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The Iliad, possibly written at the pinnacle of Homer’s career, begins the journey. There are some that think Homer did not exist at all. This debate has continued for thousands of years, with scholars going back and forth as to its validity. Homer’s writings could have been the works of many or the works of one, regardless this question will never be answered to the satisfaction of all. According to the website bizfluent, historian Herodotus believed that Homer was born thousands of years before himself; this would have been before the invention of the calendar (Biography.com Editors). Homer, a Greek poet was born somewhere in Asia Minor; although this cannot be proven. It is interesting to note that the city of Troy in The Iliad is also in Asia Minor, giving some credence to the belief that Homer’s writings contained pieces of himself. It is thought that Homer was born around 800 B.C.E. and died around 700 B.C.E. somewhere around 100 years of age. Since there is no record of Homer’s birth several places have stated that he came from their city. It was the custom at the time to commit to memory stories and pass them on by word of mouth; this is how perhaps Homer related his poems. Whether written or orally transcribed these stories have continued to last. Today many museums house the Greek art that depicts scenes from the works of Homer. Homer’s works managed to survive despite the ineffectiveness of word of mouth record keeping. History attributes the poem The Iliad to Homer, which is about the war between the Greeks and the inhabitants of Troy. Norton Anthology suggests that the Trojan myth may have been inspired by the Myceneans, who lived on the island of Crete around 2,000 B.C.E. during the Bronze Age (216).
The Norton Anthology describes The Iliad as full of violence, death, and destruction, while simultaneously seeking peace, life, and restoration (216). The main points of the story are Achilles rage against Agamemnon and the Trojans, while simultaneously looking at the results of war on nations. Not only does the audience see both sides of the mortal equation, but also that of the Gods; as they champion different sides. Now, ten years later Achilles, during battle, has taken a young woman of Troy. Much to Achilles chagrin, Agamemnon wants her as compensation for his losses during battle. In the story both the Greeks and the Trojans are more than military warriors they are men with desires, wants, and needs. Homer gives these heroes a choice to make; die as you choose or be dishonored. There is tragedy on both sides as we witness the deaths of Sarpedon, Patroclus, and Hector. Hector, of Sparta, is made relatable to the audience when he shows the love he has for his son while saying goodbye. The story ends with Achilles and Priam reminiscing over their losses as Priam bargains for the return of Hector’s body (Homer 318). Prior to the beginning of the story Aphrodite is given a golden apple by Paris, the prince of Troy; she allows Paris to have any women he desires. Unfortunately, the woman he chooses is Helen of Sparta, who is already married to the king of Sparta.
The importance of The Iliad goes beyond the writing style of Homer and into the world of war and the effects of war on those fighting, including those at home. One can feel the strain of saying goodbye while reading the scene of Hector’s farewell to his wife and son. How many have faced the loss of a son, daughter, husband, or wife, and have felt the anguish of that loss. War can bring with it glory, however what is remember is the tragedy of life cut short. We can look back over the last 3,000 thousand years and see the lasting effects of war. Today, many countries are fighting over some of the same subjects, i.e. personal beliefs and territory under the guise of religion or God appointed authority, or as in the case of the Greeks and Trojans the will of the Gods. It may be interesting to note that fact or fiction, society still cannot seem to learn from the mistakes of the past. Again, as stated on the bizfluent website, the importance of The Iliad, shows Homer’s influence on the world, in which he created a new way of writing (Biography.com Editors). Homer’s writing style continued through the works of other poets, as well as giving the world an insight into mythology; as it was brought to life on the page. Homer’s influence on the world can be seen today through many forms and works. Not only do the Greeks and other societies study Homer, but here in America his stories have been brought to life on the cinematic screen and studied throughout education.
One interesting thing observed about The Iliad was the mistreatment and unimportance of a woman, unless she was a Goddess. This treatment leaves one to wonder how women could be revered and devalued at the same time. The three Goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite are all given due respect. Respectively Hera as Zeus’ wife and queen of the Gods, Athena Goddess of wisdom and warfare, and Aphrodite Goddess of love and beauty. The mortal women on the other hand, are used as pawns, both by the Gods and the mortals. There seems to be no care given to whether they are married or their desire for freedom but used only as bargaining chips or to punish the enemy. The men on the other hand are revered as being wise and heroic or as in the case of Achilles a half God or Demigod. These men seen as leaders are given the emotions of love, anger, and grief. The downfall to this is they are required to experience suffering, perhaps because the Gods are unable or unwilling to do so themselves. The Gods use mortals as tools in order to keep from making the same mistakes that they themselves inflict upon the world. It seems that the mortals may not have learned from their past themselves, but that does not stop the Gods from using them to their advantage. It is strange that the mortals in the story continue to hold fast to their belief in the Gods, when the Gods seem to relish only in their pain. Pain and anguish seem to be a central theme throughout the poem, one wonders if this is once again a look into the life of Homer.
- Biography.com Editors. “Homer Biography.” The Biography.com website, 2 April 2014, http://www.biography.com/wirter/homer. Accessed 24 June 2019.
- Homer. “From The Iliad.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature, fourth edition, vol. A, edited by Puchner, Martin et al, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2018, pp. 216-324.
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