What does The Iliad show about ancient Greek civilization, history and culture?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of the many realities shown about the Greek culture, I think Homer does a good job of showing how savage the society truly is.  There is much in way of glory that is displayed, and much more in way of honor.  Yet, undercutting all of this is a particular savagery and brutality that marks the culture and all who live in it.  Achilles is just as brutal as he is gifted at war.  The dragging of Hector's body after he has killed the Trojan Prince is morally and politically repulsive.  Whatever else one might want to say about it, there is a level of revulsion to have seen the honorable Hector treated in such a disrespectful manner.  The pillaging of Troy is also a moment where there is a certain amount of repugnance to Greek society.  The fact that war is the means by which all conflicts are solved helps to bring to light the fact that there is a certain level of savagery to Greek culture.  We can call it glory, or arete.  It can be called Classical nostalgia.  However, the death toll seems to rise, and with it are the children and widows who are left wondering just what is so glorious about it.  We see this when we see Andromache plead for her husband not to go, only to be made a widow soon after.

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Iliad

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