Use these resources to help you better understand the Iliad and other Greek Mythology.
Helpful Tips for Reading the Iliad
1. Read the introduction. Although this will take a larger time investment up-front, you will have a much better context and understanding of the text.
2. Use the Name Glossary on page 639. This glossary will help you keep track of the many character references in the poem, which can be overwhelming. Often-times, characters are referred to by more than one name.
3. Skim the battle scenes. The Iliad has several violent and detailed battle scenes. Although you should read some of these in full to get a flavor for the narrative style of Homer and oral improvisers of the time, you don't need to pay too much attention to ALL of the details. Battle scenes are good sections to skim over quickly as they tend not to contribute as much to the plot.
4. Start early. This is a long read. You can hardly expect to cram this book into a day or two. Start now!
5. Use the companion text. I have provided a digital companion text for you to read. If you read a chapter that is particularly confusing, then refer to the companion text for summary and analysis.
The Iliad of Homer
Most of you have read Homer’s The Odyssey, yet fewer have taken the time to read The Iliad of Homer. It is in fact The Iliad, and not the The Odyssey, that is considered to be Homer’s masterpiece. This is because The Iliad is the one text that every Grecian knew. It is the first Greek work written down. It was most revered by the Greeks. Anyone claiming to know anything about Greek Mythology, must have read the Iliad, for it is one of the most informative texts on the character of the Gods of Olympus as well as the societal expectations of behavior and roles for both men and women. In many ways, The Iliad was a religious text. It was akin to the Christian Bible in that it taught the value that the Greeks revered most—glory through honor.
Through the Gods and heroes/anti-heroes in The Iliad, Greeks learned what it truly meant to be honorable and to please the relatively just Gods.Many times throughout The Iliad, humans are punished or rewarded for violating the honor code or for living up to it. In our day, the word honor may not hold as much meaning as it did in Greek terms. It seems that true honor is no longer in existence. We live in a world where the honor of the Iliad lives only in name, but not in action. To the ancient Greeks, however, honor was everything—it encompassed all virtues. To be honorable was to be brave, yet not arrogant. It was to be honest. Honor was protecting innocence at all costs. Honor was being truthful to yourself and others and always keeping your word. Honor was charity, where charity was due. Honor was respect for others and the environment. Honor was paying tribute to the Gods when tribute was due. It’s no wonder that our nation's founders discovered something inspiring in the words of Homer when they decided to build our country on many of the Greek ideals. Honor was not just an idea in Greek terms, but it was something held sacred.
If anything, The Iliad can be read as a story of honor—of the consequences, good or bad, of living an honorable life. It can also be read as a history of Greek religious belief. As is underplayed in many modern depictions of The Iliad such as the movie
In many ways The Iliad is a quest in divinity. For Homer, divinity was a polytheist view. For in Homer’s and his listener’s eyes, the Gods of Olympus were real. They embodied powerful forces to Homer and the Greeks. A massive tsunami was seen as the wrath of Poseidon materialized. Fire caused by lightning strike was seen as the will of the God Zeus—who must be angry at those he strikes. A beautiful field of flowers was seen as a gift from Aphrodite, who must have graced the field with her footsteps. In all cases, the Gods are seen as rewarding good and punishing evil. Even if they often disagreed with each other, they all would submit to justice when it was needed. The Gods were not simple whimsical creations, but instead based upon real beliefs. Like many other theologists, Homer as well, attempted to explain the role of a higher power in society. Many of Homer’s polytheistic views eventually became the seeds to a more modern monotheistic view in many mainstream religions. After all, what are Christian angels in comparison to the lesser gods of Olympus under the supreme reign of the almighty Zeus? They seem to originate from the same breed of legend. Yet, despite the differences that may have emerged as time passed by, Homer still managed to tap into a universal truth. He recognized that in this world, there are both good and evil. And in Homer’s view, it is the ultimate role of us mere mortals, inhabitants of God's earth to constantly battle the choice between the two in hopes that our actions will some day please a higher power.
My wife and I near the top of the Acropolis in Athens. The Acropolis was a center for ancient Greek culture.
The Iliad Illustrated!
Check this guy out! What a nice explanation of the exposition of The Iliad. Find parts two and three on YouTube after you watch part one.