the watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

A little more thought suggests a contrast between the type of epic which was passed from generation to generation by word of mouth ('oral' or 'primary' epic such as Homer's It certainly has a hero, gods, and a narrative, and it is, in its way, about civilization. Here are some (I am following Halliwell 197f.; compare Heath 19-55): it must have a plot structure which is 'dramatically' put together; the plot should present a single action 'with beginning, middle and end'; epic should have a unity that is not merely temporal or sequential, nor produced simply by concentrating on a single hero (compare Heath 19); an epic plot ought to be 'compact enough to be grasped as a whole unit'; an epic, like tragedy, should contain reversal, recognition, and calamity; and finally an 'epic should conform mostly to the criterion' of what is probable.

But such an account, however sensible, does not provide definitions capable of embracing the full range of ancient epic literature. AD 14) provide a less subtle, if more generous, classification (compare Plato, is no less open-handed.

How useful are these edicts when applied to later historical epic, such as that of Silver Latin or late antiquity? Quintilian and Manilius provide us with what may be the most useful way to think of ancient epic.