Iliad Study Guide

From Gerald R. Lucas
Achilles slays Hector, Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1630

The Iliad is a menis, or a song of wrath. It tells the story of rage and the consequences of that rage on entire civilizations.

Names

Topics for Consideration

The following questions should help you begin thinking about the major themes, characters, and ideas in the Iliad.

  1. Freedom and responsibility. To what extent are the decisions made by the heroes independent, individual decisions? Discuss, along these lines, Agamemnon's decision to take Briseis from Achilles.
  2. Discuss the statement in relation to the Iliad: "Mortality is a human creation, and though the gods may approve it, they are not bound by it."
  3. Aristotle said that the man who incapable of working in common, or who in his self-sufficiency has no need of others, is no part of the community, like a beast or god. Discuss the figure of Achilles in the light of this statement.
  4. Compare and contrast the relationship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu with that of Achilles and Patroclus.
  5. In spite of the constraints imposed by the formulaic language of the oral tradition, Homer, according to one critic, “sees his people as individually distinct and makes us aware of their individuality.” Discuss the ways in which Homer succeeds in presenting as differentiated individuals Hector, Nestor, Ajax the Great, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Priam, Phoenix.
  6. What seems to be the "heroic ideal" represented in the Iliad by Achilles? By Hector? Are they the same?
  7. What is the role of women in the Iliad? Consider Briesis, Helen, and Andromache in particular.
  8. Homer's preferred medium of poetic comparison is simile rather than metaphor, and his similes are "extended": the simile does more than establish a likeness between A and B, it goes on to describe B in great detail, some of the details not like A at all. Yet these details, the apparent development of B for its own sake, often do suggest points of comparison that lie below the surface and often, too, they make significant comments on broader aspects of the situation in which they appear. Discuss the function of the extended simile in book 22 of the Iliad.

Secondary Texts

  • Course Hero (December 13, 2017). The Iliad by Homer — Summary & Analysis (video). YouTube. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  • Overly Sarcastic Productions (January 23, 2015). Classics Summarized: The Iliad (video). YouTube. Retrieved 2018-09-05.