What does the Iliad teach us about war?

The Iliad teaches us that fighting is central to honor and manhood, but that it exacts a high price. It also teaches that the gods are close at hand and are the ones who make the final decisions about who wins and loses.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the world of the Iliad, to be a man who lives with honor means to fight in wars. The greatest heroes, such as Achilles and Odysseus, are those who fight bravely and exhibit extraordinary physical strength and ability. Paris, who does not wish to fight, is held in contempt. Hector, too, no matter how much he wants to stay with his wife and child, knows he will be filled with shame if he does not fight.

On the other hand, Homer also shows the toll which war takes. Hector has a foreboding sense that Troy will lose the war, that his wife will become a captive, and that his son will be killed. This adds to his longing to be with them while he can. The men suffer grief from all the death around them and wish they could be part of the dances, prospering cities, and bountiful harvests they are fighting to protect.

In the Iliad, too, the gods are always close at hand in a way that can be startling to modern audiences. They are deeply invested in the action of the Trojan War, take sides, and are swayed to vengeance and reward by the behavior of humans. In the end, we learn that no matter how much valor humans fight with, it is the gods who are in charge of the outcomes of war.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial