The Iliad (8th c. B.C.)
Things to Consider:
Epic: "A long narrative poem in elevated style presenting
characters of high position in adventures forming an organic whole
through their relation to a central heroic figure and through the
development of episodes important to the history of a nation or a
race" (H&H 177).
- History, especially of Athens & Sparta
- Theology: Greek vs. Hebrew vs. Egyptian
- Relationships between:
- Love/Sex and War (Which is more rewarding?)
- Emotions and Violence
- War and Peace
- Gods and Humans (See Essay )
- (Which Gods/Goddesses favor which side in war?)
- Gods and Goddesses
- Agamemnon & Gilgamesh
- Achilles & Gilgamesh
- Parents to Children
- Homoeroticism (?) and Images of War
- Repetition of Images/Language
- Women as "prizes" vs. Women as "wives"
- Men as Husbands vs Men as "Winners" of Prizes
- Character of Helen of Troy (See Essay )
- "Daughter of Zeus by Leda [to whom he appeared in the
form of a swan] . . . . Helen grew into the most beautiful
woman in the world, and her many suitors agreed among
themselves that whoever eventually married her would be
defended by the others. She married Menelaus, and when
Paris carried her off to Troy, the Greek leaders organized
the expedition against Troy" (WW97).
- At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (eventual parents
to Achilles), Eris, the goddess of Discord and Strife, is
the only one not invited, but crashes the party and throws
on the floor a golden apple, on which is written, "To the
most beautiful." Three goddesses--Hera, goddess of
marriage; Aphrodite, goddess of Love; and Athena, goddess of
wisdom and battles-- all claim it. To settle the
dispute, the gods ask Paris, a Trojan traveller, to decide
who should get the apple. Each goddess promises him a
reward to decide in her favor--Hera promises him power,
Athena offers wisdom, and Aphrodite promises him the love of
Helen. Aphrodite wins. (See Ch. 27 of Bulfinch
Convention: Poem opens by stating theme, invoking Muse.
Epic/Homeric Simile: more involved or ornate comparison, in
which the secondary object is very fully developed, and for the
moment upstages the primary object.
Achilles: Warrior Identity
Hektor: Associated with civilized life
** Homework Questions ** (See Part Two Questions )
- What kind of king is Agamemnon? Compared to Gilgamesh?
- Why does (Phoibos) Apollo shoot arrows for nine days at
the Greeks? (See 1.10-46)
- What does it involve for the Greeks to make a sacrifice?
- Describe the relationship between Zeus (Jove) and Hera
(Juno). (See 1.560-611)
- Who is Hephaistos (Vulcan)?
- What eventually causes Achilles to fight?
- Explain: "It is decreed your death must come soon after
Hektor's" (18.96). (see also )
- Why does he need a new shield to do so?
- Explain Thetis's complaint. Why is she "one who in
her heart has endured so many grim sorrows / as the grief
Zeus, son of Kronos, has given me beyond others?" (18.430-31).
- What is significant about the images Hephaistos puts on
the Shield of Achilles?
Other Discussion Questions:
- Who are the 12 Olympians? (See also page 791-92)
- Who is Cronus? Who is Zeus?
- Who is Prometheus? Who is Epimetheus?
- Who is Pandora?
- When was the age of lyric poetry?
- What are the 8 conventions of epic poetry?
- What was the Pelopponesian War?
- What does "unity of time and place" mean?
- What function does Athene (Minerva) serve here?
- What function does Nestor serve here?
- What service has Thetis earlier performed for Zeus?
- What literary technique is used in the description of the
lion who has lost his cubs (18.318-23)?
- Why is Hephaistos (Vulcan) in Thetis's debt?
** Homework Questions for Part
- Find and explain an example of an epic simile in Book 22
- Find an example of the gods' intervention in the events
of Humans in Book 22 or 24. Explain their actions.
- Explain Apollo's comment to Achilles: "Why,
son of Peleus, / do you keep after me in the speed of your
feet, being mortal / while I am an immortal god?" (22.7-9).
- Explain the significance of the "golden scales" (22.209).
- Why does Hektor stop running from Achilles?
- Explain the Greeks' treatment of Hektor in 22.369-75.
- Why isn't Hektor's body damaged when Achilles drags it?
- Why do Athene and Hera keep "still / their hatred for
sacred Ilion as in the beginning" (24.26-27)? Why do
they hate Troy in the first place?
- Why would Priam trade his remaining nine sons for Hektor?
- Explain the interaction between Priam and Achilles in
Other Discussion Questions:
- Why does Hecuba (Hekabe) expose her breasts to Hektor?
- What does it mean to be slain "as if I were / a woman"
- Why does Achilles agree to accept a ransom for Hektor's
- Is is true that Hektor is "no coward" and has "no thought
in his mind of flight or withdrawal" (24.214,216)?
- Why does Zeus send an eagle ("a bird of omen") to Troy?
- Why is Mercury (Hermes) called the
- How many children does Priam have? How does he have so
- Does Achilles have the authority to promise an eleven-day
respite from fighting? Explain.
- Why is Helen particularly upset by Hektor's death?
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