The Iliad Of Homer

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SparkNotes users wanted!

Oh, you mean, besides the fact that the Iliad is pretty much the most famous work of fiction ever written?

If that doesn't satisfy you, Shmoopers, maybe this will: the Iliad is the basis of—and the model for—every kind of war narrative, action movie, superhero comic, and adventure saga that has come after it. You want large scale clashing armies? Even matched duels or obviously unmatched duels? Check out the long one-on-one combat descriptions, or that crazy nonsense between Paris and Menelaus. Spy thriller?

Gifting Information

Nail-biting special ops missions? The Trojan Horse ruse has your name written all over it. Swords-and-sorcerers magic adventure?

Ancient Greece

Try anything with the gods busting in on the action, like, say, that whole Laocoon fiasco. Not only does the Iliad put the act into action, but it puts the philosophy in there, too. Bad Guys bit of disposable nothing. For instance, why fight at all? Why not just sit around and wait for the war to end or for death or whatever else is coming down the pike? Yeah, probably.

Leading to the deaths of a lot of others? Um… maybe not.

Death and War

See what we mean? The first great literary work in the Western literary canon, the Illiad, has gradually declined in its use in American university and college courses, undoubtedly because it is about the murderous sharp end of war and makes no bones about the fact that it regards its heroes as representing the height in human achievement. Told in exquisite poetry, the story is deceptively simple. The leader of the Greek invasion force, King Agamemnon, forces the greatest of the Greek warriors, Achilles, to give up his concubine. Achilles then goes into a sulk, refusing to leave his tent and fight the Trojans.

As the Trojan hero, Hector, brings death and destruction to the Greeks, Achilles refuses all the entreaties of his comrades to rejoin the fight. Nevertheless, he allows his best friend Patroclus to don his armor, but that armor proves no protection against Hector. The death of Patroclus leads Achilles to return to the battlefield, where he slays Hector, and drags the body of the slain Trojan hero behind his chariot around the walls of Troy.

SparkNotes: The Iliad

To the uninitiated modern reader, the constant reference to the influence of the gods throughout the poem may appear strange and out of place. He has been rendered immortal like the gods except for one spot near his foot where his mother held him while she dipped him in the Styx. He is the greatest hero in The Iliad and known for his rage, impulsiveness and courage. He watches as his comrades fall one by one and finally puts his pride aside.

He sends his beloved friend Patroclus into battle. But Apollo, the savior of the Trojans, dashes away Patroclus' armor and the Trojan prince Hector slays him.

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Maddened by anger and grief, Achilles vows revenge and resumes battle. And the epic goes on The Iliad is purportedly written by the blind poet Homer some time during the eighth century BC.

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Its supreme importance in Greek literature slowly permeated to the rest of the Western world and in time to come, the two epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey became the reference points for thousands of works of art. European museums and art galleries are filled with works based on the themes, heroes and divinities from The Iliad.

Contemporary films have portrayed the Trojan War, while tourists throng the sites mentioned in the poems. It was first translated into English in the sixteenth century and has since then, gripped the collective imagination for generations.

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