Amphora by the potter Exekias,
depicting Achilles and Ajax playing
morra. Attic black-figure vase,
c. 530 BC. Etruscan Museum, the Vatican.
Questions (Lombardo translation)
Notice some features of this edition of the Iliad:
· Maps of Homeric Greece and Troy (before the "Translator's Preface");
· List of Major Characters (493-501);
· Catalogue of Combat Deaths and Index of Speeches (502-513).
Before you begin reading, consider these Pre-reading Questions:
1. What do you think would be worth fighting for, dying for?
2. Do you know anyone who follows a code of honor in certain situations? (See "The Heroic World"for a discussion of the Greek honor / glory system.)
3. Have you ever known anyone who felt that his / her life had somehow been touched by or guided by divine forces?
Notes and Questions, Book 1
(1) Chryses is the priest of Apollo. His daughter, named Chryseis,
has been taken as a prize of war by Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces.
The father and daughter are from a city named Chryse.
(11) Achilles, in tears It was OK for real men to cry in Archaic Greece. (But see p. 305.) Thetis, Achilles' mom, comes out of the sea because she's a sea-nymph (minor goddess).
Vase Painting: Agamemnon taking Briseis (note the herald on the right—how does this scene differ from the one described in the Iliad?)
1. According to the first 8 lines, what will this poem be about?
2. What do you think the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles is about? Compare / contrast to the "quarrel" that started the war. Do gods or men or both cause the quarrel?
3. What do you think of Apollo's murderous response (2-3) to Chryses' prayer? What do you think of Zeus's response (16-17) to Thetis' request?
4. What accusations do Achilles and Agamemnon level at each other? Do you think these charges are just?
5. Who do you think is in the right in this quarrel? Who do the Achaeans think is in the right? Why? Why do you think Achilles and Agamemnon fail to take Nestor’s advice?
6. What kind of people do you think Agamemnon and Achilles are?
7. How do you think Achilles "decides" to refrain from killing Agamemnon (7-8)? Why does Achilles give up Briseis (8-10)? What do you think of Achilles' refusal to fight?
8. In what senses is Agamemnon more powerful than Achilles?
9. How do men get gods to do what men want?
10. Name some similarities between Zeus and Achilles (and Zeus and Agamemnon).
11. How do you react to the way women (mortal and immortal) portrayed in Book 1?
12. What do you think the heroes in the Iliad are fighting for? Do the heroes seem to like fighting? (See pp. 6, 22, 31, 72, 110, 145, and question # 8 under "Book 9.") What do the gods seem to care about? How are their concerns like / unlike the heroes' concern for honor and glory? (71-72).
13. How do you know who has the most honor? Why do you think Zeus honors Thetis' request (16-17)? What do you think of Zeus' response to her (lines 549-559)?
14. In what ways do you think the men's and gods' quarrels are like / unlike? Why do you think these quarrels have different outcomes?
Books 3-4. Read all.
Notes and Questions, Books 2-4
(27) Thersites = "bold one." the ugliest = aischistos
= "most ugly, most shameful."
(29) It seems like just yesterday . . . at Aulis: actually, it was nine years before.
(33) aegis = a sort of shawl that Athena (and other gods) wear and use like a shield—for protection and to strike terror into the hearts of their enemies. It is mentioned again on page 105.
(78) Ares . . . sister Eris = "Strife."
1.What do you think Homer intends to show the reader (about Agamemnon's character, about the morale of the Achaeans, about Odysseus) in the scenes detailing Agamemnon's plan to "test" (22-26) his troops and its result?
2. Why do you think Homer included the episode of Thesites' abuse of Agamemnon and his chastisement by Odysseus (27-28)? Why is it OK for Achilles to abuse Agamemnon but not OK for Thersites to disrespect him? Why do you think the troops laugh?
3. What do you think the scepter / staff could symbolize? (See pp. 8, 23, 26-28.)
4. What do you think of Paris' answer to Hector (52)? Why do you suppose the people of Troy haven't just gotten rid of Paris and / or Helen? (See also pp. 54-55; 138-139.)
5. Why do you think Menelaus agrees to the truce and single combat?
6. What do you think is Helen's view of her situation? Who does she blame for her predicament? Who would you blame? (See pp. 54-55, 62-63; 122.)
7. Now a strange question: where do you think Helen's emotions come from?
8. What do you think would happen to Helen if Aphrodite "let go" of her (63)?
9. Why does Aphrodite rescue Paris? Why do you think Helen gives in to Paris (63-64)? Vase Painting: Helen meets Paris for the first time (Perseus).
10. Why do you suppose Homer organized Book 3 in the following way?
a) Battlefield: Hector chides Paris; Paris suggests duel and oaths; Achaeans accept, suggest sacrifice (50-53).11. Give some reasons for why the gods love some men, women, and cities and try to destroy others (65-67). Why does Hera want peace?
b) Troy: Old men converse; Helen and Priam look at soldiers (54-57).
a) Battlefield: Priam goes out; sacrifices, oaths; the duel; Aphrodite intervenes (breaks chinstrap; hides Paris in cloud 58-62).
b) Troy: Helen and Aphrodite; Helen and Paris (62-64).
a) Battlefield: Menelaus looks for Paris (64).
12. Why do you think breaking the truce brings "glory" to Pandarus (68, 71)?
Books 5 - 7. Read all. [Keep reading Introduction xvii-xxix (skip xx) and xlii-lviii.]
Book 8. Entire book optional, pp. 143-159. Zeus assembles the gods and orders them not to interfere in the war again. Athena asks whether she and Hera can at least be war counselors, and Zeus, after giving an indefinite answer, sits on a crest of Olympus to watch the battle, confident that the Trojans will have a winning day. He throws thunderbolts to scare off the Achaeans and help Hector. Athena and Hera try to sneak out of Olympus in battle gear and chariots to help the Achaeans, but Zeus spots them and sends Iris to warn them. (He threatens to smash up their chariots.) They obey but are angry. Zeus tells them of his will--as promised to Thetis--that Hector will be victorious only until Patroclus is killed and Achilles re-enters the battle (lines 482-490). That night Hector orders the Trojans to camp on the plains with lighted fires so that the Greeks cannot escape and the Trojans will be ready for battle at dawn. Note the wonderful description of the armies encamped at night [p. 159; lines 563-577]).
(103) his father . . . for now = Zeus.
(105) The Gorgon is a female monster with snaky hair, bulging eyes, and menacing tusks. A Gorgon's head was a common design on Greek shields—note the description of Agamemnon's shield at 11.32-36.
(116) generations are like leaves —some of the most famous lines in the Iliad introduce a rather long-winded digression on the hero Bellerophon.
Andromache = "fighting with the men."
1. What do you think of the gods' behavior in Book 5? Can the gods be heroic? Why or why not? (For more on the gods, read Murnaghan's Introduction xxv-xxix.) Why do you think Book 5 concentrates so much on Diomedes' heroic feats?
2. Why do you think Diomedes and Glaucus exchange armor on pp. 118-119? Does their friendship pact make any sense to you?
3. Compare / contrast the three scenes in book 6: a) Agamemenon's attitude (113-14), b) Glaucus and Diomedes (115-119), and c) Hector in Troy (119-127).
4. Why is it important that Menelaus not be killed? (See pp. 69-70, 100, 129-30.)
5. Why won’t they let Menelaus fight Hector in book 7? Do you think Pandarus wins glory by wounding Menelaus, as Agamemnon says he does (71)?
6. Does Paris tell his brother the whole truth at the top of p. 122? What do you think of Helen's speech on the same page?
7. Have any of the events in Book 6 altered your view of what the heroes are fighting for? If yes, which events and why?
8. What are the Trojans fighting for? What do you think Hector is fighting for?
9. If Hector knows that "holy Ilion will perish" (6.471), then why do you think he keeps on fighting and wants his son to be just like him? In what ways do you think Hector is like / unlike Achilles? (selfish?)
10. Compare / contrast Andromache’s attitude towards the war with Helen’s. What do you think of Andromache’s advice to Hector? Vase painting: Helen and Paris, Andromache and Hector (Perseus); Helen and Paris (detail); Andromache defends Astynax and The Death of Astynax (during the sack of Troy).
11. Why do you think Homer put in the scene with the child becoming afraid? Do you think that Homer would like to perpetuate the honor / glory system as Hector does?
12. Why do you think Hector decides to challenge the best of the Achaeans? (What might this challenge accomplish militarily?) What do you think of duel's outcome (137)? Vase Painting: Ajax vs. Hector (Notice Athena on the left, Apollo on the right).
13. Once again, one of the Trojans, Antenor, suggests they just give Helen back (138-139). But they don't. How are their reasons for their actions similar and different from the scene on pp. 54-55?
(163) I was mad = "I was in the grip of blindness or folly sent
by the gods." The word translated as "mad" here is the Greek Atê
(see Atê note 377).
(169) the same reward —The word reward translates the Greek word for "honor"—timé.
(175) his wife, Cleopatra —not the famous one, but the name is apparently a deliberate inversion of Patroclus. For clarification of Phoenix' example, see introduction, p. xxxii.
1. After studying carefully Achilles' long answer to the ambassadors (168-171), list some reasons why Achilles spurns Agamemnon's generous truce offer. (Who is "the man who says one thing and thinks another" [line 318]?) Do you think his reasons are good ones? Why or why not? What emotions and thoughts strike you as most important in this speech and why?
2. Do you think Achilles is questioning or redefining honor and glory at 9.320-343 and 9.415-422? Why or why not? What do you think he means when he says, "my honor comes from Zeus" (176)? (See Murnaghan's introduction, pp. xxx-xxxiii.)
3. If Achilles won't take all the stuff Agamemnon offers, then what would it take to pay him "in full" for "all [his] grief" (Iliad 9.400)? Compare / contrast Agamemnon's gifts with the exchanges of gifts between Glaucus and Diomedes (115-119) and Hector and Ajax (137).
4. Why do you think that none of the arguments of Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax can persuade Achilles to swallow his rage and re-enter the war? Vase painting: Phoenix and Briseis (Perseus).
5. Which arguments do you find most convincing and why?
6. Do you think that Achilles owes his comrades any loyalty? (See pp. 167 and 177.) (Why do you suppose he won't help his comrades?) Why do you think he stays angry?
7. What qualities make Achilles godlike? Do you like him? Why or why not?
8. Can you tell from his descriptions and similes of battle, killing, and wounds what Homer thinks of war and heroic glory? (See pp. 70-71, 79-88, 100-01, 113-114, 201-202, 278-280, 317, 405-406.) What different kinds of images and similes does Homer employ to describe the deaths of warriors? What do you think is Homer's attitude towards the dead? Does he think the glory is worth all this death? Why do you think Homer spends so much time describing wounds, boasts, and families of the heroes?
A note on the position of the ships and the wall. In book 9, Achilles says:
I won't lift a finger in this bloody warWhat might this statement mean? The Achaeans have built a dirt wall in front of the ships (141); the sea is behind. At the beginning of book 11 we learn that Odysseus' ship is at the middle, while big Ajax's ships are upshore on the far left, and Achilles' "Myrmidon ships" are downshore, at the far right (198). The city of Troy is upshore and inland. When Hector breaks through the wall, he does at the center-right, but not too close to Achilles' ships. The ship he sets on fire is that of Protesilaus, the first Greek hero killed in the war. (See 2.808-812, 13.713-18, 15.743-790.) This ship is somewhere between those of Menestheus and Achilles, but further forward towards the wall. The line-up of Greek ships looks something like this:
Until Priam's illustrious son Hector
Comes to the Myrmidons' ships and huts
Killing Greeks as he goes and torching the fleet.
But when he comes to my hut and my black ship
I think Hector will stop, for all his battle lust. (9.673-678)
Achilles' little speech may mean that he will re-enter the fighting and stop Hector only after Hector goes through all of the Greek ships and finally gets down to the Myrmidons' and Achilles' ships at the end of the line. What do you think?
Book 10. Entire book optional, pp. 180-197. Agamemnon, having a sleepless night, calls on Nestor, who recommends an assembly of captains. Nestor asks for volunteers to spy on the Trojans for information on their strategy for morning. Diomedes and Odysseus go: they capture Dolon, who tells them enough details to enable them to kill many Trojan allies and steal their horses.
Book 11. Read pp. 198-202 and 221-223. [Pages 203-220 optional.] Agamemnon fights heroically until he is wounded. Hector fights heroically. Paris wounds Diomedes in the foot with an arrow (209), and wounds Machaon and Eurypylos. Odysseus is wounded. Ajax is forced to retreat. Achilles watches the battle from the stern of his ship and surmises that soon the Achaeans will come begging to him for help (lines 646-649). He sends Patroclus to Nestor's tent to find out who is wounded. Patroclus declines to sit down, wanting to return quickly so as not to anger Achilles (lines 690-697), but Nestor detains him with a long story of one of his own youthful heroic adventures and finally reminds him of the instructions that Patroclus' father had given Patroclus--to give Achilles reasonable counsel. Nestor asks Patroclus to fight in Achilles' place.
Book 12. Read pp. 224-226. [Pages 227-238 optional.] The two Ajaxes and Teucer, the archer, defend the sea walls against the Trojan attack. Sarpedon tells Glaucus why heroes are honored with choice meats and good land—because they must risk their lives for others (lines 320-342)—thereby encouraging him to fight harder. Hector breaks through the gates and the Greeks run for their ships. (Note the description of Hector p. 237-238.)
Book 13. Entire book optional, pp. 239-264. While Zeus takes his eyes off Troy to watch something else, Poseidon comes in disguise to help the Greeks, who push back the Trojans and kill many of them. Polydamas, the seer, warns Hector to draw back and consolidate the Trojans' position (p. 261, lines 768-789). Hector agrees with him, but then, upon seeing Paris, gets caught up in the battle again.
Book 14. Read all.
Book 15. Read pp. 281-283—Zeus' plan. The rest (pp. 284-304) is optional. Zeus wakes up very angry and threatens Hera, again telling her that his plans will not be changed. He sends Iris to order Poseidon to withdraw from the battle. Poseidon grudgingly assents. Zeus sends Apollo to help Hector recover from his injury and to storm the ships. Together they knock down part of the sea wall. Patroclus leaves the wounded Eurypylus to try to persuade Achilles to fight again (p. 293). Hector continues to confront Ajax and urges the Trojans to fire the ships. Ajax manages to wound any Trojan who comes close and knocks their torches away.
1. Do you think Zeus is a heartless, pitiless god? (See 8.481-489; 11.78-83; 20.21-33.)
2. Why will the gods break down the seawall after the war? (See pp. 141-142, 224-225.)
3. What do you think of Hera's behavior in Book 14? How do you think the Greek audience reacted to Zeus' seduction lines (14.318-33)?
4. Can you account for the fresh grass at 14.353?
5. Do you think Zeus is in charge of fate? (See 15.49-78 [Zeus' plan for the war] and 16.469-496 [Sarpedon's fate].) Image link: Sleep and Death Transporting Sarpedon's body to Lycia.
6. Book 16 is often called the "little Iliad"--what themes of the larger book are developed on a smaller scale here?
7. Why do think Achilles compares Patroclus to a "little girl" (305)? What do you think Achilles is feeling here? What point(s) could Homer be making here?
8. Why do you think Achilles lets Patroclus go and fight for him? (See pp. 306-08, 310-12.) Describe Achilles’ state of mind in this scene, concentrating on his use of the word "honor" (lines 84-101). What do you think of Achilles' wish at the top of p. 308?
9. Do you think Achilles to blame for Patroclus' death? Is Patroclus partially responsible?
10. Why do you think Patroclus' death is so different from other deaths? Name his killers (357). (See 18.490, 19.442-3.) Why do you think there are so many? Why do you think Homer calls Patroclus "you" after p. 325?
11. Is it OK to boast and trash talk or not? (See pp. 323, 327, 330.)
12. What do you think Achilles' (old) armor could symbolize? Notice what happens to whoever tries to wear this armor.
Books 18 and 19. Read all.
Book 20. Entire book optional, pp. 387-402. Zeus calls the gods together and tells them they can now take whatever part in the war they wish, perhaps because Achilles is so fearsome that he threatens to "exceed his fate" and destroy the walls of Troy (lines 30-33—see also pp. 328 and 418). Apollo inspires Aeneas to face Achilles, but before danger can come to either of them, Poseidon saves Aeneas so the Dardanian line will not utterly perish: Aeneas' fate, because he is "guiltless" and always gives gifts pleasing to the gods (lines 298-314), is to establish a new line of Trojans. (Keep this in mind for the end of the semester when we read the Aeneid.) Hector prepares to face Achilles, but Apollo warns him away. However, when his youngest brother Polydorus is killed, Hector turns again to Achilles. Neither is injured because Athena is defending Achilles and Apollo is helping Hector. Achilles then kills many other Trojans.
Books 21 and 22. Read all.
Book 23. Read pp. 440-448. [Pages 448-466, the Funeral Games for Patroclus, are optional.] Achilles sets the prizes and acts as the judge. The games include a chariot race, a boxing match, a wrestling match, a foot race, a sword fight, an iron-lump throw, an archery contest, and a javelin throw. Interesting in this section are the parallels to the "war game": participants pray to and receive help from the gods; worry about their honor (winning); and are extremely competitive for the prizes, which are mostly war booty—armor, functional metal such as cookware (tripods), and female slaves. Also, all of the athletic events are those which serve a warrior well. (Remember this when we read about games in the Odyssey.) Throughout the games, Achilles is a gracious host. (Notice how he awards Agamemnon with "an unfired cauldron, worth an ox, embossed / With flowers" without bothering to make him compete for it [lines 910-920].)
Book 24. Read all. [Read Introduction xxxvii-xlii, "The Enduring Heart."]
Iliad Notes and Questions, Books 17-24
(372) the Linos song = an ancient dirge or lament, parallel to laments
for dying and rising fertility gods like Adonis.
(377) Atê = "divine temptation or infatuation" (Dodds 2). Also translated as "folly" (9.519) and "passion" (24.511), atê is a kind of "partial and temporary insanity; and like all insanity [among the Greeks], it is ascribed, not to physiological or psychological causes, but to an external, 'daemonic' agency" (Dodds 5). Dodds contends that Agamemnon is not offering a cheap alibi here, but genuinely explaining what happened (see 1.429-431, 9.388, and 19.288-93). What do you think?
1. Why do you think it is important for each side to have possession of Patroclus' body? Why do you think bodies are so important? (Cf. Hector, pp. 430, 434-5, 467-69, 482-92.)
2. Notice how Achilles reacts to Patroclus' death, especially what happens to his anger and to his notions of honor and glory (356-58, 365, 378, 429, 435) Do you think he revises his ideas of honor and glory? How would you describe their relationship?
3. Do you think Achilles ever finally lets go of his anger? (See pp. 442-46 and 484-85.) What do you think is Homer's view of this anger? (justified, heroic, tragic?)
4. Why do you think Homer spends so much time describing Achilles' new armor, especially, his shield (369-373)? Compare / contrast how Achilles and the men react to the new armor when it is delivered (374-375).
5. What do you think the scenes on the shield could symbolize? Why would a weapon of war have so many peaceful scenes on it? Compare and contrast these scenes with events in the Iliad.
6. What do you think of Agamemnon’s apology (376-78)? Didn't Achilles blame Zeus also (382)? Why do you think Achilles refuses to eat (380, 383)?
7. Compare and contrast Achilles' treatment of Lycaon and his speech on death (405-406) with his speech in the underworld in the Odyssey, Book 11 (265-266).
8. Why do you think Homer included the episode of Achilles fighting the river? Compare / contrast with the idea of "exceeding" one's fate (16.819; 20.30-33; 21.529-31).
9. What do you think makes Hector decide finally to face and fight Achilles?
10. Is Achilles' treatment of Hector's body justified (in Greek terms)? Vase painting: Achilles dragging Hector's body while Priam and Hecuba look on (Perseus).
11. How are Hector and Patroclus similar? Do you see any similarities in the behavior of Achilles and Priam? (Describe Achilles’ states of mind in the scene with Priam.)
12. What do you think is the message of Achilles' fable of Zeus' jars (483-484)? Why do you think Homer put sensible advice about grief (484-86) in the mouth of Achilles? Vae painting: A Warrior Leaving Home (Perseus).
13. In what ways can you relate Achilles' altered notions of honor and glory to the changes we see in his anger and grief in Book 24? (Read carefully pp. 483-486.) Notice when Achilles' and Priam's griefs coincide, and when they are at odds. Vase painting: The ransom of Hector's body (Perseus). Compare with a different version of the same scene.
14. Why do you think Homer ends the poem in the way he does? What is his point in ending that way? Why didn't Homer end the poem with Achilles' death or the capture of Troy? (In other words, why do you think Homer wants to stress the reconciliation and the end of Achilles' anger in book 24?) Vase painting: The Death of Priam (Perseus).
15. Why do you think this poem is not called the Achillead?
16. Which hero do you like best, Achilles, Hector, or some other? Why? What (if anything) makes Achilles a hero?
17. What are some of the meanings of fate in the epic? (See question 7 above.)
18. Do you think women are depicted sympathetically in the epic? (Andromache, books 6 and 24, Helen, books 3 and 6, Briseis, pp. 382-383.) Given the emotions in the final scenes of the epic, what do you think is Homer's opinion of the war on Troy?
19. Do you think Achilles is a tragic hero? See "Tragedy: the Basics" (packet 63). Look for examples of hubris on his part (12 boys 365, 404, 441, 445; Lycaon 405-06; fighting the river; treatment of Hector 433, 468-9). Name some aspects of Achilles' story and character that might be seen as "tragic." If you do not think that Achilles is tragic, give reasons for your views. Are any other persons or events "tragic" in the Iliad? Vase painting: Geometric Vase showing funeral of a dead warrior (c. 750 BC, about when the Iliad was written down)
Mh=nin a)/eide qea\) Phlhia/dew ) A)xilh=oj
Menin aeide, Thea, Peleiadeo Achilleos
Rage: Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage,
ou)lome/nhn, h(\ muri/ )Axaioi=j a)/lge ) e)/qhke
oulomenen, e muri' Achaiois alge' etheké,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
polla\j d ' i)fqi/mouj yuxa\j)\ Aidi proi)=ayen
pollas d'iphthimous psuchas Haidi proiapsen
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
h(rwwn, au)tou\j de\ e(lw/ria teu=xe ku/nessin
heroon, autous de heloria teuche kunessin
Of heroes into Hades' dark
oi)wnoi=si te pa=si, Dio\j d' e)telei)eto boulh/,
oionoisi te pasi, Dios d'eteleieto Boulé,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done.
ec ou= dh\ ta\ prw=ta diasth/thn e)pi)sante )
ex ou dé ta prota diasteten episante
Begin with the clash between Agamemnon—
' Atreidhj te a)/nac a)ndrw=n kai\ di=oj ) /Axilleu/j.
Atreides te wanax andron kai dios Achilleus.
The Greek warlord--and godlike Achilles.
Some Important Names, Greeks (also called Achaeans, Argives, or Danaans):
Calchas—Priest of Apollo
Achilles—best Greek fighter; possibly means "grief [akhos] of the fighting men [laos]".
Agamemnon—King of Mycenae, son of Atreus, chief leader.
Menelaus—Agamemnon's brother, husband of Helen.
Odysseus—clever King of Ithaca, hero of The Odyssey.
Ajax—Telemonian, the greater (Greek spelling: Aias).
Ajax—the lesser, son of Oileus.
Diomedes—young warrior, son of Tydeus, lord of Argos.
Nestor—old, wise warrior from Pylos.
Patroclus—means "glory of the ancestors." Best friend of Achilles
Helen—Menelaus' wife, stolen by Paris, nominal "cause" of war.
Important Names, Trojans (also called Dardanians):
Troy—city besieged by Greeks (also called Ilion, Ilium,
Priam—King of Troy, husband of Hecuba.
Hector—means "holder" or "protector." Best Trojan warrior, son of Priam.
Paris—prince of Troy, stole Helen. Also called Alexander.
Aeneas—son of Anchises, later hero of Roman epic Aeneid.
Pandarus—breaks truce. Also: Sarpedon, Glaucus
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