The role of the gods in the classical world's epic tradition has been the subject of controversy since ancient times, and many modern readers continue to find their presence a source of frustration. Although the problem of the gods in some individual works has been intensely discussed, this is the first study to be devoted to the classical literary tradition as a whole, together with the apparatus of critical scholarship which was part of that tradition. The work of the ancient critics provides some access to the interpretative conventions of the original reading community, while their theories of fiction and genre also shed light on the problems of the truth-value of epic fiction and the kind of belief that poetry generates. Their work is only a preliminary guide, however, and the major portion of this study is devoted to the poets themselves and to the themes particularly associated with them: discussion of fiction is located with Apollonius, allegory with Statius, anthropomorphism with Ovid, and so on. The survey seeks to restore a sense of the power of this unique form of fiction.