Genre of the Epic Poem
The Iliad is an epic poem and part of the ancient Greek oral tradition. Homer’s audience was an illiterate culture, and Homer himself was most likely illiterate. Many critics believe that the composition of the Iliad predated any form of writing in the Greek culture. There are some critics, however, who believe that the Iliad must have existed in writing, given its length and complexity. It would have been nearly impossible to maintain such a coherent form by oral transmission alone. This does not mean, however, that it existed in the form that we now know it, or that it was accessible to the general public. If writing did exist, it is thought to have been practiced only by a few storytellers. These “Men of Words” would write down their best tales for their own use and to train their apprentices. They would not be seen by anyone else. Because of the enormous effort of writing, these books would become very valuable possessions, and would be passed down from the storyteller to his successor (Murray, 95-96).
The poets themselves were highly regarded by their contemporaries and treated as fellow workers who attempted to bring beauty to life. The purpose of the tales was both to eloquently preserve the history of a people and to entertain. The stories consisted of a mix of common history borrowed from past poets and embellishments added by the poet. Because these poems were...
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The Poem (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Greeks are camped outside the walls of Troy, in the tenth year of their siege on that city. Agamemnon, king of the Achaians, wants the maid, Briseis, for his own, but she is possessed by Achilles, a mortal son of Zeus, king of the gods. When Achilles is forced to give up the maid, he withdraws angrily from the battle and returns to his ship. He wins from Zeus the promise that the wrong that he suffered will be avenged.
That evening Zeus sends a messenger to the Greek king to convey to him in a dream an order to rise and marshal his Achaian forces against the walls of Troy. When the king awakens, he calls all his warriors to him and orders them to prepare for battle. All night long the men arm themselves in battle array, making ready their horses and their ships. The gods appear on earth in the disguise of warriors, some siding with the Greeks, some hastening to warn the Trojans. With the army mustered, Agamemnon begins the march from the camp to the walls of the city, while all the country around is set on fire. Only Achilles and his men remain behind, determined not to fight on the side of Agamemnon.
The Trojan army comes from the gates of the city ready to combat the Greeks. Then Paris, son of King Priam and Helen’s lover, stands out from the ranks and suggests that he and Menelaus settle the battle in a fight between them, the winner to take Helen and all her possessions and friendship to be declared between the warring nations....
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Troy (Ilios). Ancient city on the plain of Troas, or Troad, on the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea in what is now Turkey. Homer knew the area so well it is assumed that he had visited it. However, the Troy about which he wrote was a city that existed perhaps four centuries before his own time.
Legend has it that Apollo and Poseidon constructed Troy, and the Greek divinities had much to do with destroying it, first providing the occasion for the war, then prolonging it by squabbling among themselves, and finally deciding the city’s fate. However, historians believe that the cause of the war may have been the Greeks’ wish to stop the Trojans from collecting tolls from land travelers and from ships moving in or out of the Dardanelles (Hellespont).
*Pergamos (PUR-gah-muhs). Troy’s walled citadel, or acropolis. The temple of Athena at its summit is the Trojans’ place of worship. King Priam’s palace, which is described in book 6, is also there. It serves not only as the residence of the royal family but also as the city’s center of government. Whenever Hector goes out to battle or returns home, as he does in book 6, he uses the Scaean Gate on the west side of the Pergamos. His wife Andromache often watches him from the wall above. The city cannot be destroyed as long as the Pergamos remains in the hands of the Trojans; when it falls, the city will be destroyed.
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The context in which the Homeric poems were created is clouded by the fact that their creation is a process that spans several centuries. In a very real sense, the poems’ historical and cultural background is rather like one of the archaeological sites from which we gather our information about the period: it is deep, it has many levels or layers, and over time things can get pushed up or down from their proper context. Consider, for example, the boars’ tusk helmet Odysseus wears in Book 10: we find it depicted in art from the late Bronze Age, but it had long since disappeared from use or living memory by Homer’s day in the Iron Age. Moving in the other direction, the cremation burials described in the poem were common in Homer’s day, but extremely rare in the Bronze Age when the events he describes would have taken place.
The Bronze Age
The Trojan War and its aftermath took place in the late Bronze Age, which began around 1550 BC. This is the date assigned to the wealthy burial sites found by Heinrich Schliemann in Grave Circle A at Mycenae in 1873. For this reason, the period is sometimes also called the Mycenaean era. This was a time of relative stability though not, of course, without its conflicts, wars, and raids....
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Since it is the first work in its genre to have survived, the Iliad does not so much display the mechanics of epic poetry as define them. Epic poetry in the West was written in virtually the same form as the Iliad for at least 500 years, and the modifications that were later made tended to be minor.
English meter involves patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. Greek meter, on the other hand, involves patterns of long and short syllables in which, as a general rule, two short syllables equal one long syllable. Greek poetry does not rhyme, although it uses alliteration and assonance (repeated use of the same or similar consonant patterns and vowel patterns, respectively).
The Iliad is written in dactylic hexameters, which is the “standard” form for epic poetry: in fact, this particular meter is sometimes referred to as “epic meter” or “epic hexameter.” Hexameter means that there are six elements, or “feet,” in each line; dactylic refers to the particular metrical pattern of each foot: in this case, the basic pattern is one long syllable followed by two short ones, although variations on that basic pattern are allowed. The final foot in each line, for example, is almost always a spondee (two long syllables, instead of one long and two short ones).
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Book 1 Questions and Answers
1. Where are the Achaians at the opening of the epic?
2. Why did Apollo send “deadly arrows” against the Achaians?
3. Whose advice do the Achaians seek to stop the bloodshed?
4. What do the Achaians do to stop Apollo’s assault?
5. What does Agamemnon do to Achilleus that causes his great anger?
6. What is Achilleus’ plan for revenge?
7. Why does Thetis agree to help Achilleus?
8. Who takes Chryseis back to Thebe, and what happens when he gets there?
9. Why is Hera unhappy that Zeus agrees to help Achilles?
10. Who pleads with Hera to make peace with Zeus, and why?
1. The Achaians are in Troy.
2. The Achaians refused to return Chryseis to her father, who is a priest of Apollo.
3. The Achaians seek the advice of Kalchas, a seer.
4. The Achaians return Chryseis to Thebe.
5. Agamemnon takes Achilleus’ war prize, Briseis.
6. Achilleus plans for the gods to assist Troy in their fight against the Achaians.
7. Thetis is Achilleus’ mother. She also knows that Achilleus’ fate is to die young.
8. Odysseus takes Chryseis back to Thebe, and everyone celebrates with a feast.
9. Hera thinks it unfair that many of the Achaians must die to revenge Achilleus. She also despises the Trojans...
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Book 2 Questions and Answers
1. How does Zeus convey his message to Agamemnon?
2. What is Zeus’ message, and can it be trusted?
3. How does Agamemnon test the warriors?
4. Do the warriors pass the test?
5. Which goddesses help to turn the army back to the fight?
6. What is the sign that Odysseus takes as proof of impending victory?
7. Who is the one warrior who refuses to listen to Odysseus, and what is his argument?
8. How does Odysseus react to Thersites?
9. Why does the narrator include a list of the armies with their leaders and ships?
10. How do the Trojans find out about the Achaian attack?
1. Zeus sends Dream in the form of Nestor to convey his message to Agamemnon.
2. Zeus tells Agamemnon that the Achaians will be victorious against the Trojans. His advice cannot be trusted, because Zeus is helping Achilleus get revenge against Agamemnon.
3. Agamemnon tests the warriors by telling them to give up and go back home.
4. The warriors fail the test, jumping immediately at the opportunity to go home.
5. Hera sends Athene down among the troops to encourage them to fight.
6. The sign Odysseus uses to convince the armies is that of a snake devouring eight baby sparrows and their mother, and then...
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Book 3 Questions and Answers
1. How do the Trojans feel about Paris, and why?
2. What incident in this chapter shows us this feeling?
3. Who reprimands Paris for his behavior?
4. What does Paris eventually agree to do?
5. Where is the duel fought?
6. Who has the upper hand in the fighting?
7. How does the duel end?
8. Who is declared the winner?
9. Is Helen happy to see Paris returned to his room?
10. What does the duel between Paris and Menelaos
1. The Trojans despise Paris because he is directly responsible for the war with the Achaians. He is also a coward who refuses to do his share of the fighting.
2. Paris challenges the best of the Achaian men to a duel, but then backs away in fear when Menelaos accepts it. Also, after he disappears we are told that no one among the Trojans would hide him.
3. Paris’ brother Hektor chides him for his behavior.
4. Paris agrees to fight a duel with Hektor to decide the fate of Helen, leaving the rest of the armies out of it.
5. The duel is fought in a large clearing between the two armies.
6. Menelaos is the better fighter.
7. The duel ends when Menelaos has clearly established the upper hand, but before he can finish Paris off, Aphrodite spirits the Trojan away.
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Books 4 and 5 Questions and Answers
1. Who decides to break the truce between the Trojans and Achaians?
2. How is the truce broken?
3. Who is the main character portrayed in Book Five?
4. What name has been given to this book?
5. Who appears to Diomedes when he is injured by Pandaros?
6. What two things does Athene give to Diomedes?
7. What instruction goes with these gifts?
8. What is the exception to this rule, and why?
9. How is Diomedes like Achilleus?
10. How is he different?
1. The gods decide to break the truce at the urging of Hera and Athene.
2. Athene convinces Pandaros to gain glory by shooting Menelaos, which he does.
3. Diomedes is the main character in Book five.
4. This book has been called the “Diomedia.”
5. Athene appears to Diomedes when he is injured.
6. Athene gives Diomedes strength for the battle and the ability to distinguish gods from men.
7. Diomedes is instructed never to engage a god in battle.
8. Diomedes is allowed to confront Aphrodite, because she has no place on the battlefield.
9. Like Achilleus, Diomedes is favored by the gods, strong in battle and a leader.
10. Unlike Achilleus, Diomedes is in control of his emotions and defers to his leaders.
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Book 6 Questions and Answers
1. Does Menelaos wish to kill Adrestos?
2. What ends up happening to Adrestos?
3. What is Nestor’s advice to the Achaians?
4. Why does Hektor return to the city?
5. What do Diomedes and Glaukos discovcr about each other as they introduce themselves?
6. What do they do after making this discovery?
7. What do they do to symbolize this?
8. Where does Hektor find Paris, and how does he react?
9. Why does Andromache plead with Hektor not to return to battle?
10. Does Hektor believe the Trojans will defeat the Achaians?
1. Menelaos has pity on Adrestos and does not wish to kill him.
2. Adrestos is killed coldly by Agamemnon.
3. Nestor advises the Achaians to attack the Trojans without stopping to take the spoils.
4. Hektor returns to the city to gather the women together to sacrifice to Athene.
5. They discover that there was a bond of friendship between their grandparents.
6. They make a pact not to harm one another in battle.
7. Armor is exchanged to symbolize the bond of friendship.
8. Hektor finds Paris at home with the women of his household. He gives Paris a lecture about his failure to face his responsibilities.
9. Andromache has lost her father and brothers already in the battle,...
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Book 7 Questions and Answers
1. Whose idea is it to call a truce and have Hektor challenge an Achaian to a duel, and why?
2. Who first accepts Hektor’s challenge?
3. Does he fight Hektor? Why?
4. Who volunteers next and why?
5. How is the man to fight Hektor finally chosen, and who is it?
6. Who is the stronger fighter in the duel?
7. How does the duel end?
8. What do both sides request after counsel that evening?
9. Why is it important to the warriors to bury their dead?
10. What do the Achaians do during the truce?
1. Athene and Apollo decide to have Hektor offer a duel in order to give the other warriors a break from the fighting.
2. While no one at first volunteers to fight Hektor, Menelaos finally comes forward.
3. Menelaos does not fight Hektor because his companions know he is not strong enough to stand up to the Trojan.
4. Nine of the best Achaians step forward after an inspiring speech by Nestor.
5. Aias is chosen by casting lots.
6. Hektor and Aias are equally matched in the duel and neither has the advantage.
7. The duel ends when it grows dark and a herald from each side parts the fighters.
8. Both sides request a truce to bury their dead.
9. The warriors wish to bury the dead so that their souls will...
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Book 8 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Zeus warn the gods to stay out of the conflict?
2. Where does Zeus go to watch the battle?
3. What sign are we given that the Trojans will come out ahead in this day’s fighting?
4. Who does Hera ask to help her intervene for the Achaians?
5. What is his answer?
6. What omen does Zeus send to Agamemnon to let him know all will be well?
7. Which two goddesses attempt to ride into the battle to help the Achaians?
8. Are they successful?
9. Where are the two armies at the close of this day’s fighting?
10. Why does Hektor choose to camp where he does?
1. Zeus wishes to bring the war to a quick end and does not want the gods to interfere.
2. Zeus watches the battle from Mount Ida.
3. Zeus holds up the scales of fate and the Achaian’s side sinks down.
4. Hera tries to enlist the help of Poseidon.
5. Poseidon refuses to get involved, knowing that his brother Zeus is more powerful.
6. An eagle drops a fawn next to the Achaian altar to Zeus.
7. Hera and Athene harness their horses to ride into the battle to help the Achaians.
8. Zeus discovers their plan, and they are forced to return to Olympus.
9. The Achaians have been forced back behind their wall, and the Trojans are camped...
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Book 9 Questions and Answers
1. What plan does Agamemnon suggest as the book opens?
2. Who dissuades him and why?
3. What is Nestor’s advice to Agamemnon?
4. What does Agamemnon offer to give Achilleus?
5. Who is sent to bring the message to Achilleus?
6. How are the messengers received?
7. Does Achilleus accept Agamemnon’s offer?
8. Why does Achilleus act as he does?
9. What is the Achaian reaction to Achilleus’ answer?
10. What is Diomedes’ response?
1. Agamemnon suggests that the Achaians escape in their ships and sail home.
2. Diomedes dissuades him, because he trusts that Troy will fall. He also thinks it is too dangerous for the Achaians to flee by sea.
3. Nestor advises Agamemnon to make peace with Achilleus.
4. Agamemnon agrees to return Briseis, along with an oath that he has not touched her, as well as many valuable gifts.
5. Odysseus, Aias, and Phoinix are sent to Achilleus.
6. Achilleus receives the messengers warmly.
7. Achilleus refuses Agamemnon’s offer of reconciliation.
8. Achilleus lets his pride stand in the way of reason. He wants Agamemnon to be completely humbled in front of him before he will consent to fight again with the Achaians.
9. The Achaians are shocked that Achilleus would...
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Book 10 Questions and Answers
1. Who is the first to volunteer for the spy mission into the Trojan camp?
2. Who does he choose to go with him, and why?
3. What do the Achaians hope to gain by the mission?
4. Who is sent on a similar mission for the Trojans?
5. What are his motivations?
6. Who catches whom spying?
7. What do they learn?
8. Which unit of Trojan fighters are Diomedes and Odysseus most interested in?
9. What becomes of Dolon?
10. Who is later killed and what is taken?
1. Diomedes is the first to volunteer to spy on the Trojans.
2. Diomedes chooses Odysseus for his strength and fighting ability.
3. The Achaians hope to learn where various groups of Trojans will attack and where they are vulnerable.
4. Dolon is sent by the Trojans to spy on the Achaian camp.
5. Dolon volunteers only when he is promised Achilleus’ horses as reward.
6. Diomedes and Odysseus catch Dolon and realize he is going to spy on the Achaians.
7. Dolon reveals everything he knows, including Hektor’s whereabouts, the position of several other key Trojan units, and the security measures taken by the Trojans.
8. Diomedes and Odysseus are most interested in a fresh unit that has arrived from...
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Book 11 Questions and Answers
1. Which of the great Achaian fighters are wounded in this chapter?
2. Who is the only great fighter left fighting?
3. Where is Achilleus as he watches the action?
4. What is Achilleus’ attitude toward the events taking place?
5. What prompts Achilleus to desire news of the battle?
6. How does Achilleus decide to obtain this information?
7. What does Nestor ask Patroklos to do?
8. What is Nestor’s alternate plan?
9. Why does he think this alternate plan will work?
10. What stops Patroklos from returning directly to Achilleus?
1. Agamemnon, Diomedes, and Odysseus are all wounded in rapid succession.
2. Aias is the only great fighter left on the field.
3. Achilleus watches from the safety of the stern of his ship.
4. Achilleus believes that with so many great men injured, the Achaians are sure to come to him begging his forgiveness.
5. Achilleus sees Nestor leading a wounded man from the field.
6. Achilleus decides to send Patroklos to Nestor to learn news of the battle.
7. Nestor asks Patroklos to convince Achilleus to give up his grudge and fight.
8. If Achilleus will not fight, Nestor suggests that he send Patroklos to the field in...
(The entire section is 245 words.)
Books 12 and 13 Questions and Answers
1. What information do we learn in Book Twelve about the war’s outcome?
2. What initial difficulty do the Trojans face in storming the Achaian wall?
3. What do they decide to do about it?
4. What omen do the Trojan’s see as they prepare to assault the wall?
5. How does Poulydamas interpret the sign, and what is his advice to Hektor?
6. What does Hektor decide to do?
7. Are the Trojans successful in breaking through the wall?
8. Which god comes to the aid of the Achaians?
9. How does he avoid being noticed by Zeus?
10. Why doesn’t he stand up to Zeus?
1. In the first paragraph of Book Twelve, we learn that the Trojans will be defeated in the tenth year of the war, and that all the leading Trojan men will be killed.
2. The Trojan horses are afraid of the ditch, and the ditch is too wide for them to jump.
3. The Trojans decide to leave their horses and attack the wall on foot.
4. An eagle holding a live snake flies over the Trojans, is bitten by the snake, and drops it at the feet of the terrified warriors.
5. Poulydamas reads the sign as a warning of what will become of the Trojans and advises Hektor to retreat.
6. Hektor decides to ignore the sign and storm the wall.
7. The Trojans break through the wall...
(The entire section is 271 words.)
Books 14 and 15 Questions and Answers
1. What is Agamemnon’s plan of action at the beginning of Book Fourteen?
2. Who dissuades him from this action?
3. What does Diomedes suggest they do instead?
4. Why does Hera decide to seduce Zeus?
5. What aid does Aphrodite lend her?
6. Who else assists Hera?
7. How does Hera convince him to help her with her plan?
8. How successful is Hera’s plan?
9. Who injures Hektor, and how badly is he injured?
10. What happens when Zeus awakens?
1. Agamemnon, sure of defeat, advises escaping in the ships.
2. Odysseus rather forcefully points out the problem with Agamemnon’s plan.
3. Diomedes suggests that while they cannot fight, they can at least encourage the warriors.
4. Hera sees that Poseidon is helping the Achaians, and wants to keep Zeus from finding out.
5. Aphrodite lends Hera her magic Band of Love and Desire.
6. Hera also enlists the help of Sleep.
7. Hera promises Sleep that he can marry one of the Graces, whom he has always admired.
8. Hera easily seduces Zeus, who falls into a deep sleep, and Poseidon is able to help the Achaians push the Trojans back beyond the wall.
9. Aias injures Hektor severely with a large stone, and he seems close to death.
10. Zeus is...
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Books 16 and 17 Questions and Answers
1. Does Achilleus agree to end his grudge against Agamemnon at the request of Patroklos? Why?
2. What does Achilleus agree to do?
3. What are Achilleus’ instructions to Patroklos?
4. Why does he tell Patroklos to limit his efforts?
5. What event makes Achilleus hurry Patroklos on his way?
6. What happens when the Trojans see Patroklos and the Myrmidon army approaching?
7. Who intervenes when Patroklos is on the verge of taking the city?
8. Who finally kills Patroklos?
9. Why is there such fierce fighting over the body of Patroklos?
10. How do Achilleus’ horses react to the death of Patroklos?
1. No, Achilleus is not ready to put aside his pride and reconcile with Agamemnon.
2. Achilleus agrees to send Patroklos out with the Myrmidon forces in his armor.
3. Achilleus instructs Patroklos to push back the Trojans, but not to take the city.
4. Achilleus tells Patroklos not to take Troy because he wants the glory for himself.
5. The Trojans succeed in torching one of the Achaian ships.
6. The Trojans are afraid when they see the Myrmidons and what appears to be Achilleus, and they begin to retreat.
7. Apollo intervenes and pushes Patroklos back from the Trojan wall, knocking off his helmet.
(The entire section is 232 words.)
Book 18 Questions and Answers
1. How does Achilleus react to the news of the death of Patroklos?
2. Who hears Achilleus’ tortured cry of grief?
3. What does Thetis tell Achilleus about his fate?
4. What is Achilleus’ response to this revelation?
5. What stops Achilleus from going out immediately to fight Hektor?
6. What is Thetis’ solution to this problem?
7. What does Hera instruct Achilleus to do for the Achaians in the meantime?
8. How can Achilleus do this without any armor?
9. What are the Achaians able to do as a result?
10. What does Poulydamas advise Hektor to do, and what is his response?
1. Achilleus is distraught, and covers himself with dust, tearing out his hair.
2. Thetis hears his cry and comes to comfort him.
3. Thetis tells Achilleus that if he kills Hektor, his own death will shortly follow.
4. Achilleus is bent on revenge regardless of the consequences.
5. Achilleus cannot go into battle without his armor, which Hektor has taken.
6. Thetis offers to go to Olympus and have Hephaistos make a new suit of armor.
7. Hera sends Iris to instruct Achilleus to go out to the ditch and show himself to the Trojans.
8. Athene surrounds Achilleus with a blazing light. As he stands at the ditch, he utters three fierce...
(The entire section is 252 words.)
Book 19 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Achilleus reconcile with Agamemnon?
2. What does Agamemnon offer Achilleus?
3. What does Agamemnon want to do after the reconciliation?
4. What does Achilleus want to do?
5. What does Achilleus say he will not do until Hektor is killed?
6. What do the Achaians decide to do next?
7. How does Achilleus obtain strength for the battle?
8. Whom does Achilleus chastise for their role in the death of Patroklos?
9. What is the response?
10. What is said that angers Achilleus?
1. Achilleus reconciles with Agamemnon because he is intent on avenging the death of Patroklos.
2. Agamemnon offers Achilleus all the gifts that he had previously offered.
3. Agamemnon wants to bring out all the gifts for Achilleus and hold a large feast.
4. Achilleus is eager to get to the battle immediately.
5. Achilleus swears he will not eat or drink until Patroklos’ death is avenged.
6. The gifts are brought to Achilleus, and the Achaians hold a feast to strengthen themselves for the battle.
7. Athene gives him strength for the battle.
8. Achilleus reproaches his horses for not bringing Patroklos home alive.
9. One of the horses speaks to Achilleus, stating that it was not their fault that Patroklos...
(The entire section is 218 words.)
Books 20 and 21 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Zeus reverse his previous warning and invite the gods to intervene?
2. What is the outcome of the duel between Aineias and Achilleus?
3. Why does Poseidon act in this way?
4. What warning does Apollo give Hektor regarding Achilleus?
5. Does he act accordingly?
6. How does Hektor survive the duel?
7. Why does Achilleus take 12 young Trojan warriors as prisoners?
8. What is the river’s reaction to all the Trojans killed in its waters?
9. How does Achilleus escape?
10. What is the outcome of the duel between Agenor and Achilleus?
1. Zeus is afraid that Achilleus will overstep the bounds of fate.
2. The duel ends when Aineias is spirited away by Poseidon.
3. Poseidon knows that Aineias is not fated to die at that time.
4. Apollo warns Hektor that he will die if he challenges Achilleus in the open.
5. Hektor refuses to heed the warning and challenges Achilleus anyway.
6. Apollo wraps Hektor in a thick mist to keep Achilleus from killing him.
7. Achilleus takes 12 young Trojans to fulfill his promise to Patroklos that they would be killed at his bier as part of the revenge for his death.
8. The river is furious with Achilleus and attacks him, attempting to drown him.
(The entire section is 244 words.)
Book 22 Questions and Answers
1. What are Hektor’s options as Achilleus approaches the gates of Troy?
2. Which option does he choose?
3. Who tries to dissuade him?
4. What does Hektor do as he sees Achilleus approaching?
5. Who intervenes?
6. How does she cause Hektor to stand up to fight Achilleus?
7. What promise does Hektor make to Achilleus?
8. Does Achilleus promise the same?
9. What does Hektor ask as he dies?
10. What happens to Hektor’s body?
1. Hektor can escape behind the walls of the city, face Achilleus unarmed while offering gifts, or stand up to fight him.
2. Hektor chooses to stay and fight.
3. Both his mother and his father attempt to convince him to come inside the walls.
4. Hektor loses his courage and flees, running around the city three times.
5. Athene intervenes.
6. Athene takes the form of Hektor’s brother and leads him to believe that he will have help in fighting Achilleus.
7. Hektor promises that if he kills Achilleus, his body will be returned to the Achaians for proper burial.
8. Achilleus refuses to promise the return of Hektor’s body. He is bent on revenge.
9. Hektor again requests that his body be returned to his parents for burial.
10. Hektor’s body is first...
(The entire section is 218 words.)
Book 23 Questions and Answers
1. What do the Myrmidons do after returning to their camp?
2. Who appears to Achilleus in his dream?
3. What is his message?
4. What does Patroklos request that Achilleus do with his bones?
5. Why does Achilleus cut off his hair?
6. What is the significance of the act?
7. What is burned on the pyre with Patroklos?
8. Why are these items added to the pyre?
9. Why has Hektor’s body not disintegrated under the harsh treatment of Achilleus?
10. Why does Achilleus hold the funeral games?
1. They ride around the funeral pyre three times, defiling the body of Hektor.
2. The ghost of Patroklos appears to Achilleus as he sleeps.
3. The ghost admonishes Achilleus for not giving his body proper burial.
4. Patroklos asks Achilleus to have both of their bones buried together.
5. Achilleus cuts his hair to honor the memory of Patroklos, and burns it along with the body.
6. Achilleus was growing the lock as a gift to the river Spercheios in exchange for his safe return from battle. He now realizes he will not return alive.
7. Jars of honey and oil, four horses, two dogs, and the 12 captured Trojans are burned.
8. The items are added to grant Patroklos sustenance, companionship, and service in the underworld....
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Book 24 Questions and Answers
1. What does Achilleus do each night to the body of Hektor?
2. Why does he anger the gods?
3. Who do the gods send as a messenger to Achilleus, and what is the message?
4. What does Priam bring to Achilleus?
5. How does Priam move safely through the Achaian camp to Achilleus?
6. What does Priam talk about that moves Achilleus to tears?
7. What is the climactic scene of the Iliad?
8. What do the two men agree to do about the fighting?
9. What kind of burial is given to Hektor?
10. Why does the Iliad end with the burial of Hektor?
1. Achilleus ties the body of Hektor to his chariot and drags it around Patroklos’ grave.
2. The gods are angry that he shows no pity or decency and that he is defiling the earth.
3. The gods send Thetis to convince Achilleus to surrender Hektor’s body to Priam.
4. Priam brings many valuable gifts as ransom for the body of Hektor.
5. Hermes goes with Priam as his protector and delivers him safely to Achilleus’ hut.
6. Priam reminds Achilleus of his own father and moves him to tears.
7. The climax of the Iliad occurs when Achilleus agrees to return Hektor’s body to Priam, showing his ultimate humanity and moral redemption.
8. A 12-day reprieve in...
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Legend of the Trojan War
The events leading up to the Trojan War supposedly began with a wedding feast in Troy. The wedding celebrated the marriage of Thetis, who was a goddess, and Peleus, who was a mortal. Eris, the goddess of discord, showed up and left a golden apple inscribed “For the Fairest” with the wedding guests. This soon sets off a competition among three of the women—Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite—each of whom felt they deserved the golden apple. In order to avoid judging such a touchy contest, Zeus (king of the gods, and host of the party) chose Paris, the shepherd, to be the judge. Each of the women then presented Paris with a bribe. Hera’s bribe was power and a kingdom of his own; Athene’s bribe was wisdom and success in battle; Aphrodite’s bribe was love—the love of Helen of Sparta, known to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose love, forever alienating the other two goddesses.
Unfortunately, Helen was already married to King Menelaos. Undeterred, Paris revealed himself as a true prince who had been abandoned at birth by his mother, Hekuba. (Hekuba had been warned that he would eventually be the cause of the destruction of Troy.) Paris then headed for Sparta and wooed Helen, who ran off to Troy with him (or was carried off to Troy, depending on which version you read). Of course Menelaos was not pleased when he returned to find Helen missing. He gathered together a group of men and a thousand ships to attack Troy and bring Helen back...
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Compare and Contrast
Late Bronze Age (the time of the Trojan War): Burial is by inhumation. The bodies of the dead are laid to rest, often with grave goods and weapons, at least among the upper classes, in dug graves, stone-walled tombs (called “cist graves”), or tholos tombs built in the shape of a beehive, often under a hill.
Iron Age (Homer’s own time): The bodies of the dead are cremated and the remains are collected in an urn (often richly decorated), which is then buried in a specially dug pit. In the case of very important burials, a hill (or “tumulus”) of earth or stone is raised above the grave, and the spot may further be marked with a column or other grave marker.
Late twentieth century: The majority of burials are inhumation, though growing numbers of people choose cremation.
- Late Bronze Age: Writing is known, although mainly in cumbersome, syllabic forms such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Mycenaean Linear A and B scripts, or the Hittite/Akkadian cuneiform. Literacy is probably restricted to the highest levels of the aristocracy and a professional class of scribes, bureaucrats, diplomats, etc.
Iron Age: Literacy, at least in the Greek-speaking world, is only beginning to be rediscovered, using a different alphabet, where each letter represents a particular sound and...
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Topics for Further Study
- What role do the gods play in the Iliad? Compare and contrast this role with the role of the divine in a contemporary religious tradition (your own or another that interests you).
- In his book Homer: The Poet of the Iliad, Mark Edwards writes:“From the very first lines Homer will raise the origins of human suffering.” What does Homer conclude about those origins? Contrast Homer’s conclusions about “the origins of human suffering” with the precepts of modern psychology or anthropology.
- Consider the interaction between Glaucus and Diomedes that begins at line 119 of Book 6. Compare this story with the story of Baucis and Philemon in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book 8, 619ff.), the story of Abraham at the oak of Mamre (Genesis 18:1-8), or the reception of Telemachus by Nestor (Odyssey, Book 3, 31ff.) or Menelaus (Odyssey, Book 4, 3Off.). What can you conclude about the proper relationship between hosts and guests from these stories? Does Diomedes treat his guest-friend fairly? How does Homer comment on their interaction?
- Pay careful attention to the treatment Homer gives the character of Helen. Do you think Helen really regrets leaving Menelaus, or is she making it up? How do you think Homer wanted his audience to look at...
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- There have been no films made that are directly based on the Iliad. There have been several films based wholly or in part on other aspects of the Troy legends, including Michael Cacoyannis’ The Trojan Women in 1971 and Iphigeneia in 1977.
- In 1985, the British Broadcasting Corporation produced a television series, starring Michael Wood, entitled In Search of the Trojan War. The companion volume to this series was published by the BBC in 1986.
- Penguin Highbridge Audio put out an audiocassette version of Robert Fagles’ translation of the Iliad in 1992 (six cassettes and a companion book). They also have a combined audio version of Fagles’ translations of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Harper Audio brought out a cassette version of Richmond Lattimore’s translation, read by Anthony Quayle (1996). Norton offers a partial rendition of the Iliad in its Greek original, read by Stephen Daitz (1990).
- A number of films have distinctly Homeric qualities or make some reference to Homer and/or themes from his works. In the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, for example, crusading knights plot to get inside a castle by concealing themselves within a gigantic wooden rabbit they construct and leave outside the castle walls (however, they forget to...
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What Do I Read Next?
- The Odyssey is the other epic poem credited to Homer and was probably written some time after the Iliad. It describes the 10 years of Odysseus’s wandering, trying to get home after the Trojan War has ended, and events in his absence from his home in Ithaca.
- Edith Hamilton’s Mythology (Mentor, 1942) is an excellent (and fun) basic introduction to Greek and Roman mythology, and includes a section on the Trojan War. Her treatment of the Norse myths is a little sketchy, but nevertheless interesting and engaging.
- The Aeneid of Vergil (70-19 BC) is an epic poem in Latin that describes the wanderings of Aeneas and his group of Trojan and allied refugees following the fall of Troy. After many stops along the way (including a visit to the underworld), Aeneas and his people land in Italy and settle not far from the city that will eventually become Rome.
- The Oresteia is a cycle of three tragic plays (Agamemnon, Choephori (The Libation-Bearers,) and Eumenides) by Aeschylus (525-456 BC), produced in Athens in 458 BC. It describes the events surrounding the homecoming of Agamemnon at the end of the Trojan War, and subsequent troubles those events cause his household.
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Some quotations from the Iliad are taken from the following translation:
Homer. The Iliad of Homer. Translated by Richmond Lattimore. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1951.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Homer’s The Iliad: Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Fables, Robert, and George Steiner, eds. Homer: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962.
Michalopoulos, Andre. Homer. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1966.
Murray, Gilbert. The Rise of the Greek Epic. New York: Oxford University Press, 1960.
Sheppard, J. T. The Pattern of The Iliad. New York: Haskell House, 1966.
Vivante, Paolo. The Iliad: Action as Poetry. Boston: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1991.
Sources for Further Study
Biers, William R. The Archaeology of Greece: An Introduction. Cornell University Press, 1980. A good basic introduction to Greek archaeology. Many illustrations.
Camps, William A. An Introduction to Homer. Oxford University Press, 1980. A solid introduction to Homer and his poetry, with ample citations from the texts of both poems.
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Brann, Eva. Homeric Moments: Clues to Delight in Reading the “Odyssey” and the “Iliad.” Philadelphia: Paul Dry, 2002. A close and witty exploration of the experience of reading Homer.
Dalby, Andrew. Rediscovering Homer: Inside the Origins of the Epic. New York: W. W. NOrton, 2006. Dalby explores the historical development of written poetry and examines the debate regarding the authorship of Homer’s epics.
Kim, Jinyo. The Pity of Achilles: Oral Style and the Unity of the “Iliad.” Rowman and Littlefield, 2000. An argument for the unity of the Iliad that surveys recent scholarship. Bibliography.
Mueller, Martin. The Iliad. Winchester, Mass.: Allen & Unwin, 1984. A comprehensive introduction to critical study of the Iliad. The information is clearly presented and detailed. Contains particularly informative sections on principles of Homeric fighting, the Homeric simile, and the Greek gods.
Schein, Seth L. The Mortal Hero: An Introduction to Homer’s “Iliad.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. Addressed primarily to the general reader, this book provides background to the Iliad. Discusses the function of the gods in the poem, outlines the fall of Troy and the death of Hector, and examines the heroic...
(The entire section is 310 words.)