Introduction to the Iliad


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  • Important Names, Dates and Terminology 8th century BCE : when the text of the Iliad was composed/written down 1184 BCE : supposed date of the fall of Troy as chronicled in Homeric text Homer : poet to whom the Iliad and the Odyssey are attributed Epic : a long poem (in dactylic hexameter) that discusses a world-view in the past and invokes distance between the world of the poem and the world of the reader Oral tradition : responsible for some of the stylistic repetition in the text, the PATRONYMICS, the syntax of the poem
  • This epic is not specifically about the Trojan War; it is about a PORTION of the Trojan War. Homer had the rest of the Homeric cycle to fill in the gaps for his audience. He can start mid-stream and still have this work make sense. We will evaluate where he starts and how his beginning echoes some mythological tensions when we look at the first two pages of the epic.
  • Leda had 2 sets of twins, one set fathered by Tyndareus and one fathered by Zeus: Helen and Polydeuces Clytemnestra and Castor Leda gave birth to two eggs from which these four children were hatched. As they grew up, Helen became the most beautiful woman in the entire world, and many many suitors came to seek her hand in marriage. Tyndareus was scared of offending any of these great warriors, for fear that they would turn on him and Helen (and her husband) after she was married. ODYSSEUS helped Tyndareus, and in exchanged asked to marry Penelope, Tyndareus’ niece. Odysseus sugested that the suitors swear a pact to: 1. honor Helen’s choice of husband 2. keep Helen’s marriage intact; if anyone should steal her, all of the other suitors would come to help get her back. ~ this pact is CRUCIAL to the Iliad . Helen marries Menelaus, and he becomes king of Sparta. Helen and Menelaus eventually have a daughter, Hermione.
  • While pregnant with Paris, Hecuba has a terrible dream. She dreamt that she gave birth to a flame that would destroy the city of Troy instead of to an infant. When a seer was asked in to give an interpretation of the dream, he suggested that the to-be-born child be killed so that he or she could never cause harm to Troy. Neither Priam nor Hecuba could kill their infant son once he was born, so Priam gave him to his head-shepherd to kill. The shepherd took baby Paris, but found himself also unable to kill him. Instead the shepherd left the baby exposed on the top of Mount Ida. When he returned the next day to get a token from the dead child to prove that he had died, he found Paris still alive and took him home to take care of him instead. He took a tongue from a dead animal instead to “prove” Paris’ death. Paris grows up and eventually returns to Troy where he is recognized by his parents and chooses to live. Troy is a wealthy city (because of its people’s skill at raising horses and, more practically, because of its control of the Hellespont).
  • Wedding of Peleus and Thetis There was a prophecy that the son of Thetis would be greater than his father None of the immortals, therefore, wanted to father Thetis’ son since they didn’t want their child to be better than them Insead they arranged for Thetis to marry a mortal, Peleus, but he needed help as she initially refused him With the help of Poseidon, Peleus was able to get Thetis to marry him (but only after she rapidly changed shapes of animals over and over) Will take place on Mt. Pelion and all the gods and goddesses were there EXCEPT ONE!
  • All the gods and goddesses were feasting the marriage of Peleus and Thetis except for one: Eris (Who would invite “discord” to a wedding?) Eris was furious to be left off the list, so she had a golden apple made that was inscribed “to the fairest” She then threw the apple into the middle of the party Aphrodite stepped up to claim it As did Athena As did Hera The three goddesses were squabbling amongst themselves at the party until one of them turned to Zeus to ask him who should get it. Zeus (no fool) quickly stated that he couldn’t decide between the 3 beautiful goddesses, but he would find someone who could: PARIS The three went to Mt. Ida Hera offered political power Athena offered military strategy and wisdom Aphrodite offered Helen
  • Achilles was not immediately ready to go fight the war at Troy; his mother was worried about him fighting because she knew that a prophecy foretold that if he fought he would die young. So, she hid him among the daughters of Lycomedes. Odysseus, however, was able to find out generally where Achilles was hiding, so he went to Lycomedes’ court. Hoping to draw out the young warrior, Odysseus threw a bag of gifts on the ground in front of the women (and hiding Achilles); he threw down clothes and jewelry and a sword. As Achilles grabbed for the sword, he gave himself away. Odysseus was then able to convince Achilles to fight with the rest of the Greek forces.
  • Introduction to the Iliad

    1. 1. The Iliad <ul><li>Agenda: Information about </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Text </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Homer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mythological Background </li></ul></ul>
    2. 2. Important Names, Dates and Terminology <ul><li>8 th century BCE </li></ul><ul><li>1184 BCE </li></ul><ul><li>Homer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Description </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Homeric Question </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Epic </li></ul><ul><li>Oral Tradition </li></ul>
    3. 3. Important Themes, Motifs and Narratological Elements <ul><li>CHOICE and PERSUASION </li></ul><ul><li>THE HEROIC CODE </li></ul><ul><li>LEADERSHIP </li></ul><ul><li>TRIANGULAR RELATIONSHIPS </li></ul><ul><li>SIMILES </li></ul><ul><li>THE GODS </li></ul>
    4. 4. Do NOT Reduce the Iliad to either: <ul><li>PRIDE </li></ul><ul><li>Or </li></ul><ul><li>FATE </li></ul>
    5. 5. Characteristics of Homeric Text: <ul><li>Beginning in medias res </li></ul><ul><li>Cinematic presentation of events and of warfare </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Look for sense imagery in the text </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use of SIMILES </li></ul><ul><li>Use of PARALLELISM when discussing events, characters and gods </li></ul>
    6. 6. Homeric Cycle <ul><li>Series of texts about Troy </li></ul><ul><li>Some tell the same stories as the Homeric epics </li></ul><ul><li>Many tell entirely different stories </li></ul><ul><li>What still exists contains only a part of the entire story of the Trojan War </li></ul>
    7. 7. Mythological Stories You Need to Know <ul><li>Helen and the Suitors </li></ul><ul><li>Wedding of Peleus and Thetis </li></ul><ul><li>Hecuba’s Dream of the Burning City </li></ul><ul><li>Judgment of Paris </li></ul><ul><li>Assembling the Suitors </li></ul><ul><li>Sacrifice of Iphigenia </li></ul>
    8. 8. Helen and the Suitors <ul><li>Helen : daughter of Tyndareus </li></ul><ul><li>Clytemnestra: daughter of Tyndareus; twin of Helen; (later) wife of Agamenon </li></ul><ul><li>Penelope : niece to Tyndareus </li></ul><ul><li>Suitors </li></ul><ul><li>Agamemnon : king of Argos; son of Atreus; brother of Menelaus </li></ul><ul><li>Menelaus : brother of Agamemnon </li></ul><ul><li>Odysseus : king of Ithaka; (later) husband of Penelope </li></ul><ul><li>Ajax: son of Telemon; great warrior </li></ul>
    9. 9. Hecuba’s Dream of the Burning City <ul><li>Priam = Hecuba </li></ul><ul><li>__________________|___________________ </li></ul><ul><li>SONS: DAUGHTERS </li></ul><ul><li>Hektor (m. Andromache) Cassandra </li></ul><ul><li>Paris (m. Helen) Polyxena </li></ul><ul><li>Deiphobus Creusa </li></ul><ul><li>Polydorus 47 other daughters </li></ul><ul><li>46 more sons </li></ul>
    10. 10. Wedding of Peleus and Thetis <ul><li>Thetis: water nymph, daughter of Nereus </li></ul><ul><li>Peleus: mortal man, son of Aeacus, King of Aegina </li></ul><ul><li>Thetis and Peleus are the parents of Achilles </li></ul>
    11. 11. Wedding of Peleus and Thetis (cont.) <ul><li>OLYMPIAN GODS </li></ul><ul><li>Aphrodite : goddess of love </li></ul><ul><li>Apollo : god of healing, music, prophecy </li></ul><ul><li>Ares : god of war </li></ul><ul><li>Artemis : goddess of the hunt </li></ul><ul><li>Athena : goddess of wisdom, strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Demeter : goddess of the Harvest </li></ul><ul><li>Hephaistos : god of fire and metal craft; son of Hera and Zeus; crippled because he was thrown by Zeus </li></ul><ul><li>Hera : wife of Zeus </li></ul><ul><li>Hermes : messenger god </li></ul><ul><li>Poseidon : god of the sea </li></ul><ul><li>Zeus : king of the gods; (very unfaithful) husband to Hera </li></ul>
    12. 12. Wedding of Peleus and Thetis (cont.) <ul><li>ERIS: Goddess of Discord, not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis </li></ul><ul><li>Golden apple inscribed “To the Fairest” </li></ul>
    13. 13. Assembling the Suitors <ul><li>Agamemnon </li></ul><ul><li>Menelaus </li></ul><ul><li>Odysseus </li></ul><ul><li>Ajax </li></ul><ul><li>Achilles – the most difficult to find </li></ul>
    14. 14. Gaining a Strong Wind <ul><li>Agamemnon = Clytemnestra </li></ul><ul><li>______________|_____________ </li></ul><ul><li>| | | </li></ul><ul><li>Iphigeneia Electra Orestes </li></ul>
    15. 15. Key Aspects of the Epic’s Opening <ul><li>Emphasis on the 1 st word </li></ul><ul><li>Invocation of the Muse </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul><ul><li>What events are set into motion in the opening 2 pages? </li></ul><ul><li>Who is who? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the key words? </li></ul><ul><li>Are any of the themes mentioned earlier present in this segment of text? </li></ul>
    16. 16. For Next Class <ul><li>You are instructed to wrote a response to something you find difficult in the text. </li></ul><ul><li>Pick a passage of no more than 20 lines that you find important and/or difficult and write about it. We will use these student-chosen passages as the basis for discussion next class. </li></ul>