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Homer’s “Iliad”, Its Effect and Relevance

Looking at the world we live in today, we can see that various forms of expression, through media and literary works, use different references to ancient times. It can be seen that ancient culture had influenced the development of many nations in the world. In that regard, the myths of Greek culture can be specified as laying the ground to universal culture, having an attractive power through people’s imaginations. This could be explained, where the process of myth creation can be considered as the first step of the human toward creativity and self-cognition. Gradually, separate stories, born in different regions of the Greek land, were combined into full cycles about the destinies of heroes and their gods.

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All these legends, myths, and poems, performed by wandering poets, and through time were united into large epic poems, such as Homer’s Iliad. In that regard, the lack of heated events and epic battles can be seen as a reason for a poem written more than two thousand years ago reaching people’s minds. In the context of the aforementioned, this paper analyzes Homer’s poem and its effect as an object of comparison to modern life and values, stating that despite the apparent difference some aspects did not change.

One point of contrast between modern society and the society depicted in the Iliad is the vision of religion. It can be seen that religious involvement is direct in the Iliad. In the modern world, religion sees people as equal to each other, whereas in Homer’s poetry the involvement of gods in people’s lives and their guidance of the heroes can be interpreted as putting those epos heroes above the human level. Accordingly, the gods in the Iliad have rather down-to-earth characteristics, if omitting abilities. In that regard, modern society refers to God and religion as a source of moral values, whereas in Iliad the gods were spreading fear.

Then the gods, who live easy grew angry
With Lycurgus, and the Son of Cronus
Made him go blind, and he did not live long,
Hated as he was by the immortal gods. (VI, 140-144)

The theme of war can be seen as common between the society in Iliad and our time. Specifying this time, it should be noted that wars’ ideology might have differed much since the ancient ages. Nevertheless, the views on wars might differ in that modern society views war as evil caused by humans, although constantly participating in it. In Iliad, the heroic ideology initially implies that war is in its essence. However, taking the example of Hector and Achilles as parallel to the leaders in our present time, the leaders in Iliad are merely concerned with the public opinion view on them, rather than the consequences of one’s actions. This can be seen through the example of Hector, where the fear of the consequences to his people is combined with shame from how people will think of him watching his wife crying.

And you will work some other woman’s loom
In Argos or carry water from a Spartan spring,

And someone, seeing you crying, will say,
That is the wife of Hector, the best of all (VI, 480-484)

Another important outline that can be made through the poem as a whole is the grounds for building a civilized world. Without getting in details on the characters of Hector and Achilles, their confrontation along with the sides their fighting for representing an ideal example of the clashes of ideologies, in which wars were the preferred solution. In that sense, a comparison between events, even mythical, divided by more than two thousand years, civilizations is approached through violent mentalities. In that regard, the civil war, two world wars, the cold war, and others are examples of such statements.

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Accordingly, the modern civilization, although acknowledges the necessity of military actions, at least at the leader’s levels, they do not encourage extreme violence toward their foes. A parallel can be drawn through the reaction of gods toward Achilles’ treatment of Hector’s corpse, thus stating the existence of a particular code, where the victims of a ten-year war were a necessity, but at the same time, their corpses should be respected.

Wrapped in his golden aegis, so that Achilles
Would not scour the skin as he dragged him,
So Achilles defiled Hector in his rage,
The gods, looking on, pitied Hector,( XXVI, 23-26)

It can be seen that despite the heroic depiction of the relations throughout the poems, the moral aspects in humans dealing with their conflicts did not change through history. In that regard, the mythical aspect of the events in Homer’s Iliad only emphasizes the characteristics of human nature. In that regard, modern civilizations as well as the various ideologies that they represent only partly veiled the main aspects of characters such as pride, honor, dignity, as well as egoism, hatred, lust, and deception.

The differences can be seen in that the heroic values shown in the Iliad, which might seem offensive to modern society, were replaced by other forms of values, the true meaning of which is veiled with diplomacy. If the heroic values of the Iliad can be condemned, at least their defenders participated in the actions themselves, whereas in modern times the responsibility of defending the values lays on shoulders other than the ones who proclaim them.

Works Cited

Hobbes, Thomas, et al. “The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury.” 1839. J. Bohn. Web.

Silk, M. S. “Homer, the Iliad”. Cambridge; New York, 2004. Landmarks of world literature. 2nd: viii, 103 p. Cambridge University Press. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Homer’s “Iliad”, Its Effect and Relevance'. 7 November.

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