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The Iliad

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Dating to the ninth century B.C., Homer’s timeless poem still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods wrestling with towering emotions and battling amidst devastation and destruction, as it moves inexorably to the wrenching, tragic conclusion of the Trojan War. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox observes in his superb introduction that although the violence of the Iliad is grim and relentless, it coexists with both images of civilized life and a poignant yearning for peace.

Combining the skills of a poet and scholar, Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, brings the energy of contemporary language to this enduring heroic epic. He maintains the drive and metric music of Homer’s poetry, and evokes the impact and nuance of the Iliad’s mesmerizing repeated phrases in what Peter Levi calls “an astonishing performance.”

704 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 801

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Homer

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In the Western classical tradition, Homer (Greek: Ὅμηρος) is considered the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest of ancient Greek epic poets. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.

When he lived is unknown. Herodotus estimates that Homer lived 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BCE, while other ancient sources claim that he lived much nearer to the supposed time of the Trojan War, in the early 12th century BCE. Most modern researchers place Homer in the 7th or 8th centuries BCE.

The formative influence of the Homeric epics in shaping Greek culture was widely recognized, and Homer was described as the teacher of Greece. Homer's works, which are about fifty percent speeches, provided models in persuasive speaking and writing that were emulated throughout the ancient and medieval Greek worlds. Fragments of Homer account for nearly half of all identifiable Greek literary papyrus finds.

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Profile Image for Grace Tjan.
188 reviews487 followers
December 4, 2013
What I learned from this book (in no particular order):

1. Victory or defeat in ancient Greek wars is primarily the result of marital spats and/or petty sibling rivalry in Zeus and Hera’s dysfunctional divine household.

2. Zeus “the father of gods and men” is a henpecked husband who is also partial to domestic abuse.

3. If you take a pretty girl who is the daughter of a priest of Apollo as war booty and refuse to have her ransomed, Apollo will rain plague on your troops. And he won’t be appeased until you return the girl and throw him a ginormous BBQ party involving hundreds of cattle at his temple.

4. If an arrow or a spear were thrown at you in battle, more often than not, it would land on your nipple or thereabout. Or alternatively, it would pierce your helmet and splatter your brain.

5. Paris is a proper guy’s name, not just a name for capital cities or bratty heiresses.

6. Brad Pitt in man skirt* Achilles is the badassest warrior there ever was.

7. Real men eat red meat, specifically:
a. sheep chines;
b. fat goats; and
c. the long back cuts of a full-grown pig, marbled with lard.

8. The most valuable booty are (in no particular order):

a. bronze tripods (each worth 12 oxens) and armors;
b. swift war stallions; and
c. pretty women (each worth 4 oxens, if also skilled in crafts). Lesbians are particularly prized.

9. There is nothing more glorious for a warrior than to sack enemy cities, plunder their wealth, kill all their men, bed their pretty women and enslave their children.

10. The only men who matter are warriors, but if you are a woman, the range of roles that you could play is rather more diverse. You could be:

a. a runaway wife who sparks a cosmic battle between your thuggish hubby’s city-state and your cowardly boyfriend’s (1);
b. a war booty with a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome (2);
c. a manipulative uber bitch (who also happens to be a goddess) (3);
d. a long-suffering wife and mother (4).

(1) Helen (2) Briseis (3) Hera (4) Andromache

But whatever role you choose to play, you will still be the bone of contention between men and the armies that they lead. All the major conflicts in the story are triggered by women, or specifically by their sexuality: Helen’s elopement with Paris launched a thousand Argive ships against Troy; Agamemnon’s desire to bed Briseis, Achilles’ lawful prize, caused a nearly unhealable rift between them; and Hector’s desire to protect his wife from the dismal fate of being an Argive sex slave inspired him to fight Achilles to the death. Homer’s mortal women might be meek and mild, but his goddesses can kick ass with the best of them, and even occasionally best their male counterparts: Zeus is not above being manipulated by Hera, and Ares the God of War actually got whacked on the head by Athena.

*Troy, Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Warner Bros. 2004.


What I find most surprising about the Iliad is the amount of graphic, X-rated violence that it contains. The violence is not the biblical slaying and smiting, but something much more voyeuristically gory:

“…the one Peneleos lanced beneath the brows, down to the eyes' roots and scooped an eyeball out --- the spear cut clean through the socket, out behind the nape and backward down he sat, both hands stretched wide as Peneleos, quickly drawing his whetted sword, hacked him square in the neck and lopped his head and down on the ground it tumbled, helmet and all. But the big spear's point still stuck in the eye socket ---."

I imagine that this kind of anatomically precise, brain-splattering, gut-spilling action scenes made the Iliad popular with the Romans, who routinely went to the Colosseum to watch gladiators hack each other to death, but there is only so much of it that I could take in one sitting, which is why it took me almost three months to finish it. It is not that I’m particularly sensitive to fictional death and dismemberment --- and after all, this book is a war book --- but the sheer amount of such scenes, as well as their mind-numbing repetitiveness made for tedious reading. It doesn’t help that many of these deaths happened to seemingly throwaway characters, barely introduced in three or four lines, merely to be summarily (and gorily) dispatched in another half a dozen lines on the same page. The Iliad is assumed to be the written version of a much older oral poem, and such characters might represent collective memories of real Bronze Age warriors, but by Zeus, hundreds of pages of them being hacked, cleaved and skewered to death almost did me in.

Now, what is the purpose of such meticulously catalogued carnage? Was Homer trying to present War with all its attendant horrors to shock his audience into pacifism? Or was the old guy just trying to write an 8th century BCE equivalent of a blockbuster action-adventure movie with enough gore to satisfy his young male demographic? The Iliad both celebrates and laments the warrior spirit: the haughty pride and terrible thirst for vengeance and plunder that set men to distant shores, intent on razing cities and putting its inhabitants to slaughter, but also the stark, tragic consequences of such acts.

I actually find the gods’ politicking and manipulations more interesting than the actual war. The Greek gods are blissfully free of any human notion of morality --- which makes the problem of theodicy much more simpler to solve than in the Judeo-Christian model. The Olympian gods do not move in mysterious ways: they are moved by caprice and petty grievances. Why did we suffer such an ignominious defeat, despite all that we had done to win Zeus’ favor? Well, it happened that just before the battle was about to begin, Hera seduced him and subsequently put him to sleep with the help of Hypnos, whom she bribed with one of the Graces. A perfectly logical and very human explanation.

The story gets much more interesting in the last five books. The Olympian gods entered into the fray and the effect is sometimes like watching WWE SmackDown:

“Bloody Ares lunged at it now with giant lance
and Athena backed away, her powerful hand hefting
a boulder off the plain, black, jagged, a ton weight
that men in the old days planted there to make off plowland ---
Pallas hurled that boundary-stone at Ares, struck his neck,
loosed his limbs, and down he crashed and out over seven acres
sprawled the enormous god and his mane dragged in the dust.”

Or maybe an episode of Super Friends :

“How do you have the gall, you shameless bitch,
to stand and fight me here?
….
But since you’d like a lesson in warfare, Artemis,
just to learn, to savor how much stronger I am
when you engage my power ---“

The gods are “deathless”, so you know that there won’t be any lasting harm from their catfight, but the cost of battle to all too mortal men is heavy indeed. This was a time when war was as elemental as they come: no mercy was shown to the enemy on the battlefield, save one that pertained to a warrior’s honor, which was to be buried with full honors by his family and comrades. When mighty, “stallion-breaking” Hector finally succumbed to Achilles in a strangely anticlimactic duel, his father Priam went to Achilles’ camp and

“kneeling down beside Achilles, clasped his knees
and kissed his hands, those terrible, man-killing hands
that had slaughtered Priam’s many sons in battle.”

Troy’s old king begged for his son’s body, and in the magnificent, poignant last book, Homer showed us the real cost of war, both on the vanquished and the triumphant. By the will of the gods, Achilles’ death would soon follow: his destiny was ultimately no different from the rest of tragic humanity, fated to suffer and die by callous, immoral gods for causes that were entirely beyond their ken.

“So the immortals spun our lives that we, we wretched men
live on to bear such torments ---“
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
January 6, 2019
3½ stars

Two mysteries were solved by my finally finishing The Iliad.

1) It is so obvious why these Ancient Greek stories have survived for so many years-- it's all gory violence and sex. Homer tapped into these marketing tools early.

2) I now understand why puritanical attitudes toward female sexuality developed. Pretty much everything bad that happens is caused by Helen of Troy - "slut that I am" - running off with Paris, and Hera seducing Zeus. The ancients must have read this and been like "please, girls, just... don't".

Also: It seems I may have been too harsh with Sarah J. Maas and her mist-rising, earth-shaking sex scenes. Clearly she was channeling Homer:
“The son of Cronus spoke and took his wife in his arms; and the divine earth sent up spring flowers beneath them, dewy clover and crocuses and a soft and crowded bed of hyacinths, to lift them off the ground. In this they lay, covered by a beautiful golden cloud, from which a rain of glistening dewdrops fell.”

It's taken me so long to read this because, every time I tried to start, I kept comparing it to The Odyssey, which I like much more. Odysseus's journey and encounters with creatures such as cannibal giants are very entertaining. And, when it comes down to it, I can only enjoy so many war scenes. Seeing as The Iliad is all about the Trojan War, there are a lot of war scenes.

BUT it is saved by the Greek gods. What a ridiculous bickering soap opera the Greek pantheon is. I genuinely burst out laughing multiple times. I like the Greek gods because they are so flawed and jealous and vindictive and, um, human. Hera, especially, is a piece of work. I love her. Sometimes you have to wonder what was going through the heads of Ancient Greeks when this is how they imagined their gods. From Hera calling Artemis a "shameless bitch" like something out of Mean Girls, to all the gods supporting their favourite team (Greek or Trojan) in the war like it's a damn football match.

The Iliad gets better in the last eight books. It is more of a struggle in the beginning (mainly books 4-13) because there are some pages that blend together in a stream of similar-sounding Greek and Trojan men stabbing each other with spears. Often in the nipple or buttocks, too, which seems… peculiar.

I'll stop being silly, though. It is a remarkable - if admittedly sexist - work. It's strange to think how themes and values that were important 3,000 years ago are still important today. I don't know if Homerian spoilers are a thing, but I'll just say that the one death, the death of the story can still be felt so very deeply all these years after its writing. The only thing more tragic than losing the one you love most is knowing you could have prevented it.

I was disappointed my library didn’t have the Caroline Alexander translation, which is the first English translation by a woman, but Rieu’s Translation was fantastic. Very smooth reading, unlike another recent read of mine - The Epic of Gilgamesh. I'm glad I finally read it.

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Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews9,408 followers
July 1, 2009
Pablo Picasso spent his entire life trying desperately to do something new, something unique. He moved from style to style, mastering and then abandoning both modern and classical methods, even trying to teach his trained artist's hand to paint like a child.

In 1940, four French teens and a dog stumbled upon a cave that had lain hidden for 16,000 years. Inside, they found the walls covered in beautiful drawings of men and animals. When the Lascaux caves were opened to the public, Pablo Picasso visited them, and as he stared at the prehistoric hunting scenes, was heard to remark in a despondent tone: "We have invented nothing".

The Iliad is equally as humbling to a writer, as complex, beautiful, and honest as any other work. The war scenes play out like a modern film, gory and fast-paced, the ever-present shock of death. Though some have been annoyed at how each man is named (or even given a past) before his death, this gives weight to the action. Each death is has consequence, and as each man steps onto the stage to meet glory or death, Homer gives us a moment to recognize him, to see him amidst the whirling action, and to witness the fate Zeus metes.

The psychological complexity and humanism of this work often shocked me. Homer's depiction of human beings as fundamentally flawed and unable to direct their own lives predicts existentialism. The even hand he gives both the Trojans and the Argives places his work above the later moralizing allegories of Turold, Tasso, or even Milton.

Of course, Homer's is a different world than theirs, one where the sword has not yet become a symbol for righteousness. In Homer, good men die unavenged, and bad men make their way up in the world. Noble empires fall to ravenous fire and the corpses of fresh-limbed young men are desecrated.

Fate does not favor the kind, the weak, the moral, or even the strong. Fate favors some men now, others later, and in the end, none escapes the emptiness of death. Though Homer paints some men as great, as noble and kind and brave, these men do not uphold these ideals for some promised paradise, but simply because they are such men.

There is something refreshing in the purity of the philosophy of living life for yourself and yet expecting no entitlement for your deeds. A philosophy which accepts the uncontrollable winds of fate; that when the dark mist comes across our eyes, no man knows whence he goes.

Later traditions make other claims: that the righteous will be rewarded, that the lives of good men will be good and the bad will be punished. In thousands of years of thinking, of writing, of acting, have we gained nothing but comforting, untenable ideals? Then Picasso was wrong, we have invented something, but it is only a machine which perpetuates itself by peddling self-satisfaction.

I read and enjoyed the Fagles translation, which may not be the most faithful, but strikes that oft-discussed balance between joy of reading and fidelity. He makes no attempt to translate the meter into English, which is a blessing to us. The English language does a few meters well, and Homer's is not one of them.

The footnotes were competent and interesting, though I could have stood a few more of them; perhaps I am in the minority. I also thoroughly enjoyed Knox's introductory essay. I would normally have had to research the scholarly history of the book myself, and so Knox's catch-me-up was much appreciated.
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
932 reviews17.6k followers
January 23, 2023
Everyone knows the Iliad. And everyone talks about it. But here, I only want to discuss one forgotten element of it. An element ESSENTIAL to constructing a valid modern worldview - for EACH of us.

I always avoided applying this element to my daily life. But I was wrong - so wrong.

Rei Pasa! Those two words sum it all up.

They were written by a Greek gentleman who was roughly the contemporary of Homer - Heraclitus, the ancient pre-Socratic philosopher.

Rei pasa - everything changes.

Inevitably.

As Heraclitus explains elsewhere, “You can’t step into the same river twice!” EVERYTHING is in movement.

So it is with Homer. In this epic, everything takes place In Medias Res - right, smack dab in the middle of the chaos of everyday life.

That’s where we all start in our OWN lives. And finish.

And that’s the ONLY place we’ll ever find Peace.

Now, that seems odd, doesn’t it?

And it seemed that way for me, too...

Back in 1985 I was harried to the Max by my new furiously high-powered career. I couldn’t find any place of peace in my life. That’s the year I started to find solace in Eastern philosophy and New Age Music.

Hey, with this stuff you could get blissed-out in no time! So I weakly thought.

But then the frenetic pace of the workplace sped up. And kept accelerating - all the way to retirement. I felt trapped.

By 1999 I was burning out. I was frazzled. Fried. But on an April day exactly twenty years ago I realized I had no choice but to let it all go - and give it to God.

THAT was when I really knew what In Medias Res REALLY meant.

It’s not OUR world. It’s His! Let Him do what He wants for a change - and sit back for the RIDE OF YOUR LIFE.

You’ll never experience the eternal mutability of life until you get to that point.

There’s just NO WAY - because otherwise YOU, solid, ‘unchanging’ you, are always center stage!

You have to let it go - and give it away.

Just like Achilles loses it - and becomes his Fate.

And that’s why Homer is so colossal.

There’s just no other way to peace -

At the Eye of the Storm!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.5k followers
August 20, 2021
Ἰλιάς = The Iliad, Homer

The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer.

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

Characters: Ajax, Odysseus, Helen of Troy, Menelaus, Paris, Hector, Achilles, Agamemnon, Aeneas, Sarpedon, Priam, Cassandra, Patroclus, Diomedes, Ajax Oileus, Andromache, Briseis, Hecuba, Nestor, Akhilleus.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نخست ماه ژانویه سال 1973میلادی

عنوان: ایلیاد؛ شاعر: هومر؛ مترجم: سعید نفیسی؛ تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب، 1334؛ در 720ص؛ موضوع: داستان جنگ تروا از نویسندگان یونان - سده 08پیش از میلاد

عنوان: ایلیاد؛ شاعر: هومر، مترجم: میرجلال الدین کزّازی؛ تهران، نشر مرکز، 1377؛ در 579ص؛ شابک 9643053865؛ چاپ دوم 1381؛ چاپ پنجم 1385؛ چاپ ششم 1387؛ شابک 9789643053864؛ موضوع: داستانهای کهن از نویسندگان یونانی - سده 08پیش از میلاد

اثر حماسی از «هومر»، شاعر نابینای «یونانی» است، داستان جنگ «تروا»، بخاطر ربودن «هلن»، زن زیباروی «منلاس»، یکی از فرمانروایان «یونان»، به دست «پاریس» پسر «پریام»، شاه «ایلیون (تروا)» است، خواستگاران «هلن»، باهم پیمان بسته بودند، که چنانچه گزندی به «هلن» رسید، شوی او را برای مکافات مجرم یاری دهند؛ از اینروی سپاهی بزرگ، به فرماندهی «آگاممنون»، و با حضور پهلوانانی همچون: «آشیل»، «اولیس»، «پاتروکل»، «آیاس (آژاکس) »و...؛ آراستند، و به سوی شهر «تروا» روانه شدند، تا «هلن» را از «پاریس» بازپس بگیرند؛

سپاهیان «یونان»، ده سال «تروا» را محاصره کردند، ولی با رشادتهای پهلوانان «تروا»، به ویژه «هکتور» بزرگترین پسر شاه، و برادر «پاریس»، و پشتیبانی خدایانی همچون «زئوس»، «آفرودیت»، و «آپولون» طرفی نبستند؛ در آن سالها «آشیل»، بزرگوارترین پشتوانه ی یونانیان با «آگاممنون» اختلاف داشت، جبهه را رها کرده، و در گوشه ای، به همراه یاران خویش، نبرد را تماشا میکرد؛ تا اینکه «پاتروکل» پسرعموی «آشیل»، با لباس و جنگ ابزار آسمانی «آشیل»، به نبرد رفت؛ ولی با نیرنگ «زئوس»، و دشمنی «آپولون»، و دیگر خدایان هوادار «تروا»، «پاتروکل» شکست خورد، و به دست «هکتور» کشته شد؛ «آشیل» از آن ر��یداد خشمگین شد، و اختلافش با «آگاممنون» را کنار بگذاشت، و پس از تشییع جنازه ی «پاتروکل»، به نبرد تن به تن با «هکتور» پرداخت، و او را شکست داد

سپس به جنازه ی «هکتور» بی احترامی روا داشت، و آنرا با خود به اردوگاه «یونانیان» آورد؛ «پریام» شاه «تروا»، به یاری خدایان، شبانه خود را به اردوگاه «آشیل» رساند، و با زاری از او درخواست کرد، که جنازه ی پسرش را به او برگردانند، تا بتواند مراسمی در خور بزرگی پهلوان حماسه ساز ترتیب دهد؛ پس از گفتگوی بسیار، «آشیل» پذیرفت؛

داستان «ایلیاد» اثر «هومر»، با توصیف سوزاندن «هکتور» در «تروا»، و به سوگ نشستن مردمان شهر، برای «هکتور» به پایان میرسد؛

در کتاب: «ایلیاد»، و همچنین در کتاب دیگر «هومر»: «اودیسه»، هرگز اشاره و سخنی از نحوه ی پایان نبرد «تروا»، و سرنوشت تراژیک «آشیل» نیست؛ داستانهای «اسب تروا»، در آثار نویسندگان «رومی»، همچون «ویرژیل»، و «اووید» آمده است، و افسانه ی رویین تن بودن «آشیل» و ماجرای پاشنه ی «آشیل» او را نیز، که به مرگش میانجامد، شاعر «رمی» سده ی نخست میلادی «استاتیوس»، در کتاب خود با عنوان: «آشیلید»، برای نخستین بار آراسته، و به آن داستان، پرداخته است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 28/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for jessica.
2,476 reviews29.6k followers
April 5, 2019
as a native english speaker, im not exposed to translated books very often; so this reread is the first time where i have truly comprehended the significance of a translation and how it can either make or break a story.

i first read parts of ‘the iliad’ back when i was in school and i just remember the text being very stiff and formal. it did not hold my attention at all because i couldnt understand it. but as i have come to love this story over the years (through retellings and other media), i decided to give this another try. after a lot of research, i chose this edition and translation, and i cannot stress enough how it has made all the difference.

the epic of ‘the iliad’ has its roots in oral storytelling and i am so impressed at how the flow of the language in this feels like someone is sitting next to me, personally telling me a tale about the best of greeks and their plight against the trojans. its a really neat feeling to experience such an authentic nod to homer and how he told this story, almost to the point where i feel as if i have been a part of this epics great history.

5 stars
Profile Image for leynes.
1,064 reviews2,892 followers
January 21, 2023
*SCREAMING, CRYING, THROWING UP* I wanted to make The Iliad my first book of 2023 and I did. BUT AT WHAT COST???? Nothing will ever be the same. This book changed everything. Excuse me while I go sit in a corner and SCREAM (AND CRY AND SCREAM SOME MORE).

***

HECTOR, MY LOVE (ALWAYS!), I WOULD DIE FOR YOU

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"YOU SAY YOU WANT TO DIE FOR LOVE BUT YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT DYING AND YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT LOVE!" (when i tell you i literally combusted)

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"YOU'D LET TROY BURN FOR THIS WOMAN?" (and Paris is like: "DUH" LMAO BYE YOU BLOODY FOOL)

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*screaming, crying, throwing up* ACHILLES, LEAVE MY MAN ALOOOONEEE!

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MEIN LÖWE, MEIN BÄR, MEIN ASCHITEKT, MEIN KÄÄÄMPFER Hector, bae, just stay with Andromache and all will be fine.

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Can you tell I'm nearing Book 22 of The Iliad and I am NOT READY to watch my man die?? Yes??? GOOD.

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Also what is it with Homer and Book 22???? In The Odyssey, Odysseus finally slaughters all 100+ suitors in Book 22 and I was absolutely living, and in The Iliad, the love of my life is brutually slaughtered and his body dragged through the mud??? WTF??? HOMER, CAN YOU CHILL?? BOOK 22 always wrecks me.

I'm finished with this epic now and I think I am finished with life. There's nothing left for me on this earth, let me join Hector in the House of Death. BYE!
Profile Image for Meredith Holley.
Author 2 books2,197 followers
October 13, 2012
At my college graduation, the speaker was a gruff professor. He was one of those older men whom people somewhat patronizingly describe as a teddy bear to convey the idea that while he looks like Santa Claus, they wouldn’t be surprised to see him arraigned on assault charges at the local courthouse. I liked this professor in general, and his graduation speech was a grand: warm congratulations on a crisp early-summer day. He decided to inform us, however, that anyone who had not read The Iliad and The Odyssey should not be graduating from college. I was one of those lucky (lucky?) folks, like an illiterate kid graduating from high school.

I decided to rectify the situation as soon as possible, and I spent an indefinite number of hours in the next few, sunny weeks laying in a hammock on my porch, the boy I loved commiserating with me about this wonderful book. It is a warm, sharp memory. That was mumble mumble years ago, and this summer, I thought that since I just graduated again, I would read it again. It was a good choice. Warm, summer days in the hammock with limb-chopping, flashing helms, and mountain goats rushing down the hillside.

I can’t find this quote I’m thinking of, but I’m pretty sure it’s from Beowulf, and it goes something like, “Brave men should seek fame in foreign lands.” Google does not think that quote exists, so maybe I dreamed it, which is really neither here nor there, but kind of weird. Something about that quote, about this book, and about the way this book reminds me of that quote, makes my blood beat close to my skin. I get this feeling that my heart grows too big for my ribs, and my eyeballs get tight, as though I’m going to cry. But, my heart doesn’t pound, and no tears come.

That is how this book feels to me.

This story is about what Homer doesn’t describe as much as what he does, and reading it evokes some kind of mirroring response from my body. The Iliad is the almost-death of Achilles, the almost-destruction of Troy, and reading it is an almost-panic-attack, an almost-sob. It is the absent top step in a flight of stairs. But, oh man, that flight of stairs. How do you even make that?

It’s not possible to spoil this story because Homer is always one step ahead, tripping you up about what story he’s telling. So, just because I think it’s fun (and, also because it seems kind of absurd to write a “review” of The Iliad, so I’m wandering in the dark here), I’m going to give a brief summary:

This story is about a bunch of guys fighting over some women fleshlights and jewelry. Mostly the women fleshlights. Everyone’s been at this war for nine years (sidebar: weirdly, when I read that it was nine years, I thought, “NINE YEARS? WHO WOULD FIGHT A WAR FOR THAT LONG? Oh, wait . . . .”). As you probably know, the war initially started because Paris, a Trojan, stole Helen, who was the iPhone 5 of fleshlights, from Menelaus, an Argive. The Argives are at their ships; the Trojans are in Ilium, behind the city walls. There’s lots of blood and guts and pillaging throughout.

This story, Homer clearly tells us, is about Paris and Helen’s betrayal of Menelaus, and it is about the death of Achilles. The story opens with Agamemnon, the king of the Argives, having stolen a fancy new fleshlight from Achilles, who is a child of a water nymph. Achilles refuses to continue fighting if Agamemnon is going to take his fleshlight. Then, Achilles has this beautiful, beautiful moment where he questions the very nature of fighting over fleshlights. We are all pawns in the petty squabbles of the gods.

The gods are easily my favorite parts of this story, though it is not really about them in a certain way. It is not really about them in the way that any discussion of a god is not really about the god. On the one hand, it is about how our lives are just pawns in this squabbling, incestuous, eternal Thanksgiving dinner in the sky. On the other hand, it is still about the pawns. The gods are compelling on their own, but my heart tries to escape my chest not because of their story, but because, yes, humans do live and die by some kind of petty lottery run by a rapist married to his sister. Yes. And maybe there is someone bold and wonderful in the sky, like the grey-eyed Athena, but we still live and die by the thunder of a maniacal drunk uncle. Yes, that seems true.

So, in the midst of the chopping of limbs, the shatteringly beautiful similes, death after death, and the machinations of the dysfunctional immortal family, this story is about the betrayal of Menelaus and the death of Achilles. The thing that is absolutely, hands-down the most insane about this story to me is that those two events are deeply vivid in my mind in connection to this book, but neither of them actually happens here. How is that possible?! How do you plant enough seeds about an event in a reader’s mind that when she closes a book, those seeds grow into whole, robust images about the event? My blood does that thing where it tries to get out of my skin just from thinking about that. I can picture Achilles's death so vividly, picture lying in that hammock and reading it after I graduated from college, but that never happened. Homer just planted the seeds of his death in my brain, and they grew from my constant pondering over them. Helen and Paris sailing away grew in my mind through Helen’s beautiful regrets.

This is a story that I could think about for days: Helen’s mourning, like the women I’ve seen apologize for causing their husbands’ abuse (no, you didn’t cause this); war, and the futility of killing each other, as though we are controlled by the Kardashians of the sky. What causes violence? We say women cause violence because they push our buttons, so we’re driven to maim and kill because of the betrayals and button pushing. We say that something eternal, God or the gods, cause violence because they control our fate, they appear to us as birds and as wisdom and lead us on our night-blind path of life, but they lead us erratically: drunk, hysterical drivers and us with no seat belt, so we grasp for mere survival. Homer describes those motivations for violence so beautifully.

But, ultimately I think that is all bullshit, and I think the bullshitness of it is there in this story, too. It is there in Achilles challenging Agamemnon. It is there in Achilles mourning Patroclus. Oh, Patroclus, about whom I haven’t even freaked in this review. What a shame. Anyway, though, people are not violent because we were betrayed or because of supernatural trickery. Our violence is ours; it is our choice and our responsibility. Life is barbarous and cruel around us, but that is its nature, and we can only shape ourselves through and around it. When we expect life to be gentle and obedient, we are usually doing nothing more than justifying our own cruelty. I don’t think there is an answer to any of this in The Iliad, but it is beautifully told in both the positive and negative space. It is blood-poundingly, eye-achingly told. As my professor said, everyone should read this, and if you can read it in the sun, lying in a hammock after your graduation, all the better.
Profile Image for Ines.
316 reviews185 followers
August 4, 2019
This is a must read for every italian boys and girls at school ( many years ago the ministry of education put it with Dante, and Manzoni as a fixed programm to study for all the young italians); we begin to study "Iliade" from middle then up to High school ...and then at College if you choose humanistic studies...
i will never forget my teacher at "Liceo Classico" kind of "Classical studies high school" that gifted us with brilliant lessons about Dante, Boccaccio,Petrarca, Manzoni, Omero and Virgilio and so on.... and then with our teacher for latin and ancient greek, we studied tragedies and other masterpieces translating them to italian...
The programm was so difficult that an american teacher's we met during an exchange programm, told us that what we were doing was used to be studied during the 3th year of College for classic studies in the US. Now at 43 years old, i can only say , how lucky i have been to met such persons, teachers that loved their studies and their jobs!!

( forgive me, despite my husband is american, and my kids are biligual, i continue to be a mess in written english!!)
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews6,926 followers
April 13, 2017

TROY VI: THE INVENTION OF ACHILLES

“The Classics, it is the Classics!” William Blake is said to have exclaimed, with pointed reference to Homer, “that Desolate Europe with Wars!

Blake's exclamation might not be as atrocious as it sounds at first. There might be some truth to this, a universal truth.

Significantly however, this is not how the ancients understood it. They understood war as the catastrophe that it is.

Strabo, the Roman geographer, talking about the Trojan wars, puts it thus: “For it came about that, on account of the length of the campaign, the Greeks of that time, and the barbarians as well, lost both what they had at home and what they had acquired by the campaign; and so, after the destruction of Troy, not only did the victors turn to piracy because of their poverty, the still more the vanquished who survived the war.”

It is in this spirit that I chose The Iliad as my first read for The World War I centenary read.

However, over the war-hungry centuries throughout the middle ages and right till the World Wars, this sense of the Epic was twisted by manipulating the images of Achilles & Hector - Hector became the great defender of his country and Achilles became the insubordinate soldier/officer - the worst ‘type’, more a cause for the war than even Helen herself. Of course, Achilles’ romance was never fully stripped but Hector gained in prominence throughout as the quintessential Patriot.

Precisely because of this the Blake exclamation might have been more valid than it had a right to be.

This is why there is a need to revisit the original tragic purpose of the Epic - most commentators would say that (as above) this original purpose was against ALL wars. But there is much significance to the fact that the epic celebrates the doomed fight of two extinct peoples.

The Iliad starts on the eve of war and ends on the eve of war. Of a ten year epic war, the poem focuses its attention only on a couple or so of crucial, and in the end inconclusive, weeks (for it does not end with any side victorious but with Hector’s death).

In fact, it opens with both both Hector & Achilles reluctant and extremely ambivalent towards war. And closes with both Hector & Achilles dead - by mutually assured destruction!

In that clash of the Titans, the epic defines itself and creates a lasting prophecy.

However, before we explore that we need to understand Hector & Achilles better and also the Iliad itself.

In Medias Res

The Iliad opens in medias res, as it were, as if the epic-recitation was already on its way and we, the audience, have just joined. It is part of Homer’s genius that he creates a world already in process. The art of Iliad is then the art of the entrance, the players enter from an ongoing world which is fully alive in the myths that surround the epic and the audience.

The poem describes neither the origins nor the end of the war. The epic cuts out only a small sliver of insignificant time of the great battle - and thus focuses the spotlight almost exclusively on Hector & Achilles, narrowing the scope of the poem from a larger conflict between warring peoples to a smaller one between these two individuals, and yet maintaining its cosmic aspirations. So the important question is who are Hector & Achilles and why do these two heroes demand nothing less than the greatest western epic to define and contrast them?

The Long Wait For Achilles

In Iliad, how single-mindedly we are made to focus on Hector, but all the while, the Epic bursts with an absence - that of Achilles!

After the initial skirmish with Agamemnon and the withdrawal that forms the curtain-raiser, Achilles plays no part in the events described in Books 2 through 8; he sits by his ships on the shore, playing his harp, having his fun, waiting for the promised end.

“The man,” says Aristotle in the Politics, “who is incapable of working in common, or who in his self-sufficiency has no need of others, is no part of the community, like a beast, or a god.”

Hector is the most human among the heroes of The Iliad, he is the one we can relate with the most east. The scene where Hector meets Andromache and his infant son is one of the most poignant scenes of the epic and heightened by Homer for maximum dramatic tension.



On the other hand, Achilles is almost non-human, close to a god. But still human, though only through an aspiration that the audience might feel - in identifying with the quest for kleos, translated broadly as “honor”.

‘Zeus-like Achilles’ is the usage sometimes employed by Homer - and this is apt in more ways than the straight-forward fact that he is indeed first among the mortals just as Zeus is first among the gods.

Zeus and the Gods know the future, they know how things are going to unfold.

Among the mortals fighting it out in the plains of Ilium, only Achilles shares this knowledge, and this fore-knowledge is what allows him (in the guise of rage) to stay away from battle, even at the cost of eternal honor. Fore-knowledge is what makes Achilles (who is the most impetuous man alive) wiser than everyone else.

Hector on the other hand takes heed of no omens, or signs, nor consults any astrologer. For him, famously, the only sign required is that his city needed saving - “and that is omen enough for me”, as he declares. He is the rational man. He is the ordinary man. Roused to defense.

But everything Hector believes is false just as everything Achilles knows is true - for all his prowess, Hector is as ordinary a soldier as anyone else (except Achilles), privy to no prophecies, blind to his own fate. Elated, drunk with triumph, Hector allows himself to entertain one impossible dream/notion after other, even to the extent that perhaps Achilles too will fall to him. That he can save Troy all by himself.

Hector & Achilles: The Metamorphosis

Like other ancient epic poems, the Iliad presents its subject clearly from the outset. Indeed, Homer names his focus in its opening word: menin, or “rage.” Specifically, the Iliad concerns itself with the rage of Achilles—how it begins, how it cripples the Achaean army, and how it finally becomes redirected toward the Trojans. But, it also charts the metamorphosis of Achilles from a man who abhors a war that holds no meaning for him to a man who fights for its own sake.

On the other side, it also charts how the civilized Hector, the loving family man and dutiful patriot Hector becomes a savage, driven by the madness of war.

Before that, an interlude.

The Other Life Of Achilles

One of the defining scenes of the Epic is the ‘Embassy Scene’ where a defeated Agamemnon sends Odysseus & co to entreat Achilles to return to the battle. That is when Achilles delivers his famous anti-war speech. This speech of Achilles can be seen as a repudiation of the heroic ideal itself, of kleos - a realization that the life and death dedicated to glory is a game not worth the candle.

The reply is a long, passionate outburst; he pours out all the resentment stored up so long in his heart. He rejects out of hand this embassy and any other that may be sent; he wants to hear no more speeches. Not for Agamemnon nor for the Achaeans either will he fight again. He is going home, with all his men and ships. As for Agamemnon's gifts, “I loathe his gifts!“

This is a crucial point in the epic. Achilles is a killer, the personification of martial violence, but he eulogizes not war but life - “If I voyage back to the fatherland I love, my pride, my glory dies . . . true, but the life that's left me will be long . . . “  (9.502-4)

Hector & Achilles: The Battle Royale

Notwithstanding Achilles’ reluctance and bold affirmations of life, slowly, inevitably, Homer builds the tension and guides us towards the epic clash everybody is waiting for. But though it might seem as preordained, it is useful to question it closely. The confrontation is crucial and deserves very close scrutiny. We must ask ourselves - What brings on this confrontation?

On first glance, it was fate, but if looked at again, we can see that Homer leaves plenty of room for free-will and human agency - Hector had a choice. But not Achilles - instead, Achilles' choice was exercised by Patroclus.

This calls for a significant re-look at the central conflict of the epic: it might not be Hector Vs Achilles!

Patroclus and Hector instead are the real centerpiece of the epic - Achilles being the irresistible force, that is once unleashed unstoppable. It is a no-contest. Hence, the real contest happens before.

This is because, that unleashing depended entirely on Hector and Patroclus - the two heroes who only went into battle when their side was in dire straits - to defend. Both then got caught up in the rage of battle, and despite the best of advice from their closest advisors, got swept up by it and tried to convert defense into annihilation of enemy - pursuing kleos!

It is worth noting the significant parallels between Hector and Patroclus, while between Hector and Achilles it is the contrasts that stand forth.

Hector, instead of just defending his city, surges forth and decides to burn the Achaean ships. Now, the Achaean ships symbolize the future of the Greek race. They constitute the army’s only means of conveying itself home, whether in triumph or defeat. Even if the Achaean army were to lose the war, the ships could bring back survivors; the ships’ destruction, however, would mean the annihilation—or automatic exile—of every last soldier. Homer implies that the mass death of these leaders and role models would have meant the decimation of a civilization.

Which means that the Achaeans cant escape - in effect, Hector, by trying to burn the ships is in effect calling for a fight to the death!

This decision was taken in the face of very strong omens and very good advice:

In the battle at the trench and rampart in Book Twelve, The Trojans Storm the Rampart, Polydamas sees an eagle flying with a snake, which it drops because the snake keeps attacking it; Polydamas decides this is an omen that the Trojans will lose. He tells Hector they must stop, but Hector lashes out that Zeus told him to charge; he accuses Polydamas of being a coward and warns him against trying to convince others to turn back or holding back himself.

Hector is driven on by his success to overstep the bounds clearly marked out for him by Zeus. He hears Polydamas’ threefold warning (yes, there were two other instances too, not addressed here), yet plots the path to his own death and the ruin of those whom he loves.

Thus, sadly, Hector pays no heed and surges forth. Which is the cue for the other patriot to enter the fray - for Patroclus.



And thus Hector’s own madness (going beyond success in defense) in the face of sound advice brought on a crises for Achaeans to which their prime defender and patriot, Patroclus responded - and then paralleling Hector’s own folly, he too succeeded and then went beyond that to his own death. Thus Patroclus too shows that knows no restraint in victory; his friends too warned him in vain, and he paid for it with his life. By this time Hector had no choice, his fate was already sealed. Achilles was about to be unleashed.

The most important moment in Iliad to me was this ‘prior-moment’ - when Hector lost it - when he lost himself to war fury: Hector’s first act of true savagery - towards Patroclus and his dead-body. “lost in folly, Athena had swept away their senses, “ is how Homer describes Hector and his troops at this point of their triumph.

Achilles, Unchained.

Yet, Homer gives Hector one more chance to spurn honor and save himself and diffuse/stall the mighty spirit of Achilles that had been unleashed on the battlegrounds. In his soliloquy before the Scacan gate, when he expects to die by Achilles' hand, he also has his first moment of insight: he sees that he has been wrong, and significantly enough Polydamas and his warnings come back to his mind. But he decides to hold his ground for fear of ridicule, of all things!

So even as all the other Trojans ran inside the impregnable city walls to shelter, Hector waited outside torn between life and honor (contrast this with Achilles who had chosen life over honor, the lyre over the spear, so effortlessly earlier). Hector instead waits until unnerved, until too late. And then the inevitable death comes.



Thus the Rage was unleashed by two men who tried to do more than defend themselves - they tried to win eternal honor or kleos - the result is the unleashing of the fire called Achilles (his rage) which burns itself and everything around it to the ground. What better invocation of what war means?

I ask again, what better book to read for the centenary year for The World War I?

The Last Book

The last words of The Iliad are : “And so the Trojans buried Hector, breaker of horses.”

Thus, fittingly, Homer starts with the Rage of Achilles and ends with the Death of Hector. This is very poetic and poignant, but it is time for more questions:

Again, why start and end on the eve of battle? Because that is the only space for reflection that war allows. Before the madness of the fury of war or of disaster descends like a miasmic cloud. To use Homer’s own phrase, “war gives little breathing-room”.

Thus, we end the Epic just as we began it - in stalemate, with one crucial difference - both sides’ best men are dead. The two men who could have effected a reconciliation , who had a vision beyond war, are dead.

Homer’s Prophecies

It is made very clear in The Iliad that Achilles will die under Trojan roofs and that Hector will find his doom under the shadow of the Achaean ships - or, both are to die in enemy territory.

Though Iliad leaves us with full focus on Hector’s death and funeral, there is another death that was always presaged but left off from the story - That of Achilles’ own. Why?

Achilles' death is left to the audience to imagine, over and over again, in every context as required. The saga of Hector & Achilles, of the doomed-to-die heroes, leaves one death to the imagination and thus effects a very neat prophetic function.

Once Hector committed his folly, once Patroclus rushed to his death, and once Achilles is unleashed, the rest is fixed fate, there is no stopping it. So Homer begins and ends in truce, but with destruction round the corner - as if the cycle was meant to be repeated again and again, stretching backwards and forwards in time - Troy I, Troy II, … to Troy VI, Troy VII, … where does it end?

Homer knows that the threshold is crossed, the end is nigh - even Troy’s destruction is not required to be part of the epic - with Hector’s death, the death of Ilium is nigh too and so is Achilles’ own death and past the myths, the death of the Greek civilization, and maybe of all civilization?

The epic leaves us with the real doomsday just over the horizon, horribly presaged by it, in true prophetic fashion.

The Pity of War

The pity of war is The Iliad’s dominant theme, but it uses themes such as love, ego, honor, fear and friendship to illuminate the motive forces behind war. In another ancient epic, Gilgamesh, the death of a friend prompts a quest which ends in wisdom and an affirmation of life; in The Iliad, the death of the fabled friend leads to a renunciation of wisdom and a quest for death itself! In Gilgamesh, the hero learns the follies of life and rebuilds civilization; in The Iliad, Achilles comes into the epic already armed with this knowledge and moves towards seeking death, choosing to be the destroyer instead of the creator.

The Iliad is an epic of unlearning. It mocks optimistic pretensions. In The Iliad, the participants learn nothing from their ordeal, all the learning is left to the audience.
Profile Image for Alison.
Author 3 books35 followers
August 30, 2015
I’m often kept up at night brooding on my troubles, wishing I could find some solace that would help me sleep. But now I know that the best way to keep insomnia at bay is to get out of bed, hitch up my chariot, tie the corpse of my mortal enemy to the back, and drive around for a few hours, dragging him, until I cheer up and can go back to sleep. The Iliad is unmatched, in my reading, for works that describe the bloody, ridiculous, selfish lengths people will go in order to feel better. The sticks and stones fly (and gouge out eyes, smash skulls, slash livers and veins until the blood sprays–this poem is definitely not for the squeamish), but the real weapons of the Trojan War are name-calling, cheating at games, and stealing your best buddy’s girlfriend or mixing bowl or ox. Most of the action occurs when somebody gets his feelings hurt, the baddie won’t apologize, and the sensitive one throws a fit, which can involve letting all of his friends die while he gets an olive-oil massage, or else razing a city, raping the women, and joyriding over other men’s bones. The Iliad suggests that even at its most glorious, war can be advocated only by people with the emotional lives of spoiled four-year-olds....

For more thoughts, see my post:
http://alisonkinney.com/2015/07/23/ho...
Profile Image for Lisa.
971 reviews3,331 followers
April 29, 2019
"Did you really LIKE the Iliad, mum?"

My son has just finished reading it, and his question is valid. Do you really LIKE to read line after line of gory murder, repeated endlessly from song to song?

I evaded the question, speaking of fantastic opening lines, of classic art and immense influence on other authors. And then I capitulated - a little:

"The Odyssey is much more interesting as a story!" I said.

"So you didn't like it then?"

"I liked reading it!"

And we agreed that some books just ARE. As a reader, you will want to tackle them at some point, and the rules you apply to more recent works of fiction don't count. You award yourself 5 stars for finishing, for knowing more than you did before starting. But then my son killed the Iliad with a spear as sharp as those of Homeric warriors. He compared it to Greek tragedy. And that is where I stumbled: those ARE too - but I also LIKE reading them. They are thought-provoking, exciting, and classic. Troy's fall from the perspective of Philoctetes is pure literary bliss. The Iliad is not. But it remains...
Profile Image for Fernando.
675 reviews1,042 followers
April 16, 2021
"¡Oh amigos! ¡Sed hombres, mostrad que tenéis un corazón esforzado y avergonzaos de parecer cobardes en el duro combate! De los que sienten este temor, son más los que se salvan que los que mueren; los que huyen ni alcanzan gloria, ni entre sí se ayudan."

La Ilíada, este inmortal poema épico griego que la historia de la literatura le atribuye a Homero (comentaré esto más adelante), es un libro sobre la guerra, pero que también habla de una época, en la que Troya o Ilión es el campo de batalla donde se pone de manifiesto la perfecta conjunción de dioses, héroes y hombres, quienes luchan a la par y en distintos planos, como el terrenal y el del Olimpo.
Este es un libro que habla sobre la cólera de Aquiles y la bravura de Héctor y nos involucra rápidamente como testigos de traiciones y alianzas tanto entre los dioses del Olimpo como en los pueblos guerreros que combaten entre sí, puesto que los dioses apoyan tanto a teucros como a aqueos y sobre ellos inclinan la balanza alterándoles sus destinos, insuflándoles valor o aconsejándolos al punto ante una maniobra o proceder inadecuado. Los héroes, conscientes de sus destinos afrontan con honor y hombría lo que los dioses les imponen sin discusión.
Estas acciones están claramente narradas en un capítulo previo al recrudecimiento de la guerra, casi en su etapa final cuando Homero nos dice: "Así habló el Cronida y promovió una gran batalla. Los dioses fueron al combate divididos en dos bandos: encamináronse a las naves Hera, Palas Atenea, Poseidón, que ciñe la tierra, el benéfico Hermes de prudente espíritu, y con ellos Hefesto, que, orgulloso de su fuerza, cojeaba arrastrando sus gráciles piernas; y enderezaron sus pasos a los troyanos Ares, el de tremolante casco, el intenso Febo Apolo, Artemisa, que se complace en tirar flechas, Leto, el Janto y la risueña Afrodita."
Más allá de que el rapto de Helena de Troya por Paris, hermano de Héctor desencadene la guerra, aunque esta ya estaba esta ya dispuesta por los mismos dioses (algo que anticipaba ya Hesíodo en su Teogonía). Es que es un conflicto ineludible porque así está escrito y efectivamente desencadenará en un enfrentamiento que durará diez años.
La tan famosa cólera de Aquiles, que se desdobla en dos partes: la de su enemistad con Agamenón por apropiarse este de Briseida, una doncella tomada como botín de guerra y por otro lado la muerte de su queridísimo amigo y escudero Patroclo a manos de un capitán licio, con remate de Héctor y ayuda del dios Ares.
Es llamativa y sugerente esta "cólera" de Aquiles ante la muerte de Patroclo. A mí, personalmente, me hizo pensar que Patroclo oficia prácticamente como amante de Aquiles, puesto que es llamativo que haya varios capítulos que hablan del llanto, la pena y el duelo que Aquiles realiza sobre Patroclo, además de los interminables funerales y exequias que a este le dedica.
Pensemos esto: si el primer hexámetro del poema comienza diciendo: "Canta, oh diosa, la cólera del Pelida Aquiles; cólera funesta que causó infinitos males a los aqueos y precipitó al Hades muchas almas valerosas de héroes, a quienes hizo presa de perros y pasto de aves -cumplíase la voluntad de Zeus- desde que se separaron disputando el Atrida, rey de hombres, y el divino Aquiles.", esto evidencia claramente que la hecatombe que viviremos a través de las casi 500 páginas del libro responden a una simple "vendetta" de Aquiles por la muerte de su amadísimo amigo, arrastrando consigo a cuanto guerrero, rey, dios o mujer se encuentre en su camino. Son muchas las muertes que desencadena esta cólera. Es incluso llamativo que los dioses del Olimpo acepten todo este lío.
Además, si uno presta atención al desarrollo de la historia, Aquiles aparece al principio del mismo y luego, enfurruñados por sus demonios internos, desaparece para retornar casi al final del libro, cuando vuelve a la batalla para vengar a Patroclo sobre Héctor. Espero que los fieles lectores de Homero no se sientan ofendidos por este comentario ¡(y que la furia de los dioses griegos no caiga sobre mí!).
Los personajes de la Ilíada son numerosos. Son tantos que cuando el aedo (así le llamaban a los bardos helénicos en su época) narra las hazañas personales de Héctor, Aquiles, Idomeneo, Diomedes o Ajax Telamonio lo hace enumerando decenas de nombres. Son tantos que perdí la cuenta y me pregunto por qué no los anoté. Me atrevería a decir que supera los 559 nombres que Tolstói creó en "La Guerra y la Paz".
Otro detalle interesante son los atributos que Homero le da tanto a dioses como a héroes (Aquiles, "el de los pies ligeros", Apolo "el que hiere de lejos", Zeus "el que nubes reúne", Hera "la de brazos nevados", etc.), esto hace que al atribuirle al personaje características divinas o heroicas lo eleve por sobre los otros de menor linaje o jerarquía. Es un detalle que me agradó sobremanera.
La descripción de las batallas, el realismo, la sangre y la violencia, no lograron convencerme mucho. Se tornan un tanto repetitivas sus descripciones y hipérboles. Recuerdo la forma tan vívida en la que Virgilio relata las de la Eneida y siento que son más reales aún, pero esto es una cuestión más relacionada a la traducción realizada que a los gustos personales.
Los personajes en el libro son variados, como también los son así sus influencias, actitudes y predominancia para la historia. A mí me agradó mucho encontrarme por el lado de los teucros, lisios y dárdanos a Héctor, el del casco brillante, Eneas (personaje principal de la Eneida de Virgilio, uno de mis libros preferidos, que continúa la caída de Troya), Paris, Sarpedón, Polidamante y Agenor. Por el otro lado descubro a aqueos, dánaos y mirmidones y entre ellos a Aquiles, el de las grebas hermosas, a Ulises (quien continuará esta historia en la Odisea), al bravo Menelao, hermano de Agamenón, al intrépido Diomedes, a Ajax Telamonio (valiente guerrero al que ningún dios ayuda) y al polémico Agamenón, parte clave de la historia y que junto a la Odisea, lo narra Esquilo en otro regreso después de la guerra, junto con la Orestíada.
Muy interesante fue leer este poema épico en el otro plano, el de los dioses, puesto que se desarrolla casi a la par el mismo conflicto, ya que, como cito anteriormente, cada dios apoya a quien más quiere. Es fundamental la intervención de Hera, Palas Atenea, Febo Apolo, Ares, Poseidón y Afrodita en la contienda, puesto que hasta entre ellos mismos batallan, causándose graves heridas. Los veo como dioses falibles, demasiado humanos y más notoriamente en Zeus, ya que por momentos, el viejo Crónida es perverso, muy parcial y protector de Héctor, y en otros manipulador e incluso terco y obstinado. De hecho es necesario que por momentos su esposa Hera lo engañe o le haga entrar en razón ante acontecimientos demasiado desfavorables e injustos para con los aqueos.
Por último, me hago una pregunta. ¿Fue realmente Homero quien relató los poemas en forma oral? Me apoyo en la teoría de algunos especialistas que aseguran que fueron varios los aedos que contaban al pueblo la epopeya griega de la Ilíada y la Odisea a partir de distintas historias. Me resulta difícil creer que un hombre complemente ciego pueda narrar con tanto lujo de detalle los ornamentos de los guerreros, la descripción de los dioses, la violencia de las batallas, los ríos, el Olimpo, todo lo que sucede en los mares que surca Ulises en la Odisea, etc. Es más, estoy de acuerdo con que pueda haber dictado los poemas a los que después lo habrían relatado en público, aumentando la cantidad de detalles. Porque no estamos hablando de un Jorge Luis Borges o John Milton quienes quedaron ciegos ya entrados en años sino de un hombre que fue privado de su visión toda su vida.
Pero, por otro lado digo: ¡quién soy yo para cuestionar a semejante poeta! No soy nada más que un simple lector, un gotita de agua en ese vasto océano que es la literatura, que se apasiona con los heroicos versos que narran las hazañas de Aquiles, Héctor, Ulises y tantos héroes y dioses, gracias a la eterna gloria de Homero, uno de los padres de las letras más ilustres.
Profile Image for Araz Goran.
812 reviews3,430 followers
October 5, 2021
الالياذة وهوميروس يجعلان منك طفلاً صغيراً تتحدث مع نفسك طيلة ايام قراءة الملحمة تمارس الهلوسة الهوميرية بكل جنونها، تستفيق هواية المعارك في مخيلتك، تتحمس، تغضب،تشارك بعقلك وانفعالاتك، تبكيك مشاهد مصرع الابطال، تلهبك ساحة المعارك المكتظة بصليل السيوف وتدافع الاجساد المتعطشة للدماء والمجد قبل كل شئ، يتلاعب بك هوميروس كيفما يشاء هو وآلهته الخالدة وأبطاله شبه المجانين ، يرتحل بك في العالم القديم في بلاد الاغريق، في طروادة، في معبد دلفي، في جبال الاولمبوس.. نادر أن تشعر بالغربة وأنت تقرأ في الملحمة نادراً ما تجد نفسك بعيداً هناك، لم يكن من الجيد أن تقوم بإخفاء نفسك خلف جدران طروادة العظيمة، لم يكن لك الحق في التخلي عن المعركة ،فهنا إما أن تكون أو لا تكون، هيكتورياً أو مواكباً لغضبة " أخيليوس " سريع القدم المتدثر دائماً بلباس الحرب والغضب معاً، لقد ولد مع الغضب وارتحل مع جنونه اينما حل.. حينما سمع بمقتل " باتروكلوس " كاد أن يجز رقبته بخنجره لولا أن قبض على يديه ومنعه إبن نيستور الحكيم..



صراع محتدم بدأ بإختطاف الجميلة "هيلينا" من أرض الاغريق على الكسندروس "بارس" ذاك الشقي الذي جلب الويلات لبلاده الذي وصفه هيكتور ذاته مرة " ايها المعتوه، ليت الارض قد بلعتك من قبل أن ترى النور في مدينة برياموس" ..أتفق أن باريس كان هواياً للنساء مفتونا بجماله ومحباً لهذا النوع من المغامرات التي تدفعه نفسه إلى خطف النساء والرجوع بهن إلى طروداة كـ سبيات وأسيرات في قصره، لم يخطر أنه قد جلب الوبال على شعبه قد تسبب في هلاك أمته ومحوها من خريطة العالم حين أفتتن بـ " هلينيا" الجميلة زوجة مينلاؤس شقيق الملك أجامنون، إختطفها من القصر وأبحر بها إلى طروادة لتصبح محظية له هناك..
ما أن أدرك مينلاؤس ذلك الذي حدث حتى قام بتحفز أخيه على تجهيز العدة وشن غارة على طروادة التعيسة، أجابه شقيقه إلى ذلك بل وأجتمع جميع قبائل وملوك وسادة الاغريق على مشاركة الحملة الساعية أولاً لأرجاع زوجة مينلاؤس وثانياً نهب كنوز طروادة التي كانت ذائعة الصيت في مقدار كنوزها وغناها التي كانت تتباهى بها في العالم القديم..
وصل المدد من كل مكان واحتشدت القوات الاخيبة والدانائيين مجتمعين لبدء الحملة والسطو على طروادة المجيدة معقل هكتور ومن قبل ذلك برياموس ذلك الشيخ الهرم حبيب الالهة.. بعد تسع سنوات من الابحار ومكابدة العناء كما تصف الملحمة، وصلت الحشود العظيمة يتقدمها أجاممنون الملك بنفسه ومع شقيقه المترف الأحزان، وسيد الغضب والقتال سريع القدم كما يصفه هوميروس " أخيليوس " أو أخيل البطل الاغريقي الخالد الساغي دائماً وراء المجد وتحطبم اسوار المدن العتيقة والابنية الشاهقة على رؤوس اصحابها وسبي اجمل نساء البلاد الاخرى.. أخيليوس الذي لم يداهمه يوماً الشبع من قتل الابطال في صيحات القتال ولا منازلة الجبابرة وسحقهم في مشاهد درامية كثيرة، كان آخرها مع هكتور صاحب طروادة..
أخيليوس هناك جالساً في خيمته غاضباً تغني إلهة الشعر نفسها في وصف عنفوان غضبه، يصب اللعنات على اليوم الذي قرر فيه الابحار ومقاتلة اهل طروادة، ذلك لم يكن بسبب تلك المحظية التي قرر اجاممنون أن يبقيها لنفسه، خريسئيس الفاتنة التي عشقها أجاممنون وتمرد على بطله اخيليوس وانتزع تلك الجميلة من بين ذلك الاسد الهائج المسمى أخيليوس..
أخيليوس وحيوان الغضب في داخله تحولا إلى جبل لا يتزحح قرر فيها أن يترك الآخيين ليواجهوا مصيرهم في مواجهة الطرواديين الذي كانوا يتلهفون لمثل هذا النزاع المؤدي إلى فصل اكبر قوة عن ميدان ابناء الاغريق، الذي قرروا ان يواصلوا الحرب بدونه..



تلك الغضبة هي التي تأسست عليها الإلياذة - اي غضبة أخيليوس - وهي التي كانت البداية لكتابة هذه الملحمة الخلابة.. والتي مطلعها :-



" غّنِ لي يا ربة الشعر عن غضبة أخيليوس بن بيليوس المدمرة، التي ألحقت بالآخيين مآسي تفوق الحصر ، ودفعت إلى العالم الآخر (هاديس -العالم السفلي) بأرواح الكثيرين من الابطال البواسل ،بينما جعلت من أجسادهم لقمة سائغة للكلاب وكل أنواع الجوارح، وهكذا تحققت مشيئة زيوس ، غّنِ ممن جاءت هذه الغضبة بادئة من حيث أخذ الشقاق بين (أجاممنون) ملك الرجال وبين أخيليوس (شبيه الآلهة) ... من مِن بين الآلهة هو ذلك الذي دفع الأثنين إلى الصراع فيما بينهما.. أنه (أبوللون) الوضاء، فهو الذي أدى غضبه إلى انتشار الطاعون المشؤوم بين المقلتلين وإلى هلاك الرجال "




ما أن بدأت بقراءة هذا الأبيات الأولى حتى شعرت بألفة غريبة تجاه ما أقرأ وكأنها منحوتة لتبقى خالدة وعصية على النسيان وعلى ظهر الحياة تدب كلماتها ورونقها الساحر الملئ بالمتناقضات والجنون، مساحة كبيرة من الخيال والشغف تمنحها لك الأبيات الأولى وهي تقنتص عمداً مخيلة القارئ للذهاب بعيداً جداً حيث لا وجود إلا لتلك الثلة من الأبطال والمدن الحصينة والسفن المقوسة التي تحمل على ظهرها ذلك العدد الهائل من المقاتلين المطالبين بالمجد، تلك السفن السائرة في ضباب البحر ومشاهد الغروب الخالدة..



وكم كان قلب أخيليوس قاسياً حينها وهو يجدف في حق أصحابه هناك ويتركهم سريع القدم وهم يُقتلون على يد هيكتور أبن برياموس وبقية الطرواديين، صرخات نيستور الحكيم تملأ ساحة القتال منادياً بالويل على من ينسحب من المعركة ويذكرهم بالمجد في كل حين،أجاممنون في حالة الغضب والرثاء وهو يشاهد حشود الطرواديين متقدمة نحو سفن الآخيين منذرة بإحراق السفن نفسها.. أوديسيوس ربيب الآلهة يصيد أرواح الطرواديين برحمهه الذي لا زال يخترق الأجساد الطروادية، الثنائي أياس يتضرعان للآلهة أن لا يمنح النصر للطرواديين، ومازالت رماح الآخيين تنحرف عن مسارها بإرادة " زيوس " الذي لم يكن يأبه لتلك التضرعات الذي قدمها أجاممنون ومن قبله نيستور الحكيم ولا للقرابين التي تم ذبحها لهذا الإله القاسي الذي مكن الطرواديين من الغلبة في الكثير من الجولات حتى كاد أجاممنون أن يعلن الانسحاب نحو السفن خوفاً من إحراق السفن المقوسة والوقوع في شرك أعدائهم، لولا يقظة الثنائي أياس الذين استبسلا للدفاع عن السفن والذود عن آخر ما تبقى من المعنويات للآخيين المتمركزين عند السفن، نقطة التحول حدثت عندما هب باتروكلوس يحض أخيليوس على القتال ويذكره بمآل الاغريق الذي سيكون بشعاً على يد الثائرين من اهل طروادة ومن خلف بعض الآلهة التي كانت ترغب في سحق الجيش الاغريقي.. باتروكلوس حاول ان يسكن غضبة اخيليوس، لم يستطيع ذلك الشقي ان يفعل شيئاً سوى يتدرع بدرع اخيليوس ويواجه حشود الطرواديين وحده..



ولقد علم اخيليوس هنالك معنى الالم معنى الغضب لأول مرة، معنى الفناء، معنى العدم، معنى الخواء، معنى ان تفقد كل شئ لأجل لا شئ.. معنى أن تكون محبطاً حتى من نفسك، من يقينك انك قد عاينت احزان العالم في قلبك، استجواب ذرات الحقيقة الخافتة التي تنادي بك إلى العالم الفاني.. لم يكن غضباً بل حزناً دفيناً وكأنه كان يعلم أن الايام تخبئها له وهو على أرض طروادة.. أخيليوس تمزق هناك ومزق ماحوله..




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هذه الملحمة أستطيع أن أقول من أجمل ما قرأت وما سأقرأ حتى، تحفة أدبية مذهلة حقاً وهي تحكي تلك الأحداث بصورة مشوقة ساحرة عصية على الادراك أنها كلمات مجردة ،كأنها أستخرجت من بئر الجمال القابع في سحر هذا العالم كله.. مذهلة تبقى هذه الملحمة في مخليتي صعبة النسيان والتأليف مرة أخرى.... عاطفي تلقائي غريب ساحر بارع .. ليست مجاملة بل هي حقيقة، بل وقطرة ساكنة من بحر جمال هذه الرائعة الانسانية..



وأدرك تماماً أن لو اجتمع ممثلوا وفنانوا العالم على أن يجسدوا هذه الملحمة على أرض الواقع أو كلوحة أو لما استطاعوا إلى ذلك سبيلا..



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من الملاحظ عدد الشخصيات في الملحمة كبير جداً جداً لا يمكن حصرها ، أسماء كثيرة لمقاتلين وآلهة وأبطال معظمها تأتي كشخصيات هامشية لا وزن لها في عملية بناء الملحمة ،إن هي إلا مجرد ورقة يلقي بها هوميروس في صيحة الحرب فأما أن تتعرض للقتل مباشرة بعد ذكرها وهو غالباً مايحدث، أو أنها تتعرض للنسيان من قبل هوميروس وكما قال النقاد " أن هوميروس كان يغفو أحياناً أثناء تأليفه للملحمة " ، ومن الجدير بالذكر أن هناك شخصية تعرضت للقتل في بداية المعارك التي أشتعلت بين الطرواديين والدانائيين ثم ذُكر بعد ذلك وهو يقاتل ثانية في صيحة الحرب وللسوء حظه قُتل مجدداً .. ذلك ما يضفي في رأيي جواً من البراءة والغرابة في القصة وكأنها تجري خارج حدود الزمن.. ونصيحة لا تحفظ إلا أسماء الشخصيات الرئيسية في الملحمة وإلا سيختلط عليك الشخصيات ويصيبك نوع من الملل تجاه الكتاب، تابع دائماً ولا تهتم، جمال الملحمة في الاستمرارية ومواكبة جنون وحالات هذيان هوميروس..




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يكفي أن أقول أن الترجمة التي قرأتها لا توجد كلمات تصف مدى اتساقها وجمالها وأبداعها الادبي والذوق الرائع في إختيار المفردات والجمل وعمق حقيقي في الترجمة، المترجم أحمد عتمان ومعه عدد من المترجين الآخرين قضوا سنوات عدة ليخرجوا بهذه الطلة البهية الراقية، من أجمل الترجمات التي قرأتها، يستحق الثناء والتقدير والشكر لهذا المجهود الجبار الذي هو بالفعل تحفة لا يقدرها إلا أصحاب الذوق الأصيل في الأدب..



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ليست مراجعة هي تلك التي كتبتها، بل مجرد خواطر عن الكتاب راق لي أن أضيفها هنا..
Profile Image for emma.
1,781 reviews42.7k followers
Want to read
August 8, 2022
i like to pretend that someday i'll reread the million-page classics i half-read in school
Profile Image for Zain.
1,288 reviews117 followers
June 24, 2022
The Achilles!

Oh, Achilles! Achilles! You steal every scene that you are in. You have made this my favorite poem of all time (and I love others).

Your reputation for being stubborn, arrogant and hateful are conveniently brushed aside, precisely because the people that you kill are as misogynistic, brutal and violent as you.

But you have your saving graces. You are humorous, but never humble. You are intelligent, but also ignorant and you are majestic as well as manly ( I don’t think of that as a positive).

So the poem of a war between Greek and Trojan heroes is finished. Good night, to you.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
670 reviews1,025 followers
March 22, 2018
Read as part of my degree and as part of my love of classics, however it didn't compare to The Odyssey which I adored - possibly due to the lack of mythological creatures and rather more battles and lists of ships and names, which made it that much harder to struggle through. Still a great read as one of the original classics but I would choose The Odyssey over the Iliad anytime.
Profile Image for Adina.
777 reviews2,946 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
September 23, 2019
Last year I attended a conference where one of the speakers stated that literature starts with Homer. I love to read so I thought that maybe I should see what the fuss is about with the cradle of the written word. I do not like poetry but I said that maybe it is time to learn how to appreciate it. Well, it didn't go well. I appreciate its worth but It was a chore to read and I had to stop after 100 pages or so. No more epic poems for me.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
504 reviews360 followers
October 7, 2022
The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem by Homer, which presents his interpretation of the events that took place during a few weeks of the tenth and final year of the Trojan War. Homer's tale of the Trojan War runs from the time of Achilles's falling out with the Greek King, Lord Agamemnon, and shunning from the war to the time when he re-enters it and kills the Trojan hero, Hector, to avenge the death of his friend and companion, Patroclus.

After my reading of The Odyssey, I felt I need to revisit The Iliad. The thought that I might not have fully appreciated it kept on nagging me. I first read a prose version, but this time I resorted to the poetic translation done by Alexander Pope. And I have to confess that the result was surprising. Not only I understood it well, but I also came to fully appreciate the extent of Homer's artistry. In this new light, I'm obliged to amend my former review to express my truest thoughts on this amazing classic.

In my first read, I've misunderstood the role of Gods. I thought that they dictated and interfered unjustly in the men's war and hindered their valor. But after my reread, I now understand it was fate that governed it all, and that the Gods' role was to facilitate the course of fate. Of course, the Gods supported their chosen camp, some siding with the Greeks, who they believed to have been injured by the treachery of Paris of Troy, and others siding with the Trojans, for their faithful reverence of mighty Olympian Gods. But not any of them, not even the all-powerful Zeus could alter what the fate decreed on the mortal men. When I understood fully the role of God, men, and fate, I was able to view the whole thing through new eyes and appreciate and enjoy the tale for its true worth.

The Iliad is a tragedy. The main themes of this tragic tale are honour, loyalty, glory, and revenge. It was not the pleasantest read. Too much importance is given to the descriptions of gruesome details of war. The dramatic quality with which Homer has knitted his poem made so vivid a portrayal of battle scenes and horrific deaths that I found many passages hard to stomach. At the same time, I couldn't help admiring the ability of Homer to draw such realistic pictures through his finesse writing. And even more, I could sense the fury of men of both camps as they lunged at each other with their weapons drawn; I could hear their war cries. I could also hear the sound of the wheels of the chariots taking the warriors to the battle, the clanging of the weapons, and the groans and moans of the dead. It was truly more than a reading experience.

The narrator of the tale, while taking us through the present events, also fills in the gaps of the past and makes predictions for the future. This method of recounting the story gives a complete picture of the tale, although in the strictest sense the poem only describes a few weeks of the final year of the Trojan War. The writing is quite descriptive. Whether it is a battle scene, weapons, the general setting, or characters (both men and God), nothing has escaped Homer's minutest scrutiny. Even the pedigree of each of the characters is described! Although these details are quite overwhelming at times, they nevertheless are helpful to understand the story better.

It is amazing that how this epic poem, which is said to have written in the 7th or 8th centuries BC (or BCE), has fascinated and keeps on fascinating generations of readers. That in itself is proof of the true mastery of its author. When all things are considered, it is a little wonder that Homer is regarded as the pioneer of the Western Classic.

A word must be said about the translation. Personally, I think it is one of the best. As the translator himself has said, the essence of a translation is to capture the true spirit of the work which he translates without being too much burdened with the strict accuracy of the meaning. When compared with the first translation I've read and my respective response with my present perception, I quite see the wisdom of Pope. It is the spirit that matters.
Profile Image for Jonathan O'Neill.
153 reviews295 followers
May 6, 2022
”The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad, is force. Force as man’s instrument, force as man’s master, force before which human flesh shrinks back. The human soul, in this poem, is shown always in its relation to force.” - Simone Weil (L’Iliade ou le poème de la Force)

***SPOILERS AHEAD (If it's possible to spoil arguably the best-known story in history, 3000 years after its creation... You can never be too careful)***

Hear me fellow bookworms, children of Zeus whose shield is thunder, lords of the war cry, noble charioteers, those who are a match for Ares! Readers of words, flippers of pages, inserters of… of bookmarks! For I, breaker of chains, Father of Dragons, straddler of donkeys, purveyor of nonsense; have a few words of laughably little importance to say about this cornerstone of Greek Mythology.

The Iliad was most likely composed somewhere between the late 8th and early 7th centuries BC (725-675 – They lose track of evidence around 700BC). The first known printed version dates back to 1488 meaning it was likely passed on orally and then copied by hand for about 2200 years! Bernard Knox, the man responsible for the introduction in Robert Fagle’s translation, covers some interesting historical questions about the text. Offering several different standpoints, in a respectably objective manner, Knox discusses opposing views on the original nature of the poem: Was it written or oral? Was Homer illiterate? Was it an individual effort at all or, in fact, the sewing together of many smaller works from different authors into one cohesive whole? Much of the Chinese philosophical texts were believed to have gone through a similar process of compiling and editing over time with the existence of the great Lao Tzu often met with scepticism and the Analects of Confucius of course not being the writings of the man himself but of his pupils. Knox himself draws parallels to other patchwork epics like the Finnish Kalevala and the French medieval epic, La Chanson de Roland.

Readers who are particularly new to classic epic poetry may note (Read: do note; established by reading a number of GR reviews) the long, epic titles at every introduction of an important character (“ornamental epithets”), as in my first paragraph. These are hallmarks of oral epic poetry. The heavy repetition of such epithets, along with repeated analogies (looking at you Lion/Wolf/Defenceless Goatherd) cannot be justly criticised as it was a deliberate mechanism allowing the poet to improvise, with choice of epithet dictated by the meter. Recurring passages gave poets time to focus on the upcoming scene. I’m unsure whether the quirky 2-line obituaries following even the most irrelevant character’s deaths can be included here as they tended to be specific to each character. It’s almost as though it was an attempt to get you to care about a character despite their death being the first time you’d ever heard of them. I’d put this down more to the importance placed on lineage than any poetic strategy. In any case, if you compare ‘The Iliad’ to something like ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, the verbatim repetition is actually not remotely as severe and has a much wider variation.


War, war and more war is what you can expect to find in the pages of the Iliad. At surface level you could be forgiven for thinking it might’ve been written by two brothers, in their early adolescence, trying to outdo each other with the addition of blood, gore and masculine bravado. Characters exchange blustering taunts, the likes of which you’d find on a football field; 70% of the book is just brothers-in-arms haranguing one another for their perceived cowardice; there are spears penetrating skulls, cut off tongues, disembowelment, it’s all very OTT and not in the least bit pretty, but then again, neither’s war!

There are a number of bizarre occurrences and non-sensical events. At one stage, Aeneas and Achilles stop, in the middle of a battlefield, for a prolonged d and m, and a leisurely exchange of life stories. In at least two cases, that of Diomedes/Glaucus and Hector/Ajax, two enemy fighters are set to engage in battle but instead end up discussing each other’s lineages, exchanging gifts and agreeing to a pact of friendship! I was left thinking, “I don’t wanna spoil this lovely moment guys, but your respective comrades are literally tearing each other to pieces all around you!!”
Equally, the idea that Menelaus and Paris could’ve settled the dispute between themselves is absurd. The Achaeans and their allies travelled 10 years to get to Troy! Regardless of the result of one-on-one combat, they’re not exactly just going to turn around and go home are they! It’s kind of a “Well, we’re here now so may as well sack the city!” type scenario.


Peculiarities aside, The Iliad hits a sound note with its contrast between reality (the ugly brutality of war) and delusion (the glorification of war) . Courage and Bravery are most coveted traits by Achaeans and Trojans alike (how easily stupidity and recklessness can be misinterpreted) and its through brave acts and courageous deeds that heroes are born, a God’s favour is found, and names are written into the history books. This foolish glorification of War, however, is at odds with the ugly narrative of the Trojan War in which men can often seem inherently cowardly and Gods pull all the strings. We’re led to question whether supposed “heroes” are ever acting of their own free will or if their courage and power (force) is all just a matter of divine intervention; Zeus and his dysfunctional family playing just another trivial game of ‘Risk – Trojan War Edition’. Homer’s opinion seems clear, we’re all most certainly subject to the whims of the Gods/the Forces at play. Any individual excellence is stripped from men as the God’s bless who they will with skill and strength, those they have fathered/mothered, those that offer the largest and most prolific sacrifices in their names, those they pity; while condemning those that have slighted them, however mildly, or perhaps those who remind them of their own partner’s infidelity (*cough* Hera).

In the end, I think Hector is the greatest example of the role the Gods play in Homer’s Iliad. The “bravest” of the Trojans by far throughout the poem, the breaker of horses, dripping head to toe in glory, an unstoppable force with Gods always at his side, whispering words of encouragement; but in the end, when all the Gods, even Zeus, are nowhere to be found and he must stand to face the mighty Achilles man-to-man, mano-a-mano, he loses his nerve (the nerve clearly instilled by the Gods) and runs for his life, 3 times around Priam’s walls!

”My son stood and fought for the men of troy and their deep-breasted wives with never a thought of flight or run for cover.” - Hecuba
….Um? Yeah, ok…


One last point I’d like to touch on is the Friends/Lovers “controversy” regarding Achilles and Patroclus. I don’t feel particularly strongly about it either way but having now completed it and read reviews of both ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Song of Achilles’ I’m a bit taken back by some of the aggressive reactions towards any adaptation of the Iliad, screen or print, that portray them as heterosexual. I’m left scratching my head and wondering, seeing as the heavily opinionated reviews are for ‘The Song of Achilles’, how many of these people have actually read ‘The Iliad’ and how many just enjoy getting on board the outrage train! I just really dislike this modern pandemic that is false public displays of self-righteousness by uninformed people! The irony of that is that I may be historically uninformed myself however, to me, there is nothing in this text that suggests, unequivocally, that they are in a romantic relationship. It is most definitely open to that interpretation, and I welcome it (I look forward to reading TSOA myself), but could we perhaps not unjustly (in my opinion) villainise those who don’t interpret it the same way?


In closing, I very much enjoyed my reading of this seminal classic; it took me a while to get through but that’s nothing to do with the quality of the text (even if it was, who am I to say?), but more to do with a little baby girl suddenly appearing in my house! Hoping to get through, at the very least, ‘The Odyssey’, ‘The Homeric Hymns’ and ‘Hesiod’s Theogony’ in 2022 and then I’ll take it from there. Happy reading!


”Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men.
Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,
Now the living timber bursts with the new buds
And spring comes round again. And so with men:
As one generation comes to life, another dies away.”
Profile Image for Scott.
287 reviews289 followers
November 9, 2016
After reading The Illiad I faced a quandary- how do you review one of the most important and enduring works of creativity in human history? What can you say that hundreds of thousands of others haven't?

My answer to this question is that I must join the chorus of those who have come before me and sing the praises of what is one of the best stories I have ever read, as fascinating and gripping now as it no doubt was when it was penned nearly three millennia ago.

There are many reasons why this book has endured. It is a story of love, hate, vengeance, fate, pettiness, grief and war, bloody and prolonged war - a microcosm of human life and the furies that drive us to excess.

You know the story. Paris steals Helen away to Troy. Agamemnon and the Greeks raise and army and lay seige to that great city. Achilles, the greatest warrior history has ever seen, fights and dies, a poison arrow embedded in his ankle. The Greeks roll a massive wooden horse up to Troy's gates, and the war ends in trickery and massacre.

You know all this, but trust me, you don't know it the way The Illiad tells it. This is a glorious read, the brutal blows and shrieks of war leap from the page, and the human passions that drive the protaganists are vivid and compelling. You will read this book and wonder at how something from another time, translated from it's original tongue, can so totally enthrall a modern reader.

It's powerful, heady stuff.

So many images from this story are carved into my synapses. Hector and Achilles stalking the battlefield like avatars of death, scything down opponents in their tens. Priam begging Achilles for the return of his son's mangled body. Heroes cut down mid-fight, their souls headed for the underworld, their deaths mourned even by the gods on Olympus, who watch and guide the battle from above.

There are a handful of books that every reader must experience - books that are milestones in human culture. The Illiad is one of these books. I don't know how I lived more than three decades before I read it, and it makes me nostalgic for a time I never lived through, when a high school education in the classics was something that everyone received.
Profile Image for Francesc.
382 reviews190 followers
May 8, 2022
Magnánima obra de Homero que desarrolla, sobre todo, la Guerra de Troya.
Este libro en cuestión está escrito en prosa.
Me costó mucho su lectura ya que hay unas descripciones muy minuciosas de todos los detalles que implica a una guerra y se me hizo bastante pesada.
Tal vez el hecho de estar escrito en prosa me impidió disfrutarlo más.
Eso no significa que sea un libro malo, sino que es una cuestión de sensaciones al término de una lectura.
En sí misma, esta obra es de una excelencia abrumadora.


Magnanimous work of Homer that develops, especially, the Trojan war.
This book in question is written in prose.
It was difficult to me to read as there are some very detailed descriptions of all the details involved in a war and it was quite heavy.
Perhaps the fact that it was written in prose prevented me from enjoying it more. That doesn't mean it's a bad book, but it's a matter of feelings at the end of a reading.
In itself, this work is of overwhelming excellence.
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,076 followers
May 3, 2021
The original Marvel movie?

What struck me most about The Iliad on this first read is that it has so much more in common with whichever blockbuster is showing at your nearest multiplex, than it does with novels as we know them today.

It’s just SO cinematic, and the storytelling techniques on show are SUCH familiar ones. Sweeping bird’s eye views of the battlefield; up-close scenes of celebrity combatants fighting one-on-one, complete with trash talk; stirring speeches; even the pre-battle montage of the hero donning his shining armour—all that’s lacking is the rousing soundtrack. On the flip side, it really is all action and dialogue (with trading card-style bios thrown in for the lesser-known heroes, so you know who’s who), which means it lacks the interiority and reflection you expect from a novel.

The story itself consists mostly of battle scenes, with meddling gods and goddesses keeping things interesting by playing tug-of-war over the puny mortals, turning the tide of the war now in the Trojans’ favour, now the Achaeans. One thing moviemakers of today could yet stand to learn from The Iliad is to ditch the ‘good guys’ vs ‘bad guys’ thing: it’s much more compelling if both sides are complex and you’re unsure who to cheer for.

Even the tedious parts make more sense when you view the whole thing as a movie told in words. Homer is very partial to extended similes involving lions, dogs and wild boar for some reason:

As when in the midst of dogs and hunting men
a wild boar or lion wheels about, reveling in his strength,
and the men arraying themselves like a wall of defense
stand to face him and hurl from their hands
volleys of spears; but never does his noble heart
feel fear, nor does he flee—and his courage will kill him—
and relentlessly he wheels about testing the ranks of men,
and wherever he charges, there the ranks of men give way;
so Hector going along the battle throng turned and twisted...


All this talk of lions and boars is a little clunky on the page, and it breaks up the flow of the story. But it also paints the clearest visual image of the action and the physicality of the heroes, surely functioning as stage directions for a bard reciting these lines (‘give us your best “wheeling lion”’).

That we humans have relied on the same methods to tell a gripping story for over 3,000 years is a joy to me. Our direct connection through story to the past, to people of antiquity, The Iliad (and other works like it) serves as a reminder that those people were more like us than we tend to recognise. Not to mention it is just a bloody good yarn.
Profile Image for toointofiction.
176 reviews119 followers
December 25, 2021
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐



I have only a few things to say.



It's definitely worth reading (duh) but you need to brace yourself for a slow-paced, overly detailed writing. (Like all the classics.) There's so much description and I found the dialogue pretty complex and long. (Again like all the classics.)

Agamemnon is unlikable and the only reason I hate Hector is because he killed Patroclus and he was my favourite. Achilles and Patroclus were meant as a couple, I've never been more convinced. The Song of Achilles had it right.

The whole thing reminded my of an Ancient Greek version of The Desperate Housewives or literally any other reality Tv show. Also, on a side note the gods reminded me of myself whenever I play The Sims.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,791 reviews430 followers
June 4, 2022
Those who are happy travel today with books and stories. Heroes of mythology and victims of confinement had made to get along. Look at Ulysses, for example; everyone knows his story. With a certificate of exit to wage war, he leaves Penelope and goes to Troy: others like Vian would have deserted, but he hadn't. He makes war; it lasts ten years. He could go home, but no: the time heroes are all rebellious, like the gods. A true science fiction novel these days! In the Trojan part of the story, Homer is the seat of our emotions: Achile and his anger will they lead the Greeks to defeat? In the feelings game, the gods have no example to receive from people. Sure that men have an interest in standing like heroes.
Profile Image for Madeline.
766 reviews46.9k followers
June 13, 2011
I don't know why I read this. It isn't on The List (I guess because it's technically a poem, not a novel), and it wasn't assigned reading or anything. But for whatever reason, reading The Iliad has been on my mental to-do list for a while now, and last week I finally picked it up.

My first reaction: dude, this epic is epic. (thank you, I'll be here all week) It's full of dudes getting killed in really exquisite detail, dudes talking about killing or not killing dudes, dudes mourning dead dudes in a totally-not-homoerotic way, and dudes yelling at each other about the chicks who ruin everything. The battle sequences are long and action-packed, everybody is Zeus's kid or nephew, the men are men and the women are decoration. It's pretty awesome, is what I'm saying.

Second big reaction: I was surprised at how small the scope of this poem actually is. At the beginning, the Trojan War has already been going on for ten years, and the poem really only covers the last month or so. It's really interesting, because the poem seems to be about how the stupid actions of a few powerful people can have far-reaching and horrible consequences. The whole driving force in The Iliad is this: Menelaus takes Achilles's favorite chick Briseis (who, thanks to Movies in Fifteen Minutes, will always be known as Temple Babe in my head) for his own, and Achilles throws a massive snit fit and refuses to fight in the Trojan War until the king stops raping Achilles's girlfriend and lets Achilles go back to raping her instead. Because of this, loads and loads of people die, and the gods are no help whatsoever because they're all on different sides and keep messing things up.

That's the whole story: a bunch of guys who are fighting a war because of some guy stealing somebody's girlfriend all die horrible deaths because some other guys are having a fight over somebody's girlfriend. The lesson, of course, is that women ruin everything.

Normally this would be cause for me to get out my Feminist Rage Hat, except for the fact that the goddesses in this story kick so much ass I can't even get that angry about how lame Helen and Briseis are. (even Andromache isn't too bad, because she gets some really lovely scenes with Hector)

All in all, a pretty awesome, fast-paced action story with enough gore and bromance to keep everybody happy. I'm glad I took the time to read it.

(also if anyone's curious, I read the Richard Lattimore translation and found it very readable and well-done)
Profile Image for Gabriel.
420 reviews541 followers
October 3, 2022
La Ilíada nos sitúa en medio de un panorama hostil, el famoso combate entre aqueos y troyanos que da lugar a la tan conocida Guerra de Troya. Con elementos y temáticas como la mitología griega, las pérdidas que deja la guerra, el honor, la gloria, el destino, los héroes y sus viajes, la vulnerabilidad y el dolor, la ira, la piedad y la compasión; sentimientos que afloran. El conflicto bélico, la traición, la venganza, pero sobretodo con la muy marcada humanidad en las decisiones y los actos de todos ellos, desde los humanos comunes y corrientes, llegando hasta los semidioses y finalizando con los dioses.

Sin embargo, subjetivamente se me ha hecho aburrida a ratos y entretenida por momentos. Me ha gustado pero a secas. Y claro, solo es una historia recomendada para lectores que ya llevan un buen trecho recorrido porque tiene una lectura pesada, con demasiadas figuras literarias (epítetos, metáforas, analogías, hipérboles, etc) que llegan a cansar al hacerse repetitivas.

No tengo más por aportar, solo que esta es una obra que dentro de la literatura, la historia y culturalmente ha significado muchísimo para occidente. Como eso, tiene un cuantioso e indudable valor que no se le niega. Así que más que asegurado que se pueden encontrar las influencias posteriores sacadas de este escrito.
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,001 reviews1,262 followers
March 3, 2022
الإلياذة ملحمة شعرية تدور أحداثها في الفترة الأخيرة من حرب طروادة
حرب طروادة استمرت 10 سنين وبدأت بسبب قيام باريس ابن الملك بريام
بخطف هيلين زوجة مينلاوس ملك إسبرطة وعودته بصحبتها لطروادة
جهز أجاممنون جيش لحصار طروادة ومن بين قادة الجيش البطل أخيليوس

في البداية يعتزل أخيليوس الحرب بسبب خلافه مع أجاممنون
لكنه يعود بقوة بعد مقتل أحد أصدقاؤه ويتمكن من قتل هيكتور أمير طروادة

الملحمة مزدحمة بالشخصيات وتجمع بين عالم الآلهة وعالم البشر
وتعرض كل تفاصيل المعارك والقتال بين الإغريق والطرواديين
وتَدخُل الآلهة بأساليب مختلفة لمساندة المحاربين من كلا الطرفين
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