The Iliad, by Homer


Ilion is the ancient name for the city of Troy. So literally, the Iliad means ''poem of Troy.'' The book Illiad was written by Homer in about 750BC and is the story of the Trojan war and nine years after it started the Greek army conquers Chryse, a town allied with Troy, and capture two beautiful maidens. One of the maidens is then claimed by Achilles as his own and the other is claimed by Agamemnon. The father of one of the women is the daughter of Briseis who a priest serving the god Apollo. A very large ransom is offered for the women but refused, so the Trojans pray to Apollo and ask him to send a plague on the Achaean camp.

With Zeus supporting the Trojans and Achilles refusing to fight, the Achaeans suffer great losses. Without Achilles help, the Achaeans fight on relying on Diomedes another great warrior, but they make no progress and are pushed back to their ships. Before long they are fighting the Trojans just to save their ships from fire and the end of their struggle seems close.

Patroclus convinces Achilles to let him wear his armor to fool the Trojans and to take his place in battle, wearing his armor. Patroclus presence on the battlefield in the armor helps the Achaeans push the Trojans away from the ships and back to the city walls but this ploy soon fails. Apollo knocks Patroclus’s armor to the ground, and Hector slays him.

Patroclus’s body is brought back and when Achilles learns that Hector has killed Patroclus his is filled with rage and agrees to rejoin the battle. The god Hephaestus agrees to make a new suit of armor for Achilles and he rides into the battle.

Hector has left his men outside the walls of Troy not expecting Achilles to rejoin the battle. When the Trojan army see Achilles coming toward, they run in fear back behind the city walls. Achilles kills every Trojan in his path and then confronts Hector at the walls of Troy. At first Hector runs but then with the help of the goddess Athena he is finally tricked to stop running and must fight Achilles. The battle is intense, but Hector killed and then his body is tied to Achilles chariot and dragged across the battlefield for days.

It takes an intervention from the gods to get Achilles to agree that Hector deserves a proper burial. Zeus sends the god Hermes to escort King Priam, Hector’s father and the ruler of Troy, into the Achaean camp to ask for the burial. Priam pleads with Achilles to take pity on a father and return Hector’s body. Deeply moved, Achilles finally agrees and returns Hector’s body to the Trojans. Both sides agree to a temporary truce, and Hector receives a hero’s funeral.

 The story presented in the Iliad only covers a few weeks in the final year of the Trojan war which lasted over 10 years. Homer is considered the author of"The Iliad"  but it is clearly dependent on an older oral tradition and may well have been the collective inheritance of many singer-poets over a long period of time. These singer-poets may have each brought more stories of the role of the gods in the plot?


“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.” 

“Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.” 

“Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men. Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth, now the living timber bursts with the new buds and spring comes round again. And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away.” 

“We men are wretched things.”