Summary of Iliad
There is a plague that smites the Greeks. Agamemnon is doing nothing about the plague.
Achilles calls an assembly. Should be Agamemnon calling the meeting.
Ask the prophet Chalchis why. He says he can't answer--will offend someone.
Achilles gives him his protection. Chalchis then says it's Agamemnon.
After taking a city, women were divided & Agamemnon received Chryses. Her father Cryses, the priest of Apollo, had come to Agamemnon as a suppliant offering a ransom for her.
This is a common motif in Greek culture. There is a
Suppliant comes, kneels, touches the knee or the chin of the person they are asking. (Called a speech act now)
Suppliants are vulnerable; therefore, come under the gods' protection.
Agamemnon can refuse the offer, but must do so politely. Agamemnon insults the priest, pushes him aside, and says he'll never give her up. Furthermore, threatens physical harm to Chryses if he doesn't leave immediately.
This rude behavior is hubris.
Agamemnon is mad at the priest. 9 years earlier, the priest was responsible for Agamemnon sacrificing his daughter to lift Artemis' curse. Agamemnon had made her mad by stepping on her sacred precints.
Everybody tries to placate Agamemnon -- he'll get something good down the road.
Achilles trying to calm Agamemnon. Agamemnon then turns his attention to Achilles' prize, Briseis.
Achilles says it's just like Agamemnon, who's a pig.
Achilles is getting ready to kill Agamemnon. Athene grabs him by his 'yellow' 'red' 'tawny' hair--don't know what they meant by that exactly. German scholars liked to think the ancient Greeks were blonde Aryans & were replaced by Turks over the centuries.
She tells Achilles not to kill Agamemnon--the gods will reward him.
Achilles won't fight any more. Most Greeks there b/c of their oath as suitors. Achilles not a suitor--was too young. Came to help a man get his wife back. Fighting for principle. Now HIS woman has been taken. Trojans never hurt ACHILLES--now his principle has been violated by his side. He has no reason to fight.
This decision on Achilles' part will result in the death of many warriors.
Achilles asks Thetis to ask Zeus to punish the Greeks. She's a suppliant. Zeus says it's a hard thing to ask b/c of Hera, who wants to destroy Troy. Zeus likes Thetis, but is cautious about exercising his power.
Once all the gods got together and chained up Zeus. Only Thetis didn't help. She helped him get free.
Zeus (who's supposed to be impartial), Hera, Athena, Poseidon are the god who favor the Greeks
Aphrodite, Ares, Apollo support the Trojans
Zeus likes Sarpedon at Troy. Would like to save him, but won't. Doesn't like the war, but won't stop it.
Hephaestus is thrown out of heaven for intervening with Zeus & Hera. Limps
He traps Ares and Aphrodite in bed
together--the gods laugh at Hephaestus for publisizing his
Homer accused of making his gods act like mortals and his mortals act like gods. Plato would banish him for telling lies about the gods.
Gods sometimes portrayed as characters in the story, sometimes are inpersonal forces. Ares the swaggering braggart vs Ares the personification of war.
The Greeks seem to win for a while. Diomedes emerges to defeat the Trojans, under the help of Athene.
He injures Aphrodite and Ares as they try to aid the Trojans.
Diomedes lasts til the end of the war. We'll meet him in the Aeneid again.
Diomedes goes up against a boy--an ally from the Trojan side--Aeneas probably 16 years old here.
Diomeded defeats Aeneas, but Aphrodite whisks him away before Diomedes can kill him.
Later when Achilles is running amok, Aeneas tries to stand up to him. The gods intervene again--Poseidon tells Apollo they have to stop the duel b/f Aeneas gets killed. They take Aeneas away.
Have to save Aeneas b/c the Fates have decreed that he will survive the war, wander the Mediterranean, and then found the new Troy.
This is the first time we meet Aeneas.
Diomedes & other Greek warlords get wounded.
Achilles is sitting at the boats.
Messengers find him singing stories about gods and men, like a
Greeks are cowering behind the wall. Trojans are camping outside the wall. Know the Greek leaders aren't fighting.
Next day, Hector smashes the gates and the Trojans surge inside to attack the Greeks and burn their ships.
Patroclus has been urging Achilles to fight. Achilles says he hopes the Trojans kill them all
Just show yourself -- NO
Let me wear your armor. OK -- just go where the Trojans can see you. Don't do any serious fighting.
Patroclus fights; Trojans run back to Troy.
Patroclus assaults Troy itself--tries to climb the walls three times.
Apollo knocks him back & wounds him.
Hector finishes him off. Gets the armor. Other Greeks do get his body back & take him back to Achilles.
Other Greeks get to seem the best for a time. Today was Patroclus' day. Only defeated by Apollo
Achilles is beside himself with grief.
Μῆνιν. Related to μάνια mania.
Achilles was normally pretty well-balanced and
rational. Achilles would fight & kill a person,
unless the person gave up & was a suppliant.
Achilles would have mercy & hold him for ransom.
Achilles is angry beyond measure against the Trojans, esp. Hector, for killing Patroclus. Was like a big brother to Achilles.
Gets new set of armor. Now slaughters the Trojans. Takes a few prisoners to use as sacrifice for Patroclus' burial.
Re-catches someone he had captured and ransomed before. Asks to be spared again--not this time, says Achilles.
Why is he so angry? Guilt--let his best friend fight alone.
Achilles can't face his own guilt--projects it onto the Trojans.
Hector has had a parting scene with his wife Andromache and their son Astyanax. She begs him not to go face Achilles; he says he has to.
No man can be sent to the underworld b/f his time. If it is your time, you can't run away anyway. Therefore the best thing is to fight bravely. He knows his wife & son will be carried away by the Greeks when he dies.
Hunts down Hector, who tries to flee. All the heroes experience fear. Achilles has to run from the river.
Athene disguises herself as Hector's brother. Gets Hector to stand & fight Achilles.
Achilles drags Hector's body behind his chariott.
Greeks believed everybody deserved a proper burial, even enemies. Burial means soul can go to its rest. Unburied body, soul wanders forever.
It's ok to kill your enemy, not to desecrate the body.
Achilles is overstepping. He's taking what belongs to the gods--they determine what happens to souls. He's acting with hubris.
Most important scene of the poem--Priam comes as suppliant to Achilles.
Achilles is stunned by Priam's presence & his courage.
Priam is a suppliant. Asks Achilles to think of his father, who may be troubled by other warriors.
Achilles thinks about Hector's death and Patroclus' death. Trojans and Greeks basically the same. All must die
Treats Priam as his philos, contrary to expectation.
Achilles is responsible to Priam for being in his tent AND for being a suppliant.
The metis Achilles
Achilles sees his former enemy as a philos, gives back the body, and gives a truce so the Trojans can bury Hector. Also the funeral for Troy and for Achilles.
His new insight leads him to do the right thing in this situation.
This insight is passed down to the Greek tragedians.
Achilles separates from the other Greeks, has a painful initiation when Patroclus dies. Achilles comes back and resumes fighting.
The return (nostos) is the basic plot of the Odyssey
If death is inevitable, what should we do with out lives. Can devote life to pleasure and be forgotten.
Or can devote life to heroic deeds. Singers will remember you & keep your name alive.
Kleos (fame & glory) comes from using bia & metis to help philoi.
When you withdraw yourself, you deprive your philoi of that bia & metis that should be used for them.
When you quarrel with your own people, you hurt your own philoi.
If your people are an extension of yourself, you are hurting yourself & committing suicide.
Heroes ultimate crime is to desert your philoi when they need you, as Achilles did with the Greeks & Patroclus.
When the hero dies, his death leads to
- cultic -
- local religious worship.
- Hero lives with the gods.
- Suggests a bond between man & gods.
- Produces the prophet & priest.
- Cultic observances - Demeter, Dionysus,
- through poet's stories.
- pan-helenic - epic tradition.
- Mentions only a shadowy afterlife of the psyche in the underworld.
- Stresses the death of the man at the hands of the gods.
- Stresses the difference between man & god.
- Produces the poet and singer. Suggests the later
Greek empirical tradition (science, history, logic,
- Official Olympic gods
Poet & singers praise and blame
praise sharing. Lifts man toward the gods
Describes the ideal. Gives birth to tragedy
blame snatching. Lowers man toward the animals
Describes the real. Gives birth to comedy and satire.
Epics set up the rest of Greek culture to follow .
7th Century Lyrics
6th century Philosophy
All grows out of epic.
In Greek culture, probably had a cult of Achilles focused on
It's been lost; we still read Homer.
Briseis cries at Patroclus' death b/c he was the only Greek who was nice to her when she was captured
Hector is portrayed very positively in the Iliad.
Is the Iliad pro or anti war? Difficult topic.
Some see Homer as nationalistic; others see him as questioning it.
Simone Weil. The Iliad: A poem of Force [bia]. 1960s. French existentialist critic.
Glaucos replies to Diomedes.
Famous topos. Comparison of the generations of men to the leaves of the trees.
Shakespeare 73. follows this tradition
Glaucos is saying we'll all die anyway. Perhaps means we SHOULD fight it out.
Iliad 12. 310 Sarpedon selects Glaucos to fight with his crew. Why do we get the best portion back home? B/c we the greatest warriors. So we should fight better now.
The fates are usually 3 old women. Sometimes they rule the
gods, sometimes subject to Zeus. In the Iliad,
Zeus wants to save Hector, but is unable to because of the
Is it fair to attack Homer for glorifying war? Does Homer have overly masculine values? The poem, if not antiwar, is at least neutral. We know the destruction that is coming.