What is the influence of the Iliad in today's world?

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Plato called Homer the teacher of Greece and Homer has continued to be widely read, referred to, and imitated throughout subsequent western literature, from Virgil's Aeneid to Walcott's Omeros. As a measure of the popularity of the Iliad , there have been more than thirty complete published translations of...

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Plato called Homer the teacher of Greece and Homer has continued to be widely read, referred to, and imitated throughout subsequent western literature, from Virgil's Aeneid to Walcott's Omeros. As a measure of the popularity of the Iliad, there have been more than thirty complete published translations of the Iliad into English in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Homer's Iliad remains widely studied in universities and even in high schools in translation, and many university classics departments offer students the opportunity to read it in the original Greek.

The Iliad also has a broad influence on a wide range of elements of modern culture. Achilles in Vietnam by Jonathan Shay, a psychologist, compares the reactions of the Homeric heroes to the traumas of war to those of Vietnam veterans. In Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom, Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath argue that Homer and subsequent classical thinkers gave modern civilization:

. . . constitutional government, free speech, individual rights, civilian control over the military, separation between religious and political authority, middle-class egalitarianism, private property, and free scientific inquiry.

Representation of the Iliad and its author are common in popular culture from the naming of "Homer" Simpson to movies about Helen of Troy and the Trojan War. There is even a console video game Warriors: Legends of Troy.

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The mark of a literary classic from the western canon is the timelessness of its subject matter and theme. Though dating from the eighth century BC, this epic poem still speaks to mankind's default position of declaring war after a perceived wrong. The epic begins with Homer's invocation to sing of the "wrath of Achilles." Ultimately, Homer doesn't glorify war or warriors; he is an observer of mankind's propensity for violence. The horrific scenes of Hector's death and Achilles's barbarity in dragging his corpse around Troy lashed to a chariot adds nothing to the notion that war is glorious, edifying, or noble.

This proposed reading of the Illiad suggests that it has not informed the better natures of world leaders over nearly three thousand years, as wars have continued to plague the world. Its influence, then, must be confined to the literary canon. Epic poetry has not survived as a viable art form to the modern era, but the extended meditation on man's foibles lives on through novels and plays.

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This is, of course, a subjective question. In light of this, I will give you my opinion on how the Iliad of Homer has influenced our modern world.

  • As you know, the Iliad is one of the greatest and most enduring works in the west. This has been so from the time of Homer. For this reason, it has shaped the mind of the West for thousands of years.
  • The Iliad's emphasis on honor, glory and martial prowess has attributed in creating a culture of war. This might sound far-fetched to some, but if you think about the history of the West, then it really is a history of constant warfare. To be fair, this can be said for many cultures, but Homer's works glorify fighting and this has shaped many minds and our culture.
  • The Iliad has also given a view of the importance of the individual. In many ways, the Iliad is really about one person, Achilles and his wrath. For this reason, the work is about his glory. This individualism is central to our modern world.

More can be stated, as the Iliad is a long work, but these points are some of the ways in which the modern world is influenced.

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