What is Homer saying about the nature of the soul in The Iliad?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a tough question.  It strikes at the essence of what Homer, and classical literature, in general, is all about.  Homer's statement about the soul is that it can only find some level of reconcilable peace when it goes into the afterlife.  The state of the soul while in the world of the mortals is one of complete anguish and incompatibility.  Homer depicts characters whose souls are fundamentally in anguish as they live in life.  Hector cannot find any peace in this life, his soul overwhelmed with the desire to defend his city and his desire to stay with his family.  His soul finds peace in death.  The same can said for Andromache, his wife, whose soul finds no peace in this life.  Her husband's death followed by the degradation she suffers when the city's walls are breached both depict the lack of peace for the soul in this life.  For his part, Achilles finds some peace once he dies, as well.  The warrior who lived, behaved, and was treated like a God in the life of the mortal finds the immortality he so yearned only with his own death.  Homer depicts the awareness and knowledge, "sophia" or "wisdom," only after his mortal life is gone.  As a mortal, his life is one in which there is tension and incompatibility between his approach in terms of living as an Immortal, and yet being bound by the limits and constraints of mortality.  In these instances, Homer's statement about the soul is one in which there is pain and a sense of divided consciousness in life, only to find reconciliation or at least the absence of such division in death.


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