Publisher and Publication Date: Ecco. 2016. Paperback edition.
Genre: Greek mythology.
Audience: Readers who love the classics. Readers of Greek mythology.
Original title: Ιλιάς
This is the first book to contribute to my list of The Classics Club. My goal is to read 50 classics in five years.
On a sidebar widget on this blog there is a photo of old books. Clicking on that photo will take you to the list of books I plan to read. However, the list is a living list-meaning it can change!
The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem. It was written in the 8th century BCE. Homer is considered the author.
It is the story of the last year of the ten year Trojan War. The time span for the poem covers several weeks.
The two groups fighting are the Achaeans or Greeks and the Trojans of Troy or Ilion.
The war began, because Paris (a son of King Priam of Troy) abducted Helen of Sparta, the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. Menelaus and his brother, King Agamemnon of Mycenae, and their armies descend on Troy for revenge.
Achilles is the greatest warrior of the Greeks. He is a demi-god. His parents are Nereid Thetis (a sea nymph) and Peleus, King of Phthia.
Hector is the greatest warrior of the Trojans. He is the eldest son of King Priam.
The true history of the Trojan War began in the late Bronze Age, probably 1200 BCE. Homer’s epic poem is not to be taken as factual history. It is a form of literature, more like a legend. It’s an oral poem. It is written in 24 books.
Some of the characters are: Achilles, Ajax, Patroclus, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Priam, Hector, Andromache, Helen, Aphrodite, Apollo, Athena, and Zeus.
The poem begins with an argument between Achilles and Agamemnon. Achilles wants Agamemnon to return the priest’s daughter who was taken captive. Agamemnon doesn’t want to return the girl. He prefers her to his wife at home.
Achilles is the principle character throughout The Iliad. The spotlight will include Hector and other characters, but Achilles is the dominant focus.
The Iliad is a story you will want to take notes.
Some examples of notes:
~The change of names, Paris is called Alexandros at times.
~Making a list of expressions: “swift-footed Achilles,” “silver-footed Thetis,”
and “of the lovely cheeks.” The last example is referring to multiple women.
~The gods and the mortals they prefer.
~The gods and their human qualities.
~A list of women abducted.
The introduction is interesting. I enjoyed learning about the text, history surrounding the story, Mycenaean culture and history, the city of Troy, oral poetry, battle scenes; and relationships between men, and between men and women.
The Iliad is a sad story. Some of the characters know they will die. The war is lengthy (ten years), and the men are tired and wonder if the war has been worth it. The response of Achilles after Patroclus’s death is heartbreaking.
Hector has a family. What will happen to them after his death? This answer is not included in the story. The Iliad doesn’t tell this part. It also doesn’t tell the story of Achilles’s death.
The Iliad is gruesome, but war is gruesome.
How does Helen feel about what happened to her? Her voice is a deep cry at the end. Helen says, “would that I had died before.”