Epic Cycle (᾽Επικὸς κύκλος): set of twelve archaic epic poems, known to every educated Greek. The best-known were Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, which are also the only epics that have survived.


Homer. Glyptothek, München (Germany)

The Returns (Nostoi) is the tenth epic of the Epic Cycle; it is attributed to Agias of Troezen and "a Colophonian author" (Homer?), and tells the story of the return of the Greek heroes who have captured Troy.

Proclus' excerpt

After the Sack of Ilium follow the Returns in five books by Agias of Troezen. Their contents are as follows. Athena causes a quarrel between Agamemnon and Menelaus about the voyage from Troy. Agamemnon then stays on to appease the anger of Athena. Diomedes and Nestor put out to sea and get safely home. After them Menelaus sets out and reaches Egypt with five ships, the rest having been destroyed on the high seas. Those with Calchas, Leontes, and Polypoetes go by land to Colophon and bury Teiresias who died there.

When Agamemnon and his followers were sailing away, the ghost of Achilles appeared and tried to prevent them by foretelling what should befall them. The storm at the rocks called Capherides is then described, with the end of Locrian Ajax. Neoptolemus, warned by Thetis, journeys overland and, coming into Thrace, meets Odysseus at Maronea, and then finishes the rest of his journey after burying Phoenix who dies on the way. He himself is recognized by Peleus on reaching the Molossi.

Then comes the murder of Agamemnon by Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra, followed by the vengeance of Orestes and Pylades. Finally, Menelaus returns home.


2. Argument to Euripides' Medea:
"Forthwith Medea made Aeson a sweet young boy and stripped his old age from him by her cunning skill, when she had made a brew of many herbs in her golden cauldrons."

3. Pausanias, Guide to Greece, 1.2:
The story goes that Heracles was besieging Themiscyra on the Thermodon and could not take it; but Antiope, being in love with Theseus who was with Heracles on this expedition, betrayed the place. Hegias gives this account in his poem.

4. Eustathius, 1796.45:

Orestes kills Aegisthus; Clytaemnestra to the left. Antikensammlung, München (Germany)
Orestes kills Aegisthus; Clytaemnestra to the left.

The Colophonian author of the Returns says that Telemachus afterwards married Circe, while Telegonus the son of Circe correspondingly married Penelope.

5. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis,
For gifts beguile men's minds and their deeds as well.

6. Pausanias, Guide to Greece, 10.28.7:
The poetry of Homer and the Returns - for here too there is an account of Hades and the terrors there - know of no spirit named Eurynomus.

7. Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 7.281b:
The writer of the Return of the Atreidae says that Tantalus came and lived with the gods, and was permitted to ask for whatever he desired. But the man was so immoderately given to pleasures that he asked for these and for a life like the life of the gods. At this Zeus was annoyed, but fulfilled his prayer because of his own promise; but to prevent him from enjoying any of the pleasures provided, and to keep him continually harassed, he hung a stone over his head which prevents him from ever reaching any of the pleasant things near by.


The translation of the excerpt in Proclus' Chrestomathy (transmitted to us by Photius) and the fragments was made by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, and was copied from LacusCurtius.