The Iliad The Iliad question

My boy Homer
Beau Cronland Beau Apr 25, 2015 12:07AM
Oh the Iliad, an epic we all have to read at all times. Yes we must refer to it as an epic in fear of being severely beaten by our English high school teachers because it is not a story, but instead an epic. This epic revolves around the Trojan War and the epicness (Word says epicness is not a word, but I say it is) of Achilles. Epics like this, and the Odyssey, confuse me at times because it just seems like the whole thing is actually one big chess game between the gods instead of actually what is happening on the battle field. When Patroclus was fighting against Hector, Apollo made his armor fall off of his body and Hector was able to kill Patroclus. Then when Hector fault Achilles it was another God who disguised themselves as Athena to tell Hector to stop running, because “she” said Achilles was not behind him anymore. Then Achilles killed Hector and then the disrespecting of corpses begins. I always get drawn into epics, just reading this story about someone who has this ungodly like attribute; like Hercules, Theseus, Perseus, and many more. They are practically super human and almost perfect human beings, but they all have some sort of flaw. Usually the flaw is their huberous that gets them into a huge amount of trouble. Back on topic though, I love the character of Achilles (yes even the Brad Pitt version) just because he is the physical being of what everyone wishes they could say in their head. What I mean by that is if Achilles doesn’t want to do something, then he won’t do it and he will just sit there, no matter if even a king tells him to do it. If he doesn’t like you and he doesn’t like what you are saying, then he will straight up tell you that you are a piece of crap. What I don’t like is that he is a pretty big douche. There is this sequel… ish story to the Iliad that has Achilles throwing babies into the walls and smashing their heads in because they were children of Troy and what not. This epic raised a few questions for me after reading it so many times. Number one isn’t really an educational question, but how did the Trojan Horse maneuver actually work? You would have thought that maybe someone would have had the common knowledge to think about checking the inside of the big wooden horse left behind by the people they have been fighting for over 9 years. I understand it is just a story, but still, cmon Homer give people some observational abilities. Number two is a question that I want to ask for anyone who reads this discussion post. Do you think that epics, like the Iliad, are really all about the character they are portraying, or do you think that the story is like a cover story for the Gods battling it out in the heavens? There is always a God helping this character or a God helping that character, but it seems like one Gods champion is always pitted against another Gods champion. Do the Gods ever agree on one person?

I used to get frustrated with myths because they never made any sense, and characters and events were inconsistent. Then I realized that none of that matters because the story isn't about one character or the gods, but the reader/listener/humankind as a whole. These mythological texts were the ancient Greeks' religious texts, meant to guide and teach lessons and morals. Thinking about the Iliad as one extended allegory might help you answer some of your questions.

deleted member (last edited Apr 29, 2017 02:31PM ) Apr 29, 2017 02:31PM   0 votes
I am a big fan of Ancient Greek literature so I'll try to answer your questions. However, all these below are my personal interpretations of what I have learned so it may not be accurate. You can interpret them the way you want too.

Personally, I think it's not a chess game in the sense that Gods are not actively planning the death of individuals like some grand strategist. The gods themselves cannot overcome fate (or destiny). If you read carefully you'll remember that the fate of these heroes have been ordained. But that doesn't mean that they don't have free will. I think Achilles's dilemma best illustrates this. My favorite part of the Iliad is Achilles's speech: My mother Thetis, the goddess with the silver steps, tells me that I carry the burden of two different fated ways leading to the final moment of death....." (I'm quoting a different translation). Achilles have the choice of either going back home and living a normal life, or staying at Troy and becoming a hero. He sent out his comrade Patroklus (he chose to do it) and this led to a chain of destiny. Patroklus was fated to be killed by Hector (remember that Patroklus chose to fight at the walls of Troy instead of returning as Achilles asked him to), and this in turn sealed Hector's fate as Achilles will take revenge. In turn, it also sealed Achilles's faith since he was destined to die if he kill Hector. Also, I think the one who threw babies from the walls is Neoptolemus - the son of Achilles. It was prophesied that Troy wouldn't be taken without the son of Achilles in the battle so Odysseus brought him over. Neoptolemus committed two atrocities after taking Troy; the first is killing the old king Priam and the second is throwing Hector's infant baby Astyanax. Many other atrocities were committed (of which Euripides's The Trojan Women provides a vivid account. The Greeks were punished for their actions. On their way home, many of their ships were wrecked and a lot of people died on their way home. This leads to the next story - the Odyssey (where Odysseus was prevented from returning home for many years).

For your first question, Gods themselves are interfering in the battle as you know. Remember that the night before Achilles returns to battle after Patroklus's death, Hector's brother Polydamas advised him to retreat and defend inside the walls of Troy instead of camping near the Greeks. But the gods had misled Hector's thinking and he chose to fight the Greeks near their ships. What happened with the Trojan Horse is beyond the scope of Iliad but probably some god prevented a wise person from convincing the Trojans. Troy was fated to fall anyway (as soon as the Greeks have Neoptolemus, the poison arrows of Heracles (Hercules) and when Odysseus steal Athena's statue from Troy.)

As for the epic itself, it is not just an ordinary story - it's a cultural piece. It is a long poem meant to be performed and it is of immense importance for the Greeks (I mean the Ancient Greeks). So there are a lot of things behind what we're reading that means great importance culturally and religiously for the Greeks which is too long to explain and I don't even understand myself. But the epic is a medium for the glory of heroes - especially Achilles. If we recall Achilles's dilemma, he chose to stay at Troy and live a short life. In return his name (and glory) is remembered forever. Every time we read the epic (or recite it), we are invoking his glories. The same is true for every character in the book. The Gods, on the surface, are pitting individuals against one another, but there's something called the divine-god antagonism. By acting as a villain for the heroes, the gods are helping the heroes become heroes. There is a symbiosis behind all these conflicts. And these heroes, for all their flaws and conflicts, are remembered forever in the form of the epic. In the time of the Ancient Greek, there are hero cults - so it kinds of have a religious dimension too.

So in summary, the Iliad is more than it seems. There are always things below the surface and to understand these we need to understand the culture and context in which the Iliad is made.

I'm not sure if I agree that it is mainly a chess game between the gods. Sure, they do have their interests in the battles going on on earth, but your claim suggests that the humans don't have any power of self-determination whatsoever. Not sure if that's what Homer is trying to imply.

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