• At the start of the Iliad, Agamemnon’s pride sets forth a chain of events that leads him to take from Achilles, Briseis, the girl that he had originally given Achilles in
    return for his martial prowess.

  • The story of the Iliad follows the great Greek warrior Achilles, as well as his rage and the destruction it causes.

  • Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by a coalition of Mycenaean Greek states (Achaeans), it tells of the battles and events during the
    weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

  • Examining his actions throughout the Iliad and comparing them to those of other characters, however, some may come to the conclusion that Achilles is not really the hero,
    and perhaps even an antihero.

  • Do you wish to bring back a man who is mortal, one long since doomed by his destiny, from ill-sounding death and release him?

  • Do you wish to bring back a man who is mortal, one long since doomed by his destiny, from ill-sounding death and release him?

  • It can also be argued that Hector is the true hero of the Iliad due to his inherently heroic qualities, such as a loyalty to his family as well as his strength and determination
    to defend his people, as well as the focus at the end of the story on burying Hector with honor.

  • [17] The passage reads: For my mother Thetis the goddess of silver feet tells me I carry two sorts of destiny toward the day of my death.

  • [10] Divine intervention[edit] See also: Deception of Zeus Some scholars believe that the gods may have intervened in the mortal world because of quarrels they may have had
    among each other.

  • [3] Achilles asks his mother to ask Zeus to allow the Achaeans to be beaten back by the Trojans, until their ships are at risk of burning.

  • Parallel to this, the story also follows the Trojan warrior Hector and his efforts to fight to protect his family and his people.

  • Then the epic narrative takes up events prophesied for the future, such as Achilles’s imminent death and the fall of Troy, although the narrative ends before these events
    take place.

  • However, considering the slight to his honor too great, Achilles angrily refuses Agamemnon’s offer and declares that he would only return to battle if the Trojans reached
    his ships and threatened them with fire.

  • [13] Fate does not determine every action, incident, and occurrence, but it does determine the outcome of life—before killing him, Hector calls Patroclus a fool for cowardly
    avoidance of his fate, by attempting his defeat;[citation needed] Patroclus retorts:[14] No, deadly destiny, with the son of Leto, has killed me, and of men it was Euphorbos; you are only my third slayer.

  • Poseidon cautiously speaks: But come, let us ourselves get him away from death, for fear the son of Kronos may be angered if now Achilleus kills this man.

  • Due to this slight, Achilles refuses to fight and asks his mother, Thetis, to make sure that Zeus causes the Achaeans to suffer on the battlefield until Agamemnon comes to
    realize the harm he has done to Achilles.

  • The Rage of Achilles (Books 19-24)[edit] (19) In the morning, Thetis brings Achilles his new set of armor, only to find him weeping over Patroclus’ body.

  • Wolfgang Kullmann further goes on to say, “Hera’s and Athena’s disappointment over the victory of Aphrodite in the Judgement of Paris determines the whole conduct of both
    goddesses in The Iliad and is the cause of their hatred for Paris, the Judge, and his town Troy.

  • Accepting the prospect of death as fair price for avenging Patroclus, he returns to battle, dooming Hector and Troy, thrice chasing him around the Trojan walls, before slaying
    him, then dragging the corpse behind his chariot, back to camp.

  • Again, Zeus appears capable of altering fate, but does not, deciding instead to abide set outcomes; similarly, fate spares Aeneas, after Apollo convinces the over-matched
    Trojan to fight Achilles.

  • Agamemnon admits his error, and sends an embassy composed of Odysseus, Ajax, Phoenix, and two heralds to offer Briseis and extensive gifts to Achilles, if only he will return
    to the fighting.

  • Either, if I stay here and fight beside the city of the Trojans, my return home is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting; but if I return home to the beloved land of my
    fathers, the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be a long life left for me, and my end in death will not come to me quickly.

  • Although the story covers only a few weeks in the final year of the war, the Iliad mentions or alludes to many of the Greek legends about the siege; the earlier events, such
    as the gathering of warriors for the siege, the cause of the war, and related concerns, tend to appear near the beginning.

  • “[27] The insulted priest prays to Apollo for help, and a nine-day rain of divine plague arrows falls upon the Achaeans.

  • I shall convey her back in my own ship, with my own followers; but I shall take the fair-cheeked Briseis, your prize, I myself going to your shelter, that you may learn well
    how much greater I am than you, and another man may shrink back from likening himself to me and contending against me.

  • Achilles remains stuck until the very end, when his anger at himself for Patroclus’ death overcomes his pride at Agamemnon’s slight and he returns to kill Hector.

  • You yourself are not one who shall live long, but now already death and powerful destiny are standing beside you, to go down under the hands of Aiakos’ great son, Achilleus.

  • Yet the concept of homecoming is much explored in other Ancient Greek literature, especially in the post-war homeward fortunes experienced by the Atreidae (Agamemnon and Menelaus),
    and Odysseus (see the Odyssey).

  • Meanwhile, Hector leads the Trojans to almost pushing the Achaeans back to the sea (Book XII).

  • (4) The gods deliberate over whether the war should end here, but Hera convinces Zeus to wait for the utter destruction of Troy.

  • Agamemnon spurs the Achaean to fight, by calling into question Odysseus, Diomedes, and Nestor’s pride, asking why they were cowering and waiting for help when they should
    be the ones leading the charge.

  • Achilles says that after all has been made right, he and Patroclus will take Troy together.

  • The Rout of the Greeks (Books 8-15)[edit] (8) The next morning, Zeus prohibits the gods from interfering, and fighting begins anew.

  • (3) The armies approach each other, but before they meet, Paris offers to end the war by fighting a duel with Menelaus, urged by Hector, his brother and hero of Troy.

  • Though he knows it will seal his own fate, Achilles vows to kill Hector in order to avenge Patroclus.

  • Agamemnon heeds the dream, but first decides to test the Achaean army’s morale by telling them to go home.

  • Though the traditional concept of heroism is often tied directly to the protagonist, who is meant to be written in a heroic light, the Iliad plays with this idea of heroism
    and does not make it explicitly clear who the true hero of the story is.

  • Achilles agrees to give Hector’s body back, and to give the Trojans twelve days to properly mourn and bury Hector.

  • The great gates of the city are opened to receive the fleeing Trojans, and Apollo leads Achilles away from the city by pretending to be a Trojan.

  • (23) The ghost of Patroclus comes to Achilles in a dream, urging him to carry out the burial rites so that Patroclus’ spirit can move on to the underworld.

  • Here, the initial cause of the entire war is explained: Helen, wife of Menelaus, and the most beautiful woman in the world.

  • Now I shall go, to overtake that killer of a dear life, Hektor; then I will accept my own death, at whatever time Zeus wishes to bring it about, and the other immortals.

  • Dismayed by Achilles’ continued abuse of Hector’s body, Zeus decides that it must be returned to Priam.

  • After nine days of plague, Achilles, the leader of the Myrmidon forces and aristos achaion (“best of the Greeks”), calls an assembly to deal with the problem.

  • He points out that almost every action in the Iliad is directed, caused, or influenced by a god, and that earlier translations show an astonishing lack of words suggesting
    thought, planning, or introspection.

  • However, as these events are prefigured and alluded to more and more vividly, when it reaches an end, the poem has told a more or less complete tale of the Trojan War.

  • The Death of Patroclus (Books 16-18)[edit] (16) Patroclus cannot stand to watch any longer, and goes to Achilles, weeping.

  • For example, in Book 3 of the Iliad, Paris challenges any of the Achaeans to a single combat and Menelaus steps forward.

  • [15] Yet, Achilles must choose only one of the two rewards, either nostos or kleos.

  • Diomedes and the Trojan Glaukos find common ground after a duel and exchange unequal gifts, while Glaukos tells Diomedes the story of Bellerophon.

  • “[11] Hera and Athena then continue to support the Achaean forces throughout the poem because Paris is part of the Trojans, while Aphrodite aids Paris and the Trojans.

  • The true hero of the Iliad is never shown explicitly and is purposefully left up to interpretation by the author Homer, who aimed to show the complexity and flaws of both
    characters, regardless of who is considered the “true” hero.

  • Each accepts the outcome of his life, yet, no one knows if the gods can alter fate.

  • The emotions between the goddesses often translate to actions they take in the mortal world.

  • Many heroes and commanders join in, including Hector, and the gods supporting each side try to influence the battle.

  • Patroclus leads the Myrmidons into battle and arrives as the Trojans set fire to the first ships.

  • He briefly admonishes him for his stubbornness, then asks Achilles to allow him to fight in his place, wearing his armor so that he will be mistaken for Achilles.

  • Patroclus is set upon by Apollo and Euphorbos, and is finally killed by Hector.

  • It is generally assumed that, because he is the protagonist, Achilles is the hero of this story.

  • [26] His personal rage and wounded soldier’s pride propel the story: the Achaeans’ faltering in battle, the slayings of Patroclus and Hector, and the fall of Troy.

  • This is how Greek culture was defined as many Athenians felt the presence of their gods through divine intervention in significant events in their lives.

  • Though the majority of the Trojans would gladly return Helen to the Achaeans, they defer to the pride of their prince, Alexandros, also known as Paris.

  • The Achaeans hold a day of funeral games, and Achilles gives out the prizes.

  • Despite the epic’s focus on Achilles’ rage, hybris also plays a prominent role, serving as both kindling and fuel for many destructive events.

  • Despite the earthly powers of the Olympic gods, only the Three Fates set the destiny of Man.

  • Odysseus returns Chryseis to her father, causing Apollo to end the plague.

  • Still, we will let all this be a thing of the past, and for all our sorrow beat down by force the anger deeply within us.

  • [16] In Book IX (IX.410–16), he poignantly tells Agamemnon’s envoys—Odysseus, Phoenix, Ajax—begging his reinstatement to battle about having to choose between two fates (9.411).

  • Men and their gods continually speak of heroic acceptance and cowardly avoidance of one’s slated fate.

  • The Achaeans fight to retrieve Patroclus’ body from the Trojans, who attempt to carry it back to Troy at Hector’s command.

  • Only then will Agamemnon realize how much the Achaeans need Achilles, and restore his honor.

  • [6] Within the Iliad[edit] In the literary Trojan War of the Iliad, the Olympian gods, goddesses, and minor deities fight among themselves and participate in human warfare,
    often by interfering with humans to counter other gods.

  • Homer is thus separated from his subject matter by about 400 years, the period known as the Greek Dark Ages.

  • And put away in your heart this other thing that I tell you.


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