There was once a time, long ago, when storytelling held far more importance than it does today. The style of writing taken for granted today is, in the grand scheme of things, a rather new invention. Before written language became widely used, tradition and history were passed along to future generations via word of mouth. These words were by no means without structure, as epic poems such the “Iliad” illustrate. The “Iliad” makes use of several differing systems, all of which assist the storyteller in memorizing and reciting these extremely long and complex stories.
The “Iliad” is a timeless tale of heroism. First written between the years of 1100 BC and 700 BC, miraculously, it is still printed today. The story is a recounting of the ten year war between an alliance of Greek states and the trade city of Ilian. However, this epic poem would not have been possible without the oral performances which were once its only method of transmission. The use of meter gave the presenter a rhythm to follow. Specifically, a form of meter called Dactylic Hexameter was used in the Iliad. Similar to the related Iambic Pentameter, Dactylic Hexameter is a syllable structure used in classical epic poetry. The particular meter used in this poem consists of 6 sets of 1 long, and 2 short syllables. Knowing the structure of the words ahead provides very distinct advantages. With limitations on the number of syllables possible for the following word, process of elimination works wonders in leading the bard to the desired word. The use of patterns is not limited to the words themselves, patterns are also evident in the content and storyline itself. Characters often remain static and concrete, while possessing one defining quality that is repeated throughout the poem. With that being said, repetition is a vital tool in the oral process.
With epic stories to recite, and the written word a distant dream, the bard’s of the past turned to creative means to pass down their stories of heroism. Mere paper and pen proved to be no adversary to the ingenuity of storytellers, and out of necessity a system was born. Bard’s and their genius have constructed methods of memorization which have helped shape the world we live in today, and will surely help shape the world of tomorrow.