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Iliad, Period 2

Greek religion.

Did they see Iliad as historical or ideal?

Hard to say - maybe a little of both.

Myceneans - Poseidon is associated with horses & warfare.  Later associated with sea.

Olympians the 3rd gen of gods.  Later part of official state religion - temples, festivals, etc.

Participated in festivals
out of religioius feelings

  1. out of loyalty to the state

Actual Greek religion based in local cults.

Greeks spread colonies around the Mediterranean, brought grapes & olives.

Myceneans the 1st phase of Greek culture

a 200 year dark age

Later Greek poem - Homer belongs to that era

800 BC somebody performed Iliad & Odysses slowly enough for somebody to write it down.

New system of writing.  Was syllabic before.  Now switch to alphabetic writing.

Adapted Semitic writing.  The Greeks adapted the Phonecian alphabet to Greek after 800 BC.  Phonecian & Hebrew don't have vowel signs.  The Greeks added vowel signs to their alphabet by using extra consonants from the Phonecian alphabet.  Because of the different types of alphabet, Jews and Greeks disagree over who invented the alphabet.

YHWH (יהוה‎) the Hebrew name for God.  Alternately pointed to sound like Yahweh or Jehovah

System of fighting changing

  1. Mycenean fighting style of fighting was melee fighting
  2. Switching to heavy infantry fighting in 8th cen bc - Phalanx fighting


Iliad 1.1

          _ uu | _uu | _ _ | _uu |  _uu | _ _

Iliad 1.1
Mēnin aeide Thea, Pēlēia deō Achilēos

the wrath sing Goddess, of Peleus' son Achilles.

Dactylic hexameter the meter.  Spondees mixed in.

Used epithets to fill out the meter.  Patronymics popular


Mythic cause for war -- Apple of Strife.  Fought over by

Paris makes enemies of two of the most implacable & vindictive gods.

Aphrodite fulfills her prophecy.  Paris goes on embassy to Menelaus, then he  R U N N O F T with Helen.

Would normally be a private affair between Menelaus & Helen, but Tyndareus had extracted an oath from all her suitors.  All promised to abide by his decision.  All swore to the gods to help recover her if she got kidnapped (again).

Clytemnestra already married to Agamemnon

Tyndareus marries Helen to Menelaus.

Menelaus gets Agamemnon to lead the army to Troy. 


Historic reason for war

Troy sat on Dardanelles.  Was an important trade route.  Real Myceneans didn't put such a high value on women not being taken off. 

Names in the Homeric documents matched Hittite names not decifered until after 1950.

Alexander is the name of the leader of Troy on the tablets.

In Homer, Paris Alexandros is a young effeminate playboy.

The real Alexander was a middle aged warrior with extensive combat experience.  May have fought for the Hittites.

Homeric poems have heroes like Achilles and Odysseus. Why aren't they in the Hittite docs?

Maybe these characters are products of the poets' imaginations.  Iliad is historical fiction.  Changes history to make it better.

Shakepeare uses poetic license to make Hotspur and Prince Hal balanced characters.  Real Hotspur much older, real Prince Hal is too young to have fought him. 

Red Badge of Courage gives a realistic depiction of Civil War fighting.  Main character is fictional.  Seems to be a description of the Battle of Chancelorsville.  Stonewall Jackson fatally wounded there.  W/o Jackson, Lee not as effective.

"Achilles" isn't a Greek name


Iliad written down in 8th cen BC.

6th Cen BC, the tryant Pisistratus had the standard text fixed.  He was somewhat like the King James of the Iliad and the Odyssey.  Didn't work on the text himself, but had scholars do it.  He also started the Pan-Athenaic  Festival.  He invited Greeks from all over to come to Athens to celebrate Athena and spend money.  The Homeric poems were chanted by the rapsodes, who chanted the whole texts as it had been fixed by the scholars.  No longer a living oral epic. 

All modern editions of Homer come from this master text.

Later Greek scholars made corrections of the Greek texts.  Scolia are notes on lines of the text.

How we know if the guesses are right--the meter.  Alexandrians have a weak grasp of Homeric Greek.  Homer's Greek is a tone language.  Doesn't use long or short vowels.  Like modern Mandarin Chinese, it rises, falls, falls & rises.  Whichever tone you use makes it a different word.

If you're going to read Greek & Latin & publish in classics journals, get the Oxford edition & German scholarly editions.

We English profs tend to get the Loeb.

Jungman's favorite translators are by people like Leaf and Lang.  Many see them as archaic.  But Homer himself was archaic.

Next time: How to read Homer

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