Every epic begins with a question mark. When the literary study of epic confined itself to the European epic tradition, it was common to cite the beginning in medias res as a defining feature of epic. A wider study of world epic shows this formal feature to be a local variant, not in itself constitutive of the genre, but it points us toward a more universal element, the initiating question mark. Homer’s brilliant device of starting in the middle of things was picked up and exploited by the whole of the Western tradition, by Virgil, Dante, Ariosto, Tasso, Milton, and so forward. But in the allusive and reminiscent value of the technique, perhaps its original meaning was somewhat lost: that epic always, despite being usually set in the remote past, seizes a moment when the present trembles on the precipice of the future.