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The Beginning The beginning of the Iliad starts with the narrator's appeal of the muse to sing the story of Achilles and Agamemnon’s great quarrel and the dire effects it had upon the invading Greeks. The muse starts to sing of how Agamemnon’s foolishness led to ten days of plague upon the Greeks when he refuses to respect or honor a priest who has come to ransom his daughter, Chrysies. The distraught priest prays to Apollo asking him to punish the Greeks with plague and famine until Agamemnon frees his daughter. The great hero Achilles calls a meeting to discuss how to end the plague, which the oracle Kalchus states was caused by Agamemnon. Agamemnon agrees to free Chrysies as long as he gets Bryseis, who is Achilles’ war prize. This leads to a great fight between the two with Achilles’ vow that he will refuse to fight in the Trojan War until the Greeks beg and honor him.
Achilles asks his mother, the sea goddess, Thetis, to avenge him by asking Zeus to let the Trojans destroy the Greeks until they realize their folly in dishonoring Achilles. Zeus sends a deceitful dream to Agamemnon telling him to go into battle for his victory was assured. Agamemnon calls the kings and they prepare to go to war. It is agreed between the Trojans and Greeks that Menelaus and Paris should fight a duel to determine the outcome of the war. When Menelaus gains the upper hand in the fight, Aphrodite sweeps in and returns Paris to his rooms in Troy. Menelaus claims victory and the two sides call a truce. The gods decide to restart the war and convince the Trojan archer Pandaros to shoot Menelaus. He attempts to, his arrow just grazes Menelaus, but does not kill him. The war begins, this time with the Greeks gaining the upper hand. Hector returns to Troy to ask the women of the city to pray to the gods to help. He convinces Paris to return to the battle and says a touching farewell to his wife and son, Astynnax.
Hector returns to the battle and drives the Greeks back against their ships. Nestor advises Agamemnon to appeal to Achilles for help. Agamemnon agrees and sends Odysseus, Ajax, and Phoinix to apologize with many gifts. Achilles refuses stating that he does not trust Agamemnon and would rather die after a long life at home then win endless glory at Troy. The three emissaries return to Agamemnon saying that Achilles will not join. The war continues. Patroclus, Achilles good friend is inspired to fight the war, Achilles gives him his armor and wishes him well. Patroclus goes forth and sends the Trojans back to the wall, but Hector with Apollo’s help overpowers Patroclus and kills him. Achilles becomes highly upset and sinks into a major depression.
Achilles decides to enter the battle to avenge Patroclus and kill Hector. Thetis begs him to reconsider, but seeing that he refuses she has Hephaestus fashion a new suit of armor for her son, and sends him off to battle. Achilles goes on a deadly rampage killing many Trojans and sending all the others fleeing. Hector flees from Achilles’ oncoming wrath and a pursuit occurs around the walls of Troy. Athena goes down in the form of Hector’s brother and convinces him to stand and fight, Hector asks that whoever is the victor will return the body, but Achilles refuses. They fight with Achilles knowing his old armor’s weakness and plunges his spear into Hector’s throat killing him. He then drags Hector’s body, behind his chariot, back to the Greek camp. A great funeral is held for Patroclus, but Hector’s body remains unburied. Apollo prevents damage from happening to Hector’s corpse because of his love of the great warrior. The gods agree that the Trojans deserve to properly bury Hector. So they send Priam to ransom the body. Priam returns with Hector’s body and a great funeral is held for the mighty hero.
The Iliad’s History The Iliad was an epic written between the 6 th and 8 th century B.C. It has been attributed to the poet Homer, but many scholars contradict this theory saying that this poem could not have been written by just one person. It is commonly paired with the Odyssey as the two most influential Greek epics ever written. It takes place throughout Greece and Troy, a city in Northwest Turkey.
The Iliad in Greek Society The Iliad was one of the most revered books in ancient Greek life, to the point of being known as “the Greek bible.” It was performed by traveling entertainers and one epic might last for 3-4 days each. This was the main form of entertainment of the time. Even though the Odyssey was popular in ancient Greece, the Iliad eclipsed it because of the Greeks love of valiant war heroes.
The Iliad in Education The Iliad in Today’s Education The Iliad in Ancient Greek Education The Iliad is required reading in almost all American high schools. A knowledge of Homeric similes are required of most students and the Iliad is often quoted or referenced by college professors. Homeric Simile-an extended simile often running to several lines, used typically in epic poetry to intensify the heroic stature of the subject and to serve as decoration. Almost all Greek children knew the story of the Iliad and memorization of the epic was required of educated males. The play was most often performed and very few Greeks actually had read the epic. The Iliad was often quoted to prove a point.
The Iliad in Popular Culture The Iliad has been a major force in popular culture. It has been the subject of books, plays, Broadway shows, and movies. Shakespeare loosely based his play Troilus and Cressida upon the Iliad, and both Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin wrote songs about Achilles. The Iliad has a movie based on it called Troy, starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, and Sean Bean as the various heroes. Its events have been featured in various art mediums from the 6 th century till present day. Many famous books have been written about the Iliad, both as a continuation of the story and from various charcter viewpoints.
Fate vs. Free Will- This is demonstrated by Achilles decision to go to fight in troy, but it was his fate to die.
Love- Throughout the Iliad love is portrayed between spouses, parents to child, between men and women. Sexual love is portrayed as highly destructive and troublesome, and is the cause of the Trojan war.
Mortality- The Iliad portrays mortality without an afterlife. It depicts it as a horrible affair that is both gruesome and painful. The Iliad does not sugar-coat death or make it something to envy.
Pride- The driving force of the Iliad. Everyone is after glory and fame, and pride in one’s accomplishments runs rampant. Pride leads to many of the characters’ downfalls.