Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Homer's The Iliad

Homer's Iliad

Our first book in our Ancient History rotation will be Homer's epci poem, The Iliad. There are many, many translations available online, in libraries, and reprinted and distributed through popular booksellers (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookstar). The links below include online translations as well as suggested translators (most popular). Please feel free to use whatever source you may have on hand or locally available.

Popular Modern Versions - Reprints

In addition to these online e-texts, there are many good translations available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, many classics collections, as well as Dover and Signet Thrift collections. Listed below are a few of the more popular modern prose translations.

  • E.V. Rieu (Penquin Classics)
  • A.T. Murray (Loeb Classics)
  • Stanley Lombardo (Hackett Publishing Company, Incorporated)
  • R. Lattimore (University of Chicago Press)
  • R. Fitzgerald (Everyman's Library Edition)
  • W.H. Rouse (Signet Classics)
  • A.Lang (Collector's Library)
  • R. Fagles (Penguin USA)
  • S. Butler (Dover Thrift Edition)

Other Good Links

Study Guides and Book Notes

Many people find study guides helpful when reading classical literature. SparkNotes has a complete classics library available online for free.

Study and Discovery Questions for Homer's The Iliad

Study and Discovery Questions are courtesy of http://duke.usask.ca/~porterj/CourseNotes/IliadStiles.html#unit2 by Lewis Styles; The Iliad Study Questions from SparksNotes.com, and Carol Hepburn (Arete Moderator).

Books I and II

  1. As we ease into Book I and II, we need to begin to focus on the main characters as Homer portray's them. Homer uses descriptive language to help us gain an understanding into each character's personality as well as their strength's and weaknesses.
  2. In Book I, we are introduced to the main characters as well as to the central theme of the story. How would you describe the following characters (use Homer's words):
    • King Agamemnon
    • Achilles
    • Argives/Achaeans/Danaans (the Greeks)
    • Odysseus/Ulysses
  3. Do you note any behavior, actions or attitudes that seem to show up throughout this first book?
  4. In addition to mortal characters, Homer gives us a glimpse into the life of the gods on Mt. Olympus. What impression do you have of the gods? How do they behave? What characteristics would you use to describe each god (again use examples from Homer's words):
    • Zeus/Jupiter
    • Hera/Juno (Pallas)
    • Athene/Minerva
    • Aphrodite/Venus
    • Poseidon/Neptune
    • Ares/Mars
    • Hephaestus/Vulcan
  5. Lastly, share with us your impression of the book thus far. Did you like it? If you would like to share your narration with us on Book I, please do so.

Books III and IV

Thersites = "bold one."

the ugliest = aischistos = "most ugly, most shameful."

It seems like just yesterday . . . at Aulis: actually, it was nine years before.

aegis = a sort of shawl that Athena (and other gods) wear and use like a shield—for protection and to strike terror into the hearts of their enemies.

Ares . . . sister Eris = "Strife."

  1. What do you think Homer intends to show the reader (about Agamemnon's character, about the morale of the Achaeans, about Odysseus) in the scenes detailing Agamemnon's plan to "test" his troops and its result?
  2. Why do you think Homer included the episode of Thesites' abuse of Agamemnon and his chastisement by Odysseus? Why is it OK for Achilles to abuse Agamemnon but not OK for Thersites to disrespect him? Why do you think the troops laugh?
  3. What do you think the scepter / staff could symbolize?
  4. What do you think of Paris' answer to Hector? Why do you suppose the people of Troy haven't just gotten rid of Paris and / or Helen?
  5. Why do you think Menelaus agrees to the truce and single combat?
  6. What do you think is Helen's view of her situation? Who does she blame for her predicament? Who would you blame?
  7. Now a strange question: where do you think Helen's emotions come from?
  8. What do you think would happen to Helen if Aphrodite "let go" of her?
  9. Why does Aphrodite rescue Paris? Why do you think Helen gives in to Paris?
  10. why do you think the gods love some men, women, and cities and try to destroy others? Why does Hera want peace?
  11. Why do you think breaking the truce brings "glory" to Pandarus?

Books V and VI

  1. Now that we have actually experienced war for the first time in the story -- what are your thoughts, feelings, impressions of the Greek's battle with the Trojans?
  2. In Book 4, we see Helen in more detail. What do you think of Helen? Do you think she loved Paris? Do you think she planned on a 10 year war being fought over her and the attempt to recover her?
  3. Many scholar's refer to the 'rage of Achilles' in this book. Do you see Achilles' rage? If so, how would you characterize it and do you see it develop/change from book to book?
  4. Near the beginning of Book 6, a seer (his brother) tells Hector to do something. Compare his reaction to the reaction of Agamemnon when a seer tells him to do something; what is revealed, or rather, re-emphasized?
  5. At of the end of Book 6, what do you think of Hector and Priam, in contrast to Agamemnon and Achilles? Why? What exactly is each side fighting for? How would you evaluate each of these two things?
  6. Compare Hector's interview with Helen in Book 6 with the scene between Priam and Helen in Book 3. What is odd about both these scenes? What do you make of Helen, in light of them? Of Priam and Hector?
  7. At the end of Book 6, we have seen much of the horror of war. What do you think Homer is telling us about war? Does he like it?