Type of Work .......The Iliad is an epic poem, a long narrative work about heroic exploits that is elevated in tone and highly formal in its language. It was composed in ancient Greek and transmitted orally before it was written down. Many modern translators present the Iliad in prose, making it read like a novel. Title Explanation .......The Iliad derives the first two syllables of its name from Ilios or Ilion (Greek for Troy) or, alternately, from Ilium (Latin for Troy). The suffix -ad means related to, concerning, having to do with, or associated with. Thus, Iliad means a story concerning Troy. Setting . Time of Action: About 3,200 years ago in recorded history's infancy, when humankind's imagination peopled the known world with great heroes and villains and nature reflected the mood of the gods inhabiting the mountaintops, the seas, the forests, and the unseen worlds above and below. Homer fashioned The Iliad, the story of the Trojan War, about 600 years after the war ended. The story is a mixture of fact, legend, and myth. Place of Action: The walled city of Troy and the surrounding plains in northwestern Anatolia, a region that is part of modern-day Turkey. Anatolia is west of Greece (across the Aegean Sea) and north of Egypt (across the Mediterranean Sea). Historical Troy .......In archeological digs between 1870 and 1890, German-born American archeologist Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) appeared to prove that the ancient city of Troy was a fact, not a myth, as many had thought. However, the story of the Trojan Waras passed down to Homerwas a mixture of fact, legend, and myth. Iliad's Importance .......The Iliad ranks as one of the most important and most influential works in world literature in that it established literary standards and conventions that writers have imitated over the centuries, down to the present day. It also created archetypes that hundreds of great writersincluding Vergil, Dante, Shakespeare, Stephen Crane, and James Joycealluded to when in need of an apt metaphor or simile. In addition, the Iliad provided a mother lode of information about Greek customs and ideals and about Greek mythology. The Iliad was a truly remarkable accomplishment. Even though its author had no similar literary model on which to base his work, he wrote a masterpiece that ranks with the greatest works of all time. No student of literature can ignore Homer. No writer's education is complete unless he has read Homer. Verse Format .......The meter (rhythmic pattern of syllables) of Homers epic poems is dactylic hexameter. A dactyl is a metrical foot consisting of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables, as in the words technical (TEK nik l), allocate (AL oh kate), and harbinger (HAR bin jer). Hexameter is a line containing six metrical feet. Thus, dactylic hexameter is a scheme containing six dactyls, as in the following line: MAKE
me a BEAU ti ful GOWN and a HAT fringed with TASS les of DOWN, good sir. For a full detailed discussion and explanation of meter and its forms, click here. The Homeric Epithet .......One of the hallmarks of the Homeric style is the epithet, a combination of a descriptive phrase and a noun. An epithet presents a miniature portrait that identifies a person or thing by highlighting a prominent characteristic of that person or thing. In English, the Homeric epithet usually consists of a noun modified by a compound adjective, such as the following: fleet-footed Achilles, rosy-fingered dawn, wine-dark sea, earth-shaking Poseidon, and gray-eyed Athena. The Homeric epithet is an ancient relative of such later epithets as Richard the Lion-Hearted, Ivan the Terrible, and America the Beautiful. Homer repeated his epithets often, presumably so the listeners of his recited tales could easily remember and picture the person or thing each time it was mentioned. In this respect, the Homeric epithet resembles the leitmotiv of opera composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). The leitmotiv was a repeated musical theme associated with a character, a group of characters, an emotion, or an idea. Epic Conventions .......Homer established literary practices, rules, or devices that became commonplace in epic poetry written later. These rules or devices are now known as epic conventions. They include the following: The invocation of the muse, a goddess. In Greek mythology, there were nine muses, all sisters, who were believed to inspire poets, historians, flutists, dancers, singers, astronomers, philosophers, and other thinkers and artists. If one wanted to write a great poem, play a musical instrument with bravado, or develop a grand scientific or philosophical theory, he would ask for help from a muse. When a poet asked for help, he was said to be invoking the muse. The muse of epic poetry was named Calliope *kuh LY uh pe]. Telling a story with which readers or listeners are already familiar; they know the characters, the plot, and the outcome. Most of the great writers of the ancient worldas well as many great writers in later times, including Shakespearefrequently told stories already known to the public. Thus, in such stories, there were no unexpected plot twists, no surprise endings. If this sounds strange to you, the modern reader and theatergoer, consider that many of the most popular motion pictures today are about stories already known to the public. Examples are The Passion of the Christ, Titanic, The Ten Commandments, Troy, Spartacus, Pearl Harbor, and Gettysburg. Conflict in the celestial realm. Divine beings fight and scheme against one another in the epics of Homer and Vergil, and they do so in John Milton's Paradise Lost on a grand scale, with Satan and his forces opposing God and his forces. Use of epithets. See "Homeric Epithet," above. Attitude Toward the Afterlife .......The here and now concerns the Greeks at Troy more than the afterlife, for they generally believe that the abode of the dead is dark and dismal. Consequently, their main purpose in life is to achieve immediate rewards and to live for the moment. The idea of a heaven that will requite them for good deeds, whether on or off the battlefield, is of less importance to them. However, they generally do revere the gods of Olympus, who take sides in the war. Offending the gods could incur their wrath and affect the outcome of the war. Principal Characters .
Greeks Achilles: Temperamental Greek warrior and king of the Myrmidons, who were soldiers from Thessaly in Greece. Achilles, the protagonist, leads the Myrmidons against the Trojans. He is revered as the greatest warrior in the world; no man can stand against him. Achilles is the son of Peleus, the former king of the Myrmidons, and a sea nymph named Thetis. Agamemnon: Commander-in-chief of the Greek armies and son of Atreus, the king of Mycenae. He incurs the wrath of his greatest warrior, Achilles, by taking the latter's prize of war, the beautiful Briseis. Menelaus: King of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon. After his wife, Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, was taken by a Trojan named Paris, the Greeks declared war on Troy. Helen: Wife of Menelaus, paramour of Paris, and the most beautiful woman in the world. Odysseus (Roman Name, Ulysses): King of Ithaca and brilliant strategist. He is unsurpassed in cunning. Aias the Great (Roman Name, Ajax the Great): Hulking giant who is second only to Achilles in battlefield prowess. Many translators of the epic use his Roman name, perhaps because of the force of its emphatic consonants. Aias the Lesser (Roman Name, Ajax the Lesser, or the Locrian Ajax): Leader of the Locrian archers on the Greek side. Patroclus: Greek warrior and beloved companion of Achilles. Diomedes: Greek warrior of extraordinary valor and ability. Calchas: Greek soothsayer who advises Agamemnon. Nestor: Wise old king who advises Agamemnon. Diomedes: Powerful Greek warrior. Idomeneus: King of Crete, who leads a Greek contingent against the Trojans. Machaon: Greek physician wounded by Paris. Automedon: Chariot driver for Achilles. Phoenix: Elderly Greek warrior and trusted friend of Achilles. Briseis: Beautiful captive of Achilles. Chryseis: Female captive of Agamemnon. He is forced to give her up. Eudorus: Myrmidon commander under Achilles. Neoptolemus: Son of Achilles. He arrives at Troy in the last year of fighting. Stentor: Greek herald. Trojans Priam: King of Troy. Hecuba: Wife of Priam and queen of Troy. Hector: Bravest and most accomplished of the Trojan warriors; son of Priam. Achilles slays him. Andromache: Hector's noble and dedicated wife. Astyanax: Son of Hector and Andromache. Paris: Trojan who took Helen From Menelaus. Aeneas: Brave and powerful Trojan warrior. Polydamas: Wise Trojan commander. Glaucus: Great Trojan warrior. Dolon: Trojan spy who reconnoiters the Greek camp. Pandarus: Trojan archer. Antenor: Advisor to King Priam. He argues that Paris should return Helen to the Greeks, but Paris will not give her up.
Sarpedon: Leader of the Lycian allies on the side the Trojans. He fights bravely but dies at the hands of Patroclus. Sarpedon was the son of Zeus and Laodameia, a human. Laocon: Trojan seer. Deiphobus: Trojan warrior and son of Priam. Gorgythion: Trojan warrior and son of Priam. He dies by an arrow meant for Hector. Cebriones: Chariot driver for Hector. Helenus: Trojan seer and son of Priam and Hecuba. Pandarus: Trojan archer. Euphorbus: Trojan soldier who wounds Patroclus. Gods Zeus (Roman names, Jupiter and Jove): King of the gods, who prefers to remain neutral in the war but intervenes after a plea for help. Hera (Roman name, Juno): Queen of the gods, who favors the Greeks. Athena (Roman name, Minerva): Goddess of wisdom and war, who favors the Greeks. Poseidon (Roman name, Neptune): God of the sea, who favors the Greeks. Hephaestus (Roman name, Vulcan): God of the forge, who favors the Greeks. Aphrodite (Roman name, Venus): Goddess of love and beauty, who sides with the Trojans. Apollo (or