Is Homer's " Iliad" relevant today and why?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Iliad, like all great works of art, is of continued relevance because it deals with universal themes. The characters in the poem may have, what seem to us, strange names; their codes of honor and social conventions are completely alien to ours; and their belief in a pantheon of gods constantly intervening on behalf of mortals is something many of us find hard to accept. Nonetheless, if we strip away all the extrinsic detail, we are left with recognizably human concerns that still speak to us today.

The twenty-first century is considerably more brutal and mired in conflict than the Homeric world. Although people are perhaps more aware than ever before of the horrors of war, nonetheless wars do still break out with frightening regularity, and often over quite trivial matters.

As in Homer's time, the vast majority of war's victims are innocent civilians. After Achilles slays Hector, we are left in no doubt as to how the Trojan War will end. Every last Trojan male will be slaughtered, and their families taken as slaves. We like to think of ourselves as more civilized than our ancient Greek forbears, and yet, one cursory glance at the world today provides us with human suffering on a scale unimaginable to the people of Greece and Troy.

But the Iliad isn't just a catalog of endless slaughter; there are also traces of deep humanity. The wailing and lamentation of the Trojan women over the death of Hector; the quiet dignity of his father, Priam as he goes to the Achaean camp to request the return of his son's body for burial; the noble desire of Hector to spare the lives of as many of his men as possible, in stark contrast to Achilles's savage recklessness. Even in the midst of all this unspeakable carnage, we can still catch a glimpse of the universal qualities of humanity that transcend the contingencies of time and place to live on through the ages and into the present day.

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, it is absolutely relevant.
The details of the warfare have changed, and the political battles are different. However, to see how it is relevant, look at the things that haven't changed. Men still go to war, and still have to choose between safety and glory (Achilles' choice). Women still watch their men go off to war (and now men watch their women go too). Fathers still weep over lost sons, and friends over lost friends, and so on.

The motives and the emotions stay relevant, as well as the elements of fate and related to death.

agarner | Student

The Iliad is extreamly relevant to our time. There are many, but perhaps the greatest connection lies in the motive for the inevitable war that ensues. The "petty" factor must not be over looked. You have the various characters pride playing a huge role in the choices, direction and outcome of the war. Take Achilles and Agamemnon's opening quarrel for starters. Essentially that argument is over nothing more than "who is the bigger, man". It is bullies at their best. Yet all it took was one going too far with the name calling and slander to go to the point of no return. Even when great men, in some cases wiser men, were advising against the verbal sparing. Another example of this wounding pride is Hector's need to stay and fight Achilles even though he knows he will not win. He is too ashamed to go back to Troy and admit that he should have retreated after Patroclus was slained and not have let it come to this. Patroclus himself chose to fight in a war he was not ready for because he was angered by Achilles arrogance. The moments are many in this epic poem. Botton line; the suffering of many Achaeans and Trojans occured because of the choices of men thought to be better, braver, wiser, and above pride, and greed. Is this not the cry of the American people at a time when their economy and well being is placed in the hands of greedy, arrogant,a nd prideful politicians?