Suggested Essay Topics

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Book One
1. Compare the actions of Achilleus to those of Agamemnon in this chapter. What do these actions tell you about each of the characters?

2. Examine the role of women in this chapter. How are the women treated? How do they effect the action? Is the role of the goddesses different from that of the mortals?

Book Two
1. Discuss the various ways that the gods accomplish their purposes with men in this book. Are these methods always successful? What does this say about the ultimate power of the gods in this culture?

2. Discuss the warriors’ attitude toward the battle. How does it change throughout this book? Which characters sway their opinions, and what methods are used to convince them?

Book Three
1. Discuss Paris’ role in the Trojan conflict. What kind of man is he? Why is Helen unhappy in his presence?

2. Describe Helen and her role. What does she represent, and why is it worth fighting a ten year war over?

Books Four and Five
1. Discuss what Pandaros had to gain by breaking the truce. What elements of the culture lead him to give in to Athene’s suggestion?

2. Compare and contrast Diomedes and Achilleus as heroes. Use specific instances from the text to support your claims.

Book Six
1. Compare Hektor’s attitude and behavior to that of Paris, especially their desires for the fate of Troy and looming destruction.

2. Discuss the ways in which Hektor serves as a symbol for the value of home and family in the epic and how this contrasts with the approach of Agamemnon.

Book Seven
1. Compare the speeches that Nestor offers to the Achaians. What is similar among them about the language he uses? How are they different? What effect do they have on the warriors? How would you define Nestor’s role?

2. Discuss the different ways the gods intervene in the lliad to shape the actions of mortals. In what form do they appear? Are they recognized? Is there advice always taken?

Book Eight
1. Explore the many images of birds in the Iliad and their significance to the narrative. How much faith do the Trojans and Achaians have in omens?

2. How much control does Zeus have over the immortals? How much control does he have over the actions of mortals? What is the relationship of fate to the gods?

Book Nine
1. Agamemnon and Achilleus have been involved in their quarrel now since the beginning of the Iliad. Compare and contrast each man’s response to the situation as events unfold.

2. How is Diomedes’ character defined in this chapter? How does he function as a foil to Achilleus?

Book Ten
1. Compare and contrast Dolon and Diomedes. Both men are spies for their armies. What are their motives? How do these motives affect their actions?

2. Agamemnon is distressed at the number of Trojan fires burning outside the Achaian wall. Explore the symbol of fire here and elsewhere in the Iliad. What are fire’s immediate dangers? What do these fires foreshadow?

Book Eleven
1. Compare the nature and temperament of Patroklos to that of his companion, Achilleus. How does each man react to the Achaian difficulty in battle? What is each man’s reaction to advice?

2. Discuss how Achilleus has become unable to act due to his pride.

Books Twelve and Thirteen
1. Discuss the meaning of the omens in Books 12 and 13. What effect do they have on the decisions made on the field? How are they similar to other omens in the Iliad?

2. Describe the role of Poulydamas in the epic. Who among the Achaians plays a similar role? How are they treated by their respective leaders?

Books Fourteen and Fifteen
1. Examine the power of Zeus as seen in these chapters. What is he capable of controlling? What is he powerless to control? What are his weaknesses? What other examples in the Iliad support your claims?

2. Compare Agamemnon’s leadership role to Hektor’s in this section.

Books Sixteen and Seventeen
1. Trace the effects of Achilleus’ decision to send Patroklos out onto the battlefield in his armor. What does he seek to gain by doing so? How does this incident illuminate his fatal flaw? What events are directly caused by this decision?

2. What are the immediate reactions caused by the death of Patroklos? What do they tell us about Patroklos as a warrior and as a man?

Book Eighteen
1. Describe the mourning process as seen in Achilleus’ reaction to the death of Patroklos. What other examples of similar behavior are shown in the Iliad? How are they different from modern America’s customs of mourning?

2. Achilleus has a mortal father and an immortal mother. What effect does this have on his actions? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this parentage?

Book Nineteen
1. How does Achilleus learn of his final fate? How many times does he hear of it? Does he have the power to change his fate in any way?

2. What is the significance of feasting in theIliad? When are feasts held? Why does Achilleus refuse to attend Agamemnon’s feast in this book?

Books Twenty and Twenty-one
1. How do the gods intervene in this chapter to insure that fate is served? How might the ending of the Iliad have differed had the gods not intervened here?

2. Trace the image of fire through the epic. What are its different forms? What are its meanings?

Book Twenty-two
1. Compare Hektor’s final actions and emotions to those of Achilleus before the fight. What are the competing codes of honor shown in this sequence? What values does each man symbolize?

2. How might the ending have been different if Hektor had chosen one of the other two options? Why is he unable to do so?

Book Twenty-three
1. Explore the importance of the proper burial of a hero as described in the Iliad. What steps are taken, and why? What happens if these steps are not followed?

2. Describe each item that is burned on the pyre with Patroklos. What is the significance of each item? How is it used in life? How will it help in death?

Book Twenty-four
1. Describe the changes that take place in Achilleus during his meeting with Priam. How has he learned from his tragedy? How is Priam able to bring about this change of heart? Where do Achilleus’ old habits show themselves?

2. Compare Chryses as a father in Book One to Priam as a father in Book Twenty-four. How are the two similar? How do their stories serve to frame the theme of the Iliad?

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Teaching Approaches


Topics for Further Study