The Iliad

A Literary Epic

A Literary Epic

The Iliad is one of the most famous literary epics of all times. This epic is contributed to the author, Homer, who is also famous for his epic, The Odyssey. The Iliad is centered around the late years of the Trojan war, the war between the gods, and of course the great hero, Achilles.

The Elements of the Iliad

Achilles- The Epic Hero
  • Achilles is the main hero in this epic
  • Son of Thetis, the goddess of water, and Peleus, king of the Myrmidons
  • Achilles is a warrior for the Achaean Army (the Greeks)
  • Achilles main attribute is his superhuman strength and his courage. He was an excellent warrior
  • In a famous Greek myth, Achilles's mother dips him in the Styx River to make him invincible. Because she was holding Achilles by his heels, they became the only vulnerable part on his body which eventually led to his demise. This story is where the term, "Achilles Heel" comes from.
  • Achilles's flaw is his temper. Achilles's temper is the root cause of him leaving his comrades after his commander, Agamemnon, insults him.
The Epic Conflict
  • One of Achilles main conflicts is controlling his rage. Throughout the epic, Achilles constantly struggles to do so, which leads to trouble.
  • Achilles is also struggling with the fact that he is a mortal; he wants more than anything to be immortal.
  • Although Achilles craves immortality, he also wishes to live the laid back, uneventful lifestyle he gained after leaving the Trojan War. He doesn't know which to choose and this also becomes a conflict.
The Heroic Quest
  • The Heroic Quest centers around the Trojan War and Achilles mission to be made immortal.
  • At the beginning of the war, Achilles is fighting for the Achaen Army. However, after being insulted by his commander, Agammemnon, he leaves the cause and wishes for his comrades to be killed at the hands of the Trojans.
  • Eventually, Achilles re-enters the war after his best friend, Patroclus is killed by Hector of Troy. Achilles's main quest soon becomes avenging Patroclus's death. He goes on a killing rampage (because of his out of control rage) and murders many Trojans before he kills Hector of Troy and desecrates his body.
Divine Intervention
  • Divine Intervention is a very important part of the Iliad. There are countless cases of it due to the fact that the gods were essentially fighting a war of their own.
  • Zeus, the king of the gods and Athena and Apollo, children of Zeus, were the main interventionists.
  • Zeus, after the gods got out of control, demanded that he was the only one allowed to intervene. Also, Zeus would direct certain gods (usually Athena) to assist in different ways. Zeus claimed to be neutral.
  • Athena protected the Achaean army. From cooling Achilles temper and restarting certain battles to feeding strategies, she always watched out for the Achaean army, even against her father's orders.
  • Apollo was an ally of Troy. Apollo also fed strategies and information, warned of forthcoming events, and caused much havoc to wreak on the Achaean Army.
  • Other gods that had main roles in intervention- Poseidon, Dionysus, Hera, Thetis, and Hephaestus (Achaean effort); Aphrodite, Ares, and Artemis (Trojan effort).
Two other notable interventions:
  • After Zeus declared no other gods could intervene, Hera put Zeus to sleep to allow Poseidon and other gods to help the Achaean effort.
  • Thetis, Achilles mother, helped by getting Hephaestus to craft special weaponry for her son.


Inc., Bookrags. The Iliad Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention. 2009. 28 August 2013 <>.

Jordan, Herbert. Iliad Translation: Greek Gods and Goddesses. 2012. 29 August 2013 <>.

Mythology, Encyclopedia of Greek. Achilles. n.d. 29 August 2013 <>.

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Iliad.” SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 29 August 2013.


The Culture of Greece During the Iliad

  • The Trojan War war supposedly took place around 1400 BC, during the Mycenaean Age of Greece.
  • From about 1600 BC - 1100 BC, this area was dominated by the city state of Mycenae. This is why this time period is often referred to as the Mycenaean Age.
  • Due to the mountainous range which divided it's people, the nation of Greece had not yet been formed.
  • This is why in the Iliad the people are not referred to as "Greeks", but instead as Achaeans, Argives, or Danaans. Greeks as a whole did not yet exist.
  • The Mycenaean Culture existed after the Minoan Culture, so many of the traits of the Mycenaeans were based on the Minoans. For example: a similar language, trade routes with Asia Minor and Egypt, and similar trade items such assheep, goats, spices, honey, and herbs.
  • Their main export was olive oil.
  • The Mycenaean's city states' wealthy government consisted of a king and a group of other high class government officials, such as the head of the strong Mycenaean military.
  • The large divide between the rich government and the wealthy peasants would lead to the downfall of the Mycenaeans
  • It is believed the Mycenaeans may have been destroyed due to peasant uprisings.

Other interesting facts about the Mycenaean culture:

  • The Mycenaeans were expert cloth makers
  • The Mycenaeans owned slaves, and most slaves were females.
  • Throughout the Iliad, many Greek gods are represented through divine interventions. Gods were a very important aspect in the Mycenaean culture and religion.


Homer's the Iliad and the Odyssey . (1998). Retrieved September 2, 2013, from Thinkquest:

Jordan, H. (2008, September). Achaeans, Argives, Danaans, or Greeks? Retrieved September 2, 2013, from The Iliad of Homer Translated by Herbert Jordan :

University Press Inc. (2003). Time Periods . Retrieved September 2, 2013, from Ancient Greece :

Conventions in the Iliad


The Iliad has five themes:

  • Nostos is the Greek word for homecoming.
  • Kleos is the glory that a hero gains from winning an important battle.
  • Timê is the respect or honor a hero gains from his or her accomplishments.
  • The wrath of Achilles affected many of his battle strategies in a negative way.
  • Fate is what is destined to happen in life, and it affected the events of the Iliad.


Homer begins the Iliad with a prayer to the Muse. In the invocation of the Iliad, Homer says "Sing O Muse, of the rage of Achilles." This line shows the audience three things about the Iliad:

  • Homer is asking for guidance as he tells the story of the Iliad
  • the main theme of the Iliad is rage
  • the problem that made Achilles angry has already occurred


Here are some examples of epithets that Homer uses in the Iliad:

  • "swift-footed Achilles"
  • "'white-armed Hera"
  • "rosy-fingered Dawn"
  • "wine-dark sea"

Epic Similes

In the Iliad Homer compares Achilles to a race horse to show the audience that Achilles had speed, beauty, and strength. Two specific examples of epic similes that Homer uses in the Iliad are:

  • "as quick as a mother flicks a fly from her baby sleeping softly, so did Athena's hand flick the arrow away from Menelaus"
  • "the whole army stirred as when the west wind shakes the deep standing grain with hurricane gusts that flatten down the stalks"

In medias res

Homer begins the Iliad with a grueling battle:

  • the Achaeans and the Trojans fighting in the ninth year of the Trojan War

Tone and Style

A serious tone and an elevated style:

  • display the characters and events of the epic in a formal way
  • help the audience honor the accomplishments of the hero in a proper way
  • make the words of the epic very powerful
Here are some examples of a serious tone and an elevated style:
  • “No one can hurry me down to Hades before my time, but if a man's hour is come, be he brave or be he coward, there is no escape for him when he has once been born.”
  • “Without a sign, his sword the brave man draws, and asks no omen, but his country's cause.”
  • “I wish that strife would vanish away from among gods and mortals, and gall, which makes a man grow angry for all his great mind, that gall of anger that swarms like smoke inside of a man's heart and becomes a thing sweeter to him by far than the dripping of honey.”


Interesting Facts

  • The Iliad was written around the 8th century B.C.
  • The Iliad contains 15,693 lines.
  • When King Menelaus and Paris were fighting, Aphrodite rescued and healed Paris when King Menelaus was about to defeat Paris.
  • Achilles was supposed to die in a war between the Greeks and the Trojans.
  • Helen of Troy was known to have a "face that could launch a thousand ships" because the Greeks sailed to Troy on 1,000 ships.
  • Paris chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess. As a result, Aphrodite cast a spell on Helen of Troy to make her fall in love with Paris.


Bibliography for Picutres

"103 A Brief History of Early and Pre-Classical Greece, Classical Drama and Theatre." 103 A Brief History of Early and Pre-Classical Greece, Classical Drama and Theatre. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2013. <>.
"The 300 Spartans; Accurate Historical Illustrations of the Three Hundredspartans at Thermopylae by Howard David Johnson." The 300 Spartans; Accurate Historical Illustrations of the Three Hundredspartans at Thermopylae by Howard David Johnson. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2013. <>.
"Illustration to 'The Iliad'" Pictures: Posters by Rysbrack at N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2013. <>.
"Learningtogether2012." Learningtogether2012. N.p., 01 Sept. 2011. Web. 02 Sept. 2013. <>.