What relevance does the Iliad have in modern times?

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Scott David eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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First of all, The Iliad is extremely important as a historical document and a lens through which we can examine the ancient past. Through this epic, we can gain insights into the religious life of the Ancient Greeks, as well as ancient warfare and culture. On these grounds alone, it is a profoundly important piece of our cultural heritage.

Even beyond this, however, The Iliad stands as a deeply influential and powerful work of literature. It contains themes on military glory (as well as on the costs of war) as well as striking depictions of pride and arrogance (notably expressed in the conflict...

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colerehbein | Student

The Iliad is current because war is current. We haven’t quite figured out how to shake the bad habit of killing our fellow human beings, despite all the harm it does to our bodies, emotions and societies. The Iliad reflects all of these aspects of the human experience with war in excruciating detail.

It’s a gruesome book, with depictions of spears shooting through eye sockets and heads being blown open.

It also demonstrates the strife that both armies and civilian cities undergo when threatened with war. The Achaean (Greek) army’s leadership is destroyed by individual’s desire for glory, as Achilles doesn’t feel like he’s getting his fair share of rewards despite being the most valuable member of the army. The city of Troy is threatened with destruction, and Homer portrays the psychological impact on families as husbands leave to fight and is perhaps seeing his children for the first time.

Most relatable, however, is Homer’s depiction of Achilles’ grief. He exposes the depths of a human’s soul and what it would do if it could express its anger and sadness with the strength of a god. This is what people wish they could do with their emotions, even though they are often incapable of expressing them in such dramatic ways.

With war remaining a contemporary reality across the globe, the Iliad offers insight into the realities on the ground, despite being 2700 years old. Some say that Homer is anti-war in his book, but it’s hard to tell; at any rate, as long as people are debating about getting into wars, they will be talking about the themes expressed in the Iliad.