Themes of The Iliad

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The Worth of Human Life

"War where men win glory."

Kleos (remembered for glory after death)

Reputation and respect



"War with all it's tears."

Hector, Andromache and Astynax

The Greeks run to the ships when lied to that they are going home

Initial fighting is always started by the Gods

Grief and women

The avengence of Patroclus even though it means Achilles will die

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The Gods

Humanness - quarrel, hierarchy, eat and drink, sleep, sex, daily life book 1.

They even engage in activities which bring them pain such as Ares fighting for the Trojans gets shot by Diomedes book 5.

The Gods are not always respected but never beaten- Helen and Aphrodite book 3.

They can be brutal - Apollo strips Patroclus book 16, or kind - Iris comforts Priam book 24.

"In relating the Gods' wounds, quarrels and revenges Homer has done his best to make men of the Trojan War gods and gods of the men." - Longinus, 1AD, ancient critic.

The Gods do not control fate. They often consider changing it but they usually go along with it even if it brings them misery - Zeus doesn't save Sarpeidon book 16.

Immortal - rather than suffering mortals receive after an argument the Gods have a feast - The Gods feast book 1.

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Oral Composition

Repetition - epithets, ring composition

Objectivity - Homer reports the action rather than evaluates it

Focalisation - Homer does however report action from differing angles eg. In one simile he describes Hector as an "eagle" and Achilles as a "tender lamb".It is obvious to us that Achilles is not a lamb but through Hector's eyes he may have seen Achilles as a lamb as he tried to attack.

Speeches - there are two types. One to report narrative and one to reveal and develop character. Patroclus reports to Nestor why he has come back to battle. Andromache expresses grief for Hector and tells us about her family.

Details, delaying of action - brings tension, uncertainty to the reader. They know what will happen but not when.

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Epic similes - used to contrast the natural world contrasts the artificial thing that is war. Allows the reader to view the action from another perspective, elicits major pathos.

Secondary information - hometown and family is added after the primary description of death

Blood and gore - vivid description of the fatality makes it seem very real

The Shield of Achilles - domestic scenes, symbol of life before war

Xenia - Glaucus and Diomedes find their families are related by guest friendship and so swap armour and refuse to kill eachother.

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Grief and Death

The women and children grieve for the men they lose. Hecabe, Helen, Andromache and Astynax only grieve for Hector. Thetis grieves for Achilles.
It shows the effect of war on those that are non-combatants is only loss. There is no glory for them.

When Achilles pours soot over his head, claws at his hair. His slaves join in and beat their breasts. He cries and Thetis and her nerieds cry too. They have an elaborate funeral and games. - these rituals show how they thought of Patroclus. It is accustomed to let them be done.

But when it comes to Hector Achilles does not let the Trojans do these things. He strips the body, drags Hector behind his chariot in the dust. - Zeus acknowledges this is to far and instructs Thetis to tell Achilles to give the body back to Priam.

Grief needs to be allowed. Killing for glory is all very well but once you have killed you must respectfully give the body back. Or you take too much.

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Divine backing

Winged words

Physical strength

Wealth - girls, oxen, gold

An aristeia


Better than father


Tragic background

Respect for the dead


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