Which famous writers criticized the Iliad?

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One famous writer who criticized the Iliad was the French novelist Emile Zola. He was positively repulsed by the heroes in the epic, whom he likened to gang bosses. He was also far from enamored of the way that women are treated by Homer.

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Homer's great epic the Iliad is regarded as one of the two foundational texts of Western literature. The other, also written by Homer, is the Odyssey.

Successive generations have been thrilled by Homer's exciting account of the long-running, bitter conflict between the Trojans and the Achaeans over Helen's elopement with Paris. New editions and translations of the work continue to be made, and the already enormous volume of critical literature on the poem grows apace with each passing year.

Despite its stellar reputation, however, not all readers of the Iliad have been enamored of Homer's masterpiece. Many have been repulsed by the almost unimaginable bloodshed and violence depicted in such gory detail right throughout the poem.

One such reader was the French author Emile Zola, who saw nothing remotely heroic in the deeds of Achilles, Patroclus, Hector, and the many other warriors in the Iliad. He likened them to gang bosses on account of their behavior.

Far from displaying nobility like real heroes are supposed to do, the warriors on both sides of this conflict are brutal thugs who lie, cheat, insult, and drag around the corpses of their enemies. Evidently, Homer's idea of heroism does not correspond with Zola's.

Zola also wasn't particularly enamored of the portrayal of women in the epic. As the champion of the underdog, both in his work and in his political activism, Zola didn't appreciate how women are treated in the Iliad, even though he must have been aware that women in ancient Greece occupied a very subordinate position in society.

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