The story of the Iliad is a famous one. When the cruel Trojan prince Paris abducts the queen of Agamemnon, Helen, war ensues between the two countries across the seas. Many heroes and gods take sides and fight the war. It is the first famous book written in Europe, written around 750 B. C. The book starts amidst the raging battle between Trojans and the Greeks. It is nine years now since they left Greece. The gods as well as the flaming emotions of those involved influence every decision in this epic. The translation by Richmond Lattimore provides an excellent background to the story and is a good step-by-step guide to the epic (Postlethwaite).
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The whole epic comes into being because of the wrong decision of Paris while declaring the wrong goddess to be the most beautiful, under temptation and pressure. Even though not described in the book the incident of the Judgment of Paris is the root cause of the war between Greeks and Trojans (The Trojan Saga and the Iliad).
Since most of the heroes involved are sons and daughters of the gods and goddesses, there is a direct intervention from them in each and every action of the mortals. Through dreams, specific apparitions, and direction the gods actively take part in the war. Aphrodite even gets wounded in this process. She is the mother of Aeneas, the Trojan. Paris flees with divine help from an enraged Menelaus, in the one-to-one fight. Zeus with his thunderbolts, Apollo, Hera all take part in the war both directly and indirectly. Even Poseidon from his sea and Hades from the underworld are involved (The Iliad Book Notes Summary).
Nine years earlier they had decided to get back Helen for their King’s brother, Menelaus from the wicked Paris. They embarked on the sea voyage to the distant Troy for this purpose. The first book itself contains decisions that would change the course of the battle. The major decision is the withdrawal of Achilles from the war when his war prize Briseus is taken away from him. This happens because Agamemnon and Achilles fight with each other about the plague that haunts the Greeks. It had come from Apollo (The Iliad Book Notes Summary). His decision to keep away from the war causes big casualties in the war, on the side of the Greeks. In a war, in which ultimately no one comes out victorious, the book begins with a schism due to a false decision by the king and the reaction of the hero to that decision (Kelly. P4).
The next day comes the decision to attack Trojans by Greeks influenced by a dream sent to the king Agamemnon by Zeus. This is due to a request from Thetis, the mother of Achilles. These two events may be taken as typical examples of how decisions are made in the epic. It comes more or less from divine intervention as well as the weakness found in the leaders of the two armies. Often hasty and reckless, these cause unexpected results in a war that runs on for more than 10 years. People like the hero Achilles fights for many things other than just vengeance. His dialogue with Agamemnon makes this evident. He is fighting for other things. An epic like that of Homer is a succession of ideas too. Achilles embodies the ideas of glory, vengeance foreknowledge and responsibility. So the decisions that he or others like him, makes are always dependent on these values (Kirk. P16).
The Iliad is regarded as one of the greatest epics which show ferocious battles between the Trojans and the Greeks over a beautiful woman named Helen. In most parts of the poem, battles between the Greeks and Trojans are given more importance, but the poem also highlights the people who are fighting the war, armor, mortal glory, etc. moreover theme of this poem also highlights the importance of society, as well as the necessity of devotion related to a social code of conduct, existed in the society.
A brighter, as well as appreciable aspect about Iliad, is that it was written based on a society that was living during 600 BC. This society was totally vulnerable as well as less advanced than the modern society that we live in now. The common aspect seen in this poem when we compare it with our modern society is the influence of nature. Nature was and is still regarded as a threat to the existence of humans. During those times in Athens, Greece, democracy was regarded as a great standard system in taking decisions. All the decisions were taken by the citizens themselves affecting the society.
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More importance was given to a group, clan, or tribe than an individual.
The society that is highlighted in Iliad is a typical society that is dominated by the Greeks. Here we can see that the battles of men are conducted on the basis of common beliefs, common causes, and ancestry. There is clear evidence of a very tight network in society.
Moreover, the system depicted here is also feudal in nature.
the social patterns presented in the poem presents antipodal tendencies. They are identified as a group versus individuals. There is a tendency in many parts of the poem that features the dominance of groups over individuals. Such characteristics are evident by the presentation of the character of Achilleus who is selfish as well as an antagonist. He is characterized as a person who neglects society. His return to the battlegrounds is because of revenge mentality rather than dedicat5ion to society. Hector and Achilleus are antipodal demonstrations, one for the group and the other for the individual. The pitiless treatment of Achilleus on Hector’s body highlights his severance from the cluster and guarantees his standing as the adversary of the society (Social conformity in the Iliad by Homer).
One of the most defining works and the first one to claim to be a real piece of literature, in the Western world, the book tells about the workings of fate by unseen hands of the gods, stirring and guiding events to the aims they had set purposefully. We even come to think that, “Man proposes, god, disposes” while thinking about the way decisions go (The Trojan Saga and the Iliad).
The epic poem Iliad addresses many issues like war, groups, peace, mortality, immortality, love, etc. however there are underlining themes of close-knitted society patterns in it. It also has rebellious characters. The poem itself gives importance to society as an ultimate and individual as a subordinate (Social conformity in the Iliad by Homer).
Kirk,Geoffrey. The Iliad: a commentary, Volume 3. Cambridge: Press syndicate of the University of Cambridge. 1993. P1-16
Kelly, Adrian. A referential commentary and lexicon to Iliad VIII. New York: Oxford university press. 2007.P1-10
Postlethwaite,Norman. Homer’s Iliad: A Commentary on the Translation of Richmond Lattimore. 2009. Web.
Social conformity in the Iliad by Homer. 2002. Web.
The Iliad Book Notes Summary. 2009. Web.
The Iliad Book Notes Summary. 2009. Web.
The Trojan Saga and the Iliad.2009. Web.