Introduction to Iliad

The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic attributed to Homer, although contemporary scholars believe that it was likely a collaborative work based on an oral tradition. The written version of the text is typically dated to the eight century BCE, and it is written in an amalgamation of different Greek dialects. The Iliad, alongside Homer’s Odyssey, is one of the oldest surviving texts in Western history, and it continues to provide both historical and literary insight. Although the historicity of the Trojan War is a topic of debate among scholars, Homer’s works provide important knowledge about the values, lifestyles, and storytelling methods of the Iron Age Greeks. 

The plot of the Iliad details the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by the Greeks, a conflict that was set into motion when Helen, wife of the Spartan king, Menelaus, ran away with the Trojan prince Paris. Menelaus enlists the aid of his brother, Agamemnon, and other notable Greek leaders in order to reclaim Helen. In addition to the conflict between the Greeks and Trojans, there is also significant conflict within the Greek army, most notably the argument between Agamemnon and Achilles. The infusion of ancient Greek religious values provides both historical and thematic depth, highlighting notions of honor, love, and the inevitability of fate.

A Brief Biography of Homer

Homer is the name given to an ancient Greek poet, though to this day, there is continuing debate over whether or not the poet actually existed. And if he did, there are serious doubts about his authorship. Some contend that there is artistic unity within each of Homer’s epic poems, yet others believe the works to be the effort of multiple contributors. The style of the poetry has its roots in oral tradition, and some liken Homer’s writings to the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata, a poetic work that was edited, expanded, and rewritten by many hands over its lengthy history. Although these issues of authorship can never be resolved conclusively, the man known as Homer—whether fiction, legend, or flesh-and-blood poet—is still revered for his highly influential works, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Frequently Asked Questions about Iliad

Iliad

The Iliad is a religious text, though not in the way we might understand that term today. The text is permeated with the supernatural and communicates forcefully that the gods—or perhaps even some...

Latest answer posted January 24, 2021, 12:07 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

According to the Iliad, the Trojan War was initiated by the abduction of Helen, the queen of Sparta, by Paris, a Trojan prince. Paris and Helen's entanglement began when Paris was called upon by...

Latest answer posted January 24, 2021, 12:05 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

At the beginning of the story, Achilles refuses to participate in the Trojan War because Agamemnon forcibly takes Achilles's slave and concubine Briseis after being forced to release his own slave,...

Latest answer posted January 24, 2021, 12:01 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

In the Iliad, Patroclus is Achilles's best friend. Enraged by the Trojan assault on the Greeks, which has almost reached their camp, Patroclus convinces Achilles to let him wear his armor and lead...

Latest answer posted January 24, 2021, 12:30 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

Homer understands and conveys the central importance of warrior honor to Greek life, but it can be argued that the Iliad does not glorify war. There is little choice for a man in Greek society who...

Latest answer posted January 24, 2021, 12:26 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

As the Iliad opens, the Greeks have sacked the city of Thebe and taken several women captive as prizes, including the beautiful Chryseis, daughter of Chrysus. Agamemnon claims Chryseis as his own,...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 1:00 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

Achilles's death is a well-known story from Greek mythology. When he was a child, Achilles's mother, Thetis, dipped him into a substance that made him immortal, but a vulnerable spot remained on...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 11:16 am (UTC)

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Iliad

The word "Iliad" derives from "Ilium," which was one of the Greek names for the city of Troy, and the suffix "-iad," which roughly means "the story of." When you put them together, then, "Iliad"...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 11:53 am (UTC)

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Iliad

In the Iliad, Homer focuses on both the events on the battlefield of the Trojan War and the quarrels and scheming of the gods atop Mt. Olympus. The poem's central narrative revolves around the feud...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 5:11 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

The events that set the war in the Iliad in motion start when the wife of Priam, the king of Troy, dreams that her unborn son Paris will cause the fall of Troy. Therefore, after the pregnant queen...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 12:39 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

Agamemnon, commander of the Greeks, obtains the lovely Chryseis as a prize of war in the early books of the Iliad. She is the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo. When the god tries to ransom...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 12:11 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

Achilles's treatment of Hector after he succeeds in killing him is especially inglorious because Achilles believes, along with the other Greeks, that Hector has wounded them more than anyone else...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 11:26 am (UTC)

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Iliad

Achilles's particularly egregious treatment of the corpse of his enemy, the Trojan Hector, all stems from the fact that he is desperate to avenge the death of Patroclus, whom he loved so much. In...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 11:33 am (UTC)

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Iliad

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...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 1:28 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

Achilles is a larger-than-life character who represents both the virtues and the vices of the tragic hero. He is a courageous fighter, who rallies and inspires the Greek troops with his immense...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 1:31 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

In the early books of the Iliad, Achilles refuses to fight because he is angry that Agamemnon, the Greek leader, has taken the lovely Briseis as his own, since she was promised to Achilles and is...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 12:07 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

The Iliad can be understood on one level as an extended meditation on war. The moral message is that the courage to fight is what gives a man's life worth, but that war itself is a tragic...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 1:12 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

Many attempts have been made by historians and classicists to establish the extent to which Homer's Iliad is based in fact. Investigations have generally involved archaeological exploration of the...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 1:36 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

Composed nearly 3000 years ago, Homer's Iliad is a foundational work in the Western literary tradition. The form of classical Greek Homer used to write the epic poem defined the culture of drama,...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2021, 4:51 pm (UTC)

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Iliad

The action of the Iliad leads to the high point, or climax, of the poem in which Achilles kills Hector. This is such a fraught moment because it is a clash between each side's greatest warriors,...

Latest answer posted January 23, 2021, 1:41 pm (UTC)

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Summary