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For a discussion of the Iliad in the context of other ancient Greek epics, see Greek literature: Ancient Greek literature: The genres: Epic narrative. For examples of the similes used in the Iliad , see epic simile. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.
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Epic 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. An example from the Iliad follows:…. These games were part of Greek religion and were not, therefore, autotelic; the contests in the Odyssey , on the other hand, were essentially secular.
Odysseus was challenged by the Phaeacians to demonstrate his prowess….
The Iliad and what it can still tell us about war
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Contact our editors with your feedback. Edit Mode. Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence. It tells part of the saga of the city of Troy and the war that took place there. This story had a central place in Greek mythology. The poem deals with a very short period in the tenth year of the Trojan war.
Iliad - Ancient History Encyclopedia
But Homer and other early epic poets confined their narratives to particular periods in the war, such as its origins, key martial encounters, the fall of the city, or the returns of the soldiers to Greece. There is no doubt that Homer and other early poets could rely on a very extensive knowledge of the Trojan war among their audiences. The central figure in the Iliad is Achilles, the son of Peleus a mortal aristocrat and Thetis a sea-goddess. He comes from the north of Greece, and is therefore something of an outsider, because most of the main Greek princes in the poem come from the south.
Achilles is young and brash, a brilliant fighter, but not a great diplomat. When he gets into a dispute with Agamemnon, the leading Greek prince in the war, and loses his captive princess Briseis to him, he refuses to fight and remains in his camp. He stays there for most of the poem, until his friend Patroclus is killed. He then explodes back on to the battlefield, kills the Trojan hero Hector, who had killed Patroclus, and mutilates his body.
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It is worth noting that the actual fall of Troy, via the renowned stratagem of Greeks hidden within a Wooden Horse, is not described in the Iliad, although it was certainly dealt with in other poems. All of this takes place under the watchful gaze of the Olympian gods, who are both actors and audience in the Iliad. The Olympians are divided over the fate of Troy, just as the mortals are - in the Iliad the Trojan war is a cosmic conflict, not just one played out at the human level between Greeks and non-Greeks. Ominously for Troy, the gods on the Greek side, notably Hera queen of the gods , Athena goddess of wisdom and war , and Poseidon god of the land and sea , represent a much more powerful force than the divine supporters of Troy, of whom Apollo the archer god and god of afar is the main figure.
The Iliad is only one poetic work focused on the war for Troy; many others have not survived. But such is its quality and depth that it had a special place in antiquity, and probably survived for that reason. We know virtually nothing about Homer and whether he also created the other poem in his name, the Odyssey, which recounts the return journey of Odysseus from the Trojan war, to the island of Ithaca.
This tradition of oral composition probably reaches back hundreds of years before the Iliad. Early epic poetry can be a way of maintaining the cultural memory of major conflicts. The Iliad was composed as one continuous poem. In its current arrangement most likely after the establishment of the Alexandrian library in the early 3rd century BC , it is divided into 24 books corresponding to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.
Likewise the Greek attack on Troy was a collective quest drawing on forces from across the Greek world. Pan-Hellenism, therefore, is central to the Iliad.
A central idea in the Iliad is the inevitability of death as also with the earlier Epic of Gilgamesh. The poignancy of life and death is enhanced by the fact that the victims of war are usually young. Achilles is youthful and headstrong, and has a goddess for a mother, but even he has to die. We learn that he had been given a choice — a long life without heroic glory, or a short and glorious life in war.
His choice of the latter marks him out as heroic, and gives him a kind of immortality.