Homer, Iliad, and Odyssey
Eighth century BCE
Review: Minoan and Mycenaen
Review: From Dark Age to Archaic
Classical Period to Alexander
Greek literature begins with. . .
• Greek literature begins with two
masterpieces, the Iliad and Odyssey,
• which cannot be accurately dated (the
conjectural dates range over three
• and which are attributed to the poet
Homer, about whom nothing is known
except his name.
The blind bard Demodocus
• The Greeks believed that he was blind,
perhaps because the bard Demodocus in
the Odyssey was blind and seven different
cities put forward claims to be his
APOTHEOSIS OF HOMER By Ingres
Homer: Oral Tradition
• It was a blurred memory
• (Homer does not remember the writing,
for example, or the detailed bureaucratic
accounting recorded on the tablets)
• and this is easy to understand:
• some time in the last century of the
millennium the great palaces were
destroyed by fire.
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Mycenaean wealth the Dark
• With them disappeared not only the arts
and skills that had created Mycenaean
wealth but even the system of writing.
• For the next few hundred years the
Greeks were illiterate and so no written
evidence survives for what, in view of our
ignorance about so many aspects of it, we
call the Dark Age of Greece.
Alice Y. Chang 13
Alice Y. Chang 14
• A detail of the restored Dolphin fresco on
the wall of the Queen’s Room in the
Minoan palace at Knossos.
• The rosette pattern below the dolphins is
typically Minoan and the whole fresco
probably dates from the last phase of the
New palace, around 1450-1400 BCE.
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the Trojan War and Mycenaean
• The stories told in the Homeric poems are set
in the age of the Trojan War, which
archeologists (those, that is, who believe that
it happened at all) date to the twelfth
• Though the poems do preserve some faded
memories of the Mycenaean Age, as we have
them they probably are the creation of later
centuries, the tenth to the eighth B.C., the so-
called Dark Age that succeeded the collapse
(or destruction) of Mycenaean civilization.
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Iliad and the Ionian landscape
• The Iliad contains several accurate
descriptions of natural features of the
Ionian landscape, but his grasp of the
geography of mainland, especially
western, Greece is unsure.
About to the age of writing…
• The two great epics that have made his name
supreme among poets may have been fixed in
something like their present form before the art
of writing was in general use in Greece;
• it is certain that they were intended not for
reading but for oral recitation.
• The earliest stages of their composition date from
around the beginnings of Greek literacy—the
late eighth century B.C.
• The poems exhibit the unmistakable
characteristics of oral composition.
the immense poetic reserve
• Of course he could and did invent new
phrases and scenes as he recited—but his
base was the immense poetic reserve
created by many generations of singers
who lived before him.
• When he told again for his hearers the old
story of Achilles and his wrath, he was
recreating a traditional story that had been
recited, with variations, additions, and
improvements, by a long line of
• The Iliad and Odyssey as we have them, however,
are unlike most of the oral literature we know
from other times and places.
• The poetic organization of each of these two epics,
the subtle interrelationship of the parts, which
creates their structural and emotional unity,
suggests that they owe their present form to the
shaping hand of a single poet, the architect who
selected from the enormous wealth of the oral
tradition and fused what he took with original
material to create, perhaps with the aid of the new
medium of writing, the two magnificently
ordered poems known as the Iliad and Odyssey.
Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles the
son of Peleus,
the destructive rage that sent
countless ills on the Achaeans...
第一卷：紛爭、宣言及盟誓 • 依照希臘文版本，
• 第十卷：戰營中的一夜 • 第十七卷：爭奪死去戰士的
The Achaeans—the Hellenes
(Greeks), Danaans, and Argives
Agamemnon — King of Mycenae; leader • Aias (Ajax the
Greater) — son of
of the Greeks. Telamon, with
• Achilles — King of the Myrmidons. Diomedes, he is
second to Achilles in
• Odysseus— King of Ithaca; the martial prowess.
wiliest Greek commander, and hero of • Aias (Ajax the
the Odyssey. Lesser) — son of
Oileus, often partner
• Menelaus— King of Sparta; husband of Ajax the Greater.
of Helen. • Diomedes— son of
Tydeus, King of
The Trojan men
• Priam — the aged King of Troy. • Aeneas — son of
Hector — son of King Priam; the foremost Anchises and Aphrodite.
Trojan warrior. • Deiphobus — brother of
Hector and Paris.
• Paris — Helen’s lover-abductor.
• Polydorus — son of
• Agenor — a Trojan warrior who Priam and Laothoe.
attempts to fight Achilles (Book XXI).
• Dolon—a spy upon the Greek camp
• Antenor — King Priam’s advisor, who
argues for returning Helen to end the
war; Paris refuses.
The Trojan women
Hecuba— Priam’s wife; mother of Hector,
Cassandra, Paris, and others.
• Helen— Menelaus’s wife; espoused first to
Paris, then to Deiphobus.
• Andromache— Hector’s wife; mother of
• Cassandra— Priam’s daughter; courted by
Apollo, who bestows the gift of prophecy to
her; upon her rejection, he curses her, and her
warnings of Trojan doom go unheeded.
• In Greek mythology, Cassandra, "she who
entangles men"; also known as Alexandra)
was the daughter of King Priam and Queen
Hecuba of Troy. Her beauty caused Apollo
to grant her the gift of prophecy. However,
when she did not return his love, Apollo
placed a curse on her so that no one would
ever believe her predictions.
Painting by Evelyn De
tondo of a red-figure
kylix by the , ca.
• The Cassandra metaphor (variously
labelled the Cassandra 'syndrome',
'complex', 'phenomenon', 'predicament',
'dilemma', or 'curse'), is a term applied in
situations in which valid warnings or
concerns are dismissed or disbelieved.
• occurs seven times in the poem (II.155,
II.251, IX.413, IX.434, IX.622, X.509,
• thematically, the concept of homecoming is
much explored in Ancient Greek
literature, especially in the post-war
homeward fortunes experienced by
Atreidae, Agamemnon, and Odysseus (see
the Odyssey), thus, nostos is impossible
without sacking Troy — King
Agamemnon’s motive for winning, at any
Richmond Lattimore translates:
• For my mother Thetis the goddess of silver feet
I carry two sorts of destiny toward the day of
my death. Either,
if I stay here and fight beside the city of the
my return home is gone, but my glory shall be
but if I return home to the beloved land of my
the excellence of my glory is gone, but there
will be a long life
left for me, and my end in death will not come
to me quickly.
timê –respect, honor
• the concept denoting the respectability an
honorable man accrues with accomplishment
(cultural, political, martial), per his station in life.
• In Book I, the Greek troubles begin with King
Agamemnon’s dishonorable, unkingly behavior —
first, by threatening the priest Chryses (1.11), then,
by aggravating them in disrespecting Achilles, by
confiscating Bryseis from him (1.171).
• The warrior’s consequent rancor against the
dishonorable king ruins the Greek military cause.
Kleos— glory, fame
• is the concept of glory earned in heroic
• for most of the Greek invaders of Troy,
notably Odysseus, kleos is earned in a
victorious nostos (homecoming), yet not for
Achilles, he must choose one reward, either
nostos or kleos.
• In Book IX (IX.410–16), he poignantly tells
Agamemnon’s envoys—Odysseus, Phoenix,
Ajax— begging his reinstatement to battle
about having to choose between two fates
The Wrath of Achilles
• His personal rage and wounded soldier’s vanity propel
the story — the Greeks’ faltering in battle, the slayings
of Patroclus and Hector, and the fall of Troy. In Book I,
the Wrath of Achilles first emerges in the Achilles-
convoked meeting, between the Greek kings and
Calchas, the Seer. King Agamemnon dishonours
Chryses, the Trojan Apollonian priest, by refusing with
a threat the restitution of his daughter, Chryseis —
despite the proffered ransom of “gifts beyond count”;
 the insulted priest prays his god’s help — and a
nine-day rain of arrows falls upon the Greeks.
Zeus’s divine intervention
• After that, only Athena stays Achilles'
• He vows to never again to obey orders
• Furious, Achilles cries to his mother,
Thetis, who persuades Zeus’s divine
intervention — favouring the Trojans—
until Achilles' rights are restored.
Hector kills Patroclus.
• Meanwhile, Hector leads the Trojans to
almost pushing the Greeks back to the
sea (Book XII);
• later, Agamemnon contemplates defeat
and retreat to Greece (Book XIV).
• Again, the Wrath of Achilles turns the
war’s tide in seeking vengeance when
Hector kills Patroclus.
• Aggrieved, Achilles tears his hair and
dirties his face; Thetis comforts her
Moirae Fate, destiny
• propels most of the events of the Iliad.
• Once set, gods and men abide it, neither
truly able nor willing to contest it.
• How fate is set is unknown, but it is told
by the Fates and Seers such as Calchas.
Men and their gods continually speak of
heroic acceptance and cowardly avoidance
of one’s slated fate.
Aeneas survives the Trojan War
• Divinely-aided, Aeneas escapes the
wrath of Achilles and survives the
• Whether or not the gods can alter
fate, they do abide it, despite its
countering their human allegiances,
thus, the mysterious origin of fate is a
power beyond the gods.
the Three Fates
• Fate implies the primeval, tripartite division of
the world that Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades
effected in deposing their father, Cronus, for its
• Zeus took the Air and the Sky, Poseidon the
Waters, and Hades the Underworld, the land of
the dead — yet, they share dominion of the
• Despite the earthly powers of the Olympic
gods, only the Three Fates set the destiny of
The Moirae, as
depicted in a
the three Moirae
• Clotho ("spinner") spun the thread of life
from her distaff onto her spindle.
• Lachesis ("allotter" or drawer of lots)
measured the thread of life allotted to each
person with her measuring rod.
• Atropos ("inexorable" or "inevitable",
literally "unturning.” sometimes called
Aisa) was the cutter of the thread of life.
She chose the manner of each person's
death; Her Roman equivalent was Morta
Classical images illustrating
Repertory of outstanding painted
vases, wall paintings and other
ancient iconography of the War of
Book One and Book Two
• Book 1: After nine years of the Trojan War,
King Agamemnon seizes Briseis, Achilles’s
war-concubine, for having relinquished
Chryseis; dishonoured, Achilles wrathfully
withdraws; the gods argue the War’s
• Book 2: Testing Greek resolve, Agamemnon
feigns a homeward order; Odysseus
encourages the Greeks to pursue the fight;
see the “Catalogue of Ships” and the
“Catalogue of Trojans and Allies”.
• Of the two poems the Iliad is perhaps the
• Its subject is war;
• its characters are men in battle and
women whose fate depends on the
the Achaeans v.s. the Trojans
• The war is fought by the Achaeans against
the Trojans for the recovery of Helen, the
wife of the Achaean chieftain Menelaus;
• the combatants are heroes who in their
chariots engage in individual duels before
the supporting lines of infantry and
• The comparison of Patroclus to an angler
emphasizes another aspect of battle, its
• ▸ noun: a fisherman who uses a
hook and line
▸ noun: a scheming person;
someone who schemes to gain an
▸ noun: fishes having large
mouths with a wormlike filament
attached for luring prey
• The great champion of the Trojans,
Hector, fights bravely, but reluctantly.
• War, for him, is a necessary evil, and he
thinks nostalgically of the peaceful past,
though he has little hope of peace to come.
Hector and Achilles
• We see Hector, as we do not see Achilles,
against the background of the patterns of
civilized life—the rich city with its
temples and palaces, the continuity of the
• The duel between these two men is the
inevitable crisis of the poem, and just as
inevitable is Hector’s defeat and death.
• At the climactic moment of Hector’s
death, as everywhere in the poem,
Homer’s firm control of his material
preserves the balance in which our
contrary emotions are held;
• pity for Hector does not entirely rob us of
sympathy for Achilles.
The Funeral of Hector
War and Peace
• This tragic action is the center of the
poem, but it is surrounded by scenes that
remind us that the organized destruction
of war, though an integral part of human
life, is still only a part of it.
• The yearning for peace and its creative
possibilities is never far below the surface.
• These two poles of the human condition—
war and peace, with their corresponding
aspects of human nature, the destructive
and the creative—are implicit in every
situation and statement of the poem, and
they are put before us, in symbolic form,
in the shield that the god Hephaestus
makes for Achilles, with its scenes of
human life in both peace and war.
• Whether these two sides of life can ever be
integrated, or even reconciled, is a
question that the Iliad raises but cannot
• a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was
• He was the god of technology, blacksmiths,
craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals,
metallurgy, fire and volcanoes.
• Hephaestus was lame, which gave him a
grotesque appearance in Greek eyes.
• He served as the blacksmith of the gods, and he
was worshipped in the manufacturing and
industrial centers of Greece, particularly in
Athens. The center of his cult was in Lemnos.
• Mentor was an old friend of Odysseus. To him
Odysseus entrusted his household when he
joined the coalition that sailed against Troy.
• Athena, assuming several times the shape of
Mentor , became the guide of Odysseus' son
Telemachus, giving him prudent counsel. Since
then, wise and trusted advisers have been
• The Iliad
Written 800 B.C.E
Translated by Samuel Butler