The Iliad Analysis

The Iliad is a description of the Trojan war that took place in the 13th century BC. It tells about the ancient gods and the society that no longer exists today. The meaning of the themes, conflicts, plot, and symbols requires explanation to be understood by the modern reader.

What is The Iliad genre? What do the poem’s opening lines mean? Find all the answers on The Iliad analysis page prepared by experts. It explores the setting and imagery of the story and how it has influenced the world.

đź“ś The Iliad Genre

It is the oldest known Western fiction that has been preserved to our days. This fact complicates the task to establish its genre. All the three variants below are applicable.

  1. The Iliad is an epic poem because all other epic poetry stems from it. It is an extended poetic narrative describing the heroic actions of heroes, gods, and mortals.
  2. The Iliad is a tragedy because it traces the downfall of a hero (Achilles) due to his complicated character.
  3. The Iliad is a war drama because it gives a detailed report on the progress of the war and analyzes its role in the fate of people.nbsp;

âť— The Iliad Importance

When The Iliad was written, the Trojan War had long passed. Homer drew inspiration from Greek mythology and the legend of the war. But he managed to write more than a mythological text. The epic poem is a historical book that is the only available way for us to explore the way of life of the ancient people.

Thanks to The Iliad, we have learned that the Trojan war was the defining conflict of the era. Naturally, it caused the creation of multiple legends, myths, and tales. Unfortunately, historians cannot answer if Homer’s description of the war was true to life. But it is the fact that it took place approximately during the same historical period, and the city of Troy was destroyed as a result.

The Trojan War brought together the small Greek city states, laying the foundation of the Greek identity and culture. A coalition of Greek states held the siege of Troy. A common enemy is a stronger uniting force than shared interests. Thus, the poems of Homer gave the ancient people a history around which they could consolidate.

Why are The Iliad and The Odyssey important?

The epic poems were written by Homer in the Greek language in the 8th century BC. Why are they still so engaging more than 27 centuries later? The Iliad and The Odyssey are important because they provide invaluable knowledge about the Ancient Greek culture and identity.

These books preserve the knowledge of the past and the experiences of ancient people for future generations. Besides, they teach us many moral lessons that will never lose their topicality. The critical nature of family bonds, the inevitability of conflicts, the need to respect one’s subordinates, and the importance of accepting apologies are just a few to name.

🗺️ The Iliad Setting

The described events last for only 52 days on the ninth year of the Trojan War (13th century BC). Homer tried to show the siege of Troy in 1250 – 1180 BC through its small part and succeeded in doing so.  

The plot develops near the ancient city of Troy. In 1863, Heinrich Schliemann (a multimillionaire who loved antiquities) joined the excavations of Frank Calvert. He continued the archaeological work by himself, and in 1871 found the ruins of Troy under Hisarlik hill on the northwest coast of modern Turkey. In the times of the ancient war, the city occupied a strategic place on the Dardanelles Strait. The narrow water channel connected the Aegean and the Black Seas. Thus, the city location was wisely chosen.

The narration skips from the Olympus to the Achaean and Trojan camps. From time to time, all the three forces unite in battle. This approach creates certain parallelism when the Achaeans and the Trojans do the same actions in different locations.

The action inside Troy takes place on its walls and in the palace of King Priam. The Trojans make their battle decisions and communicate with their families there. In such a way, the wives and children of the warriors become part of the story.

🦄 Symbols in The Iliad

Almost no events in the poem are merely presented as descriptions. Even the trivial eating before the hard battle represents hospitality and unity between the commanders and their subordinates. Homer divides all human activities into wartime and peacetime categories, making them symbolic of their respective application. Achilles’ armor, shield, and sword are among the most remarkable Homeric symbols.

The picture lists Achilles’ armor, shield, and sword that are the most remarkable Homeric symbols.

The Shield of Achilles

The analysis of this symbol has been a topic of debate for years. The layout of its images bears a meaning that can be read differently. Achilles’ shield depicts the following:

  1. The Earth, Moon, Sun, sea, sky, and constellations;
  2. Two cities: one has a wedding and a law case in action, the other shows a city siege;
  3. A plowed field;
  4. A reaped harvest;
  5. A herd of cattle attacked by lions;
  6. A sheep farm;
  7. Dancing people;
  8. The ocean.

The first interpretation of the symbol is that it represents the microcosm of a civilization, where war is just a small part of the multifaceted life. The presence of celestial objects confirms that the shield stands for the Greek idea of the universe. Other interpretations of Achilles’ shield focus on the parallelism of war and peace, work and leisure, timely and eternal.

It is worth mentioning that Achilles received it as a gift from Hephaestus, along with the armor and sword. This fact shows that the hero is chosen to be the dominant warrior. The shield reflects the world outside Troy (except for picture 2) as if trying to say that war is just a small part of human life.

đź’¬ What Do the Opening Lines of The Iliad Mean?

The Iliad starts in medias res. In Latin, it means “in the middle of things.” The first lines address a goddess to sing about the “black and murderous” Achilles’ rage that caused innumerable deaths of the Greeks. Moreover, the author highlights that so “Zeus’ will was done,” as if relieving Achilles of his responsibility. The foreshadowing in The Iliad opening lines is a typical feature of epic poetry.   

Thank you for reading this article! If you need help with formulating a thesis for your paper on The Iliad, try our thesis statement generator. If you are looking for an essay idea on the poem, you might want to take a look at the essay topics collection. Any questions left? Check the QA section! 

đź”— References

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