The Iliad Essay
A hero in the society can be defined as an individual who is admired and emulated by everyone because of his superior virtues and character that the culture or the society has. A Hero has virtues and attributes that are adored, valued and desired by many.
The ideals of a given culture are determined by the social –cultural conditions of a society or can also be greatly influenced by the views and the perceptions of the author. The motivations and the actions of a hero greatly determine the society view towards them.
The Iliad is one of the ancient literatures that date between 900 and 750 B.C. The events took place in the ancient Greek Bronze Age. During the time, the Greek region was filled with strife and there was need for strong men to provide defense to the community.
One of the heroic acts was to become a great warrior who feared nothing. In the Greek Dark Age, most of the rulers were the warrior class and they had to show the ability to defend the land and its populace.
In the Iliad, the two main heroic characters were Achilles and Hector. These two were drawn from the two main armies, that is, the Greek army and the Trojan army. These two warriors share some commonalities as well as differences (Samuel 5).
The two heroes share some common features that distinguish them as heroes. Both were great warriors from both sides. The two warriors were strong and had high confidence in themselves. During the duel between the two warriors, they were confident that they would beat each other. The two warriors were also men of honor and had pride.
Hector refused to retreat when ordered by his father Priam while Achilles decided to avenge the death of Patroclus. Both warriors also wanted glory and everyone to respect them. Another similarity is that both warriors are faithful to their family and friends. Achilles decides to forget his differences with the Agamemnon so as to avenge the death of his friend. He also wept bitterly for the loss of his friend Patroclus (Samuel 25).
The Ilaid also shows a number of differences between the two warriors. Prince hector is viewed as an epitome of the humane warrior and a fierce fighter. He is courageous and even fights the Greek giant Ajax. He is humane and is portrayed as been a father and a loving son to his aging parents. He also loves to his wife Andromache.
On the other hand, Achilles is depicted as a rough cruel and unmerciful warrior. He only has her mother and Patroclus his friend. Even though hector pleads with Achilles to allow him get a decent burial, Achilles kills hectors and drags his body on his chariot as a sign of dishonouring and disrespecting him. Achilles is mostly portrayed as a man of rage and furious. His anger towards the Agamemnon made Achilles to stop fighting for the Greeks and decided to fall back (McKenzie, 6)
Unlike hector, Achilles fights for the glory and honour of his name. He has excessive pride and has no regard or love for his countrymen. This is seen when he withdraws from the war leaving the Greek venerable to death. Achilles is also very individualistic and full of vengeance. Hector is an honourable and patriotic man. He fights to defend his own kingdom and the people of Troy as well as his honour.
Achilles is also depicted as a traditional epic hero. The Iliad discuss him as a superhuman that cannot be conquered but having a weakness only in his kneel. Hector is not deemed as invisible but as a person who can be conquered. The king urges hector not to fight Achilles indicating that Priam feared his son would be defeated.
Samuel, Butler. Homer’s The Iliad. New York: Orange Street Press. 1998. Print.
Literature Studies: “The Iliad” by Homer Essay
The literature is the reflection of the people’s history, feelings, and thoughts. The Iliad by Homer, the Ancient Greek author, is one of the outstanding works in the world literature. It is devoted to the period of the Greek-Trojan War and narrates about the heroic battles between the Greeks and the Trojans. The aim of this essay is to summarize the plot of The Iliad and to analyze it.
The Historical Background Of The Work
The Iliad is the masterpiece of the Antique literature. Homer, the legendary Greek author write it. According to the legend, Homer was blind. However, he is considered to be the author of the greatest literary works of Ancient Time. The Iliad is the oldest literature masterpiece on Earth.
It is written in the genre of the epic poem and narrates about the period of the Bronze Age. The theme of the Greek-Trojan War is the central one in the poem. According to the legend, the war started around 1200 BC, when Helen, the wife of the Greek king Menelaus, ran away to her lover Paris, a son of the Trojan king (“The Trojan War” n.pag.).
The Summary Of The Book
The Iliad is based on Greek mythology. “Many of the Iliad’s themes center around war, warriors, and their characteristics such as valor and duty, but there are abundant other rich threads including humor, aging, love, and lust” (Jordan n.pag.).
The poem narrates the Greek military campaign to conquer Troy. The unfaithfulness of Helen, the wife of Menelaus, becomes the casus belli and the Greek army led by Agamemnon makes their way to Troy. Achilles is the bravest and the most violent among the Greeks. The Trojan army is led by Hector, a son of the Trojan king Priam. In one of the battles, Patroclus, the best friend of Achilles, dies.
Achilles convenes regiment to avenge on Trojans. He kills Hector in the battle. He ties the body of Hector to his chariot and carries it across the field several times. Priam goes to Achilles to ask him to humble his anger and to give back the body of his son for burial. In the end, Achilles thinks about his father and makes the concessions.
The Critical Analysis
It is the epic poem not only about the Gods, but it is about the heroes, the sons of the ordinary people. Undoubtedly, this fact makes The Iliad stand out among the Ancient Greek legends. It has influenced my perception of Ancient history, essentially.
I will recommend reading the poem to everyone eager to know more about Antique mythology and history. “The Iliad is essential to read and understand for any student of the classics, and the book has many fine qualities: poetic language, brave warriors, interfering immortals, strong and caring friendships, and exciting battle scenes” (“The Iliad” n.pag.).
To sum up, all the above mentioned, it should be said that The Iliad by Homer is the outstanding literary work of the Antique period. It represents the genre of the epic poem and describes the events of the Greek-Trojan war. The poem is also interesting from the standpoint of Greek mythology and culture. It is one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature, which is worthy of reading for everyone.
Jordan, Herbert. “The Major Themes in The Iliad”. Iliadtranslation.com. 2012. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
“The Iliad”. Commonsensemedia.org. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
“The Troyan War”. Stanford.edu. n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
Women’s Roles: 1001 Nights and The Iliad Term Paper
In the modern world, with its growing attention to diversity and equality in all of its forms, the question of gender quality is one of the most important and frequently discussed subjects. This issue is studied in a number of fields such as education, business, political and social studies, and literature. The latter is often viewed as a reflection of the historical and cultural realities during various periods of time; this is why the attitude towards women in literature is often researched from the anthropological point of view. This paper is focused on the exploration of the roles of women on two of the most well-known works of literature – Homer’s “The Iliad” and the collection of the Arabic folk stories called “1001 Nights”.
Both of the works serve as detailed and deep reflections of the histories and cultures of the countries they came from and elaborately portrayed the relationships between men and women, religions and spirituality, and the morals of their nations. The two cultures described in “The Iliad” and “1001 Nights” are very different, yet they contain some rather striking similarities determined mostly by the eras whey originate from known for explicit patriarchal built of the societies. This way, the roles of women and attitudes towards them demonstrated in both books are very different from the ideas promoted in contemporary society.
Generally, even though “The Iliad” and “1001 Nights” date back to very different historical periods and come from cultures with little similarities, the gender roles in them are rather alike as in both books women are widely objectified and oppressed, they are not treated as equals to men and often referred to as commodities that can be sold, exchanged, given away as bribes, or abducted as material valuables.
Historically, the creation of “The Iliad” dates back to the Bronze Age, approximately 1260 BC. This period is often called the dark age of Greece. The country was divided into multiple city-states, and as a result, armed conflicts and violence were not rare. “1001 Nights” is a more recent work compared to “The Iliad,” it dates back to the 940s, back then it was known as “A Thousand Nights,” and the word “thousand” was put into the title as a figurative reference to a large number, the actual number of the stories added to the collection was less than 500 (The Thousand and One Nights par. 4).
Both eras are known for male domination. In Greece, men were the ones who prevailed in such fields as politics, economy, military plans, arts, and sciences. To test this fact, one may simply try to remember any female artists, philosophers, or politicians from ancient Greece. When it comes to “1001 Nights”, this work is a collection of stories from a number of countries, yet they all have one important feature in common – their religion. The stories of “1001 Nights” are the tales of the Muslim world; they incorporate Islamic moral rules and norms, ethical beliefs, social hierarchy, and mythology. Social inequality between men and women in “1001 Nights” is obvious; it the individual tales and in the general store where the king is determined to execute all of his female slaves just because he lost his faith in women.
Regardless of the utter inequality between male and female characters, the roles of women in “The Iliad” and “1001 Nights” are multidimensional. Women serve as objects of victimization, they are negatively portrayed as unfaithful, cunning, and envious creatures, but at the same time, they are often admired and even worshiped for their beauty, wisdom, and kindness.
Homer’s “The Iliad” reflected the cultural environment of the time when it was created and the area it describes. For the reader of this epic, it is easy to notice how goal-driven and proud all of the characters are. Achieving, conquering, and winning are the main objectives of their lives. The achievements of this kind characterize a worthy male; this is why the male characters of the epic are involved in a constant rivalry and confrontation; they fight over territories, influences, power, wealth, resources, and, of course, for women. In “The Iliad,” women are viewed as valuable trophies, especially the women of noble background and from wealthy and influential families.
A great demonstration of this tendency can be found in the very beginning of the epic during the conversation between Agamemnon and Calchas, where the former finds out that Apollo is sending plague to his warriors following the prayers of Chryses, and the only way to stop this is for Agamemnon to return the daughter of Chryses to her father. The abduction of the girl is viewed as an act of dishonoring for the father. Agamemnon is unwilling to give back the girl because to him she is “a maid, unmatch’d in manners as in the face,/ Skill’d in each art, and crown’d with every grace; / Not half so dear were Clytaemnestra’s charms” (Book 1, 6).
Basically, Agamemnon openly admits that the girl he abducted is more interesting for him than his own wife, and this seems to be treated as a matter of fact situation. Besides, facing the fact that the threat to his troops is very serious, he decides to give up the girl saying, “The prize, the beauteous prize, I will resign, /So dearly valued, and so justly mine” (Book 1, 6). The daughter of Chryses is Agamemnon’s prize, a trophy he earned during a battle; he likes it and wishes to keep it as a reminder of his great achievements. The desires of the “prize,” or her wishes considering where to go are not taken into consideration at all.
While in “The Iliad,” women are treated as valuable trophies, the male characters of “1001 Night” have an utterly consumerist attitude towards their females. For example, in “The Second Kalander’s Tale,” the narrator meets a woman, by whom he is completely mesmerized. The attributes that make her so special to him are mainly her devoted serving – she bathes him, shampoos his feet, brings delicious food and wine, and, of course, pleasures him sexually. As a result, the man admits that he begins to fall in love with her within just a couple of days. This can be viewed as a demonstration that only a very submissive female deserves a man’s favor. Besides, the woman initially is a property of an Ifrit, a monstrous mythological creature, yet she is willing to be shared between the two lovers saying to the narrator: “Of every ten days one is for the Ifrit and the other nine are thine” (The Second Kalander’s Tale par. 11).
This arrangement is an interesting aspect of the morals showed in the story, it emphasizes the unfaithfulness of a woman, but it is justified by the fact that she is exploited by a monster. The consumerist attitude of a man becomes even more obvious when the Ifrit finds out about the affair of his woman and starts to torture her asking about her secret lover. The woman endures the pain to save the man, and the man does absolutely nothing to save the woman. He simply runs away and hides. Once again, the female is admired for her devotion, which is taken for granted and neglected by the man. There is another line that serves an excellent demonstration of the attitude towards women in the story.
When the Ifrit confronts the narrator and asks him to kill the unfaithful woman, the man refuses to say “O mighty Ifrit and hero, if a woman lacking wits and faith deems it unlawful to strike off my head, how can it be lawful for me, a man, to smite her neck whom I never saw in my whole life?” (The Second Kalander’s Tale par. 22). He shows mercy refusing to kill the woman, but at the same time, he is paying compliments to the Ifrit and insulting the woman, which clearly shows that his priority is to save his own life at any cost.
This way, culturally, women are not considered as equals and are generally objectified in both books. In “The Iliad,” an admirable female is characterized by her ability to accept any owner that takes hold of her, and in “1001 Nights,” the best quality is the devotion of a woman to a man even if it is selective and occurs from her unfaithfulness to another male. At the same time, in both books, women are valued for their education, intellect, and the ability to maintain a witty conversation. Yet, this does not justify the reduction of females to entertainers, servants, and sex toys.
Religion and mythology play a vital role in both “The Iliad” and “1001 Nights”. While the ancient Greek society is under constant control of their gods, who have the ability to empower, punish and manipulate humans, the Muslim society members of “1001 Nights” live according to the Sharia laws and often mention Allah. In contemporary Western society, the image of an oppressed Muslim woman is rather recognizable and familiar; this image is constantly communicated by the media and creates a stereotype of a cruel and unjust Islamic world. “1001 Nights” demonstrate the multiple dimensions of women’s role in that society; it offers a taste of the new philosophy.
This way, if we ignore the violence and cruelty common for medieval literature of any geographical area, we will notice that Muslim women are portrayed as strong-willed, persistent, brave, loyal, wise, and clever. Scenes of brutality against women and utter disregard of their lives are frequent in “1001 Nights”, yet male characters are tortured, beaten up and murdered just as much as females there. Since women do not have the physical strength of men and can hardly protect themselves with a weapon, women are shown to pursue alternative ways of survival. In “1001 Nights,” men carry swords and axes, and women’s weapon is wit; this is why at times, women are portrayed as stronger and more dangerous than men.
For example, in the main story of “1001 Nights,” Scheherazade acts according to a very clever plan trying to save her life and the rest of the women king Shahryar intends to execute due to his lack of faith in women. The story shows a man as a simple and straightforward creature, with a primitive way of thinking – since one female let him down, he concludes that all women are alike. Scheherazade is clever; she finds a disguised way to educate the king about women, teach him new morals, and open up his mind.
In “The Iliad,” not all females are powerless against men. The complex hierarchy of the Greek pagan gods and demigods makes a lot of females more powerful and influential than males. Yet, it needs to be mentioned that the only powerful female figures in the epic are goddesses such as Thetis, the mother of Achilles, Hera, the wife of Zeus, and the goddess of love Aphrodite. These goddesses participate in battles, manipulate people, and can provide supernatural help by sending winds, defeating someone with sudden diseases or command nature and make rivers rise. Besides, just like human women, they frequently use their beauty and charm to seduce men, manipulate them, and use their weaknesses against them.
In conclusion, regardless of the significant cultural differences between the societies “the Iliad” and “1001 Nights” originate from, the two works have a number of similarities. First of all, they demonstrate the strict patriarchal built of their societies, which facilitates victimization and objectification of women. At the same time, women in the two books are portrayed in a variety of dimensions and are described as the characters with complex strengths and weaknesses forced to survive in the rough environments or their eras.
Homer. The Iliad. 2006. Web.
The Second Kalander’s Tale. The Arabian Nights. 2015. Web.
The Thousand and One Nights. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2013. Web.
Ancient Greece Heroes: Iliad and The Knight’s Tale Essay
Ancient Greece has always been associated with heroes and heroic deeds, especially when it comes to literature. Homer depicted numerous heroes in his timeless Iliad, and people still refer to this work as a set of stories of glory and heroism. However, it is also important to note that human society has been changing throughout centuries. Importantly, people’s values and perceptions have been changing alongside society. It is possible to trace this change while looking at Homer’s Iliad and Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale with a specific focus on heroes depicted in the two works. It is rather tempting to see the later work as a reflection of the ancient Greek story, but Chaucer’s work is rather a re-evaluation of the old story.
In the first place, it is necessary to note that the two stories are set in Ancient Greece. This makes the two works quite similar, but, at the same time, very different as quite different topics are central to the stories. Importantly, for ancient Greeks, the glory was the most important in their fight. Thus, when Achilles is talking to his closest friend he stresses, “do not fight the Trojans further in my absence, or you will rob me of glory that should be mine” (Homer 161).
Clearly, Achilles is fighting to win glory, and he does not care much about love or even wealth and trophies. Therefore, one of the major characters and key heroes of the literary work focuses on reflecting glory on his name and his deeds. At the same time, Chaucer’s heroes care little about glory as they focus on other things. Arcita, one of the heroes, strives for victory only to glorify the name of the god of war. Arcita addresses Mars and exclaims, “And grant, tomorrow, I have victory. / Mine be the toil, and thine the whole glory!” (Chaucer 767). Of course, these heroes attitude towards glory sheds light on the way people saw glory at different periods.
It is also important to add that there is another reason for the battle in the two stories. This reason is love. Nonetheless, in Iliad, love is not put to the fore while in The Knight’s Tale, love seems to be central. In Iliad, one of the heroes contemplates, “Any man of common right feeling will love and cherish her who is his own” (Homer 155). It seems that it is not about love but about the property and the right to defend a man’s possessions. In Chaucer’s story, love is seen as the greatest meaning, and the reason to live or to die as Palamon exclaims, “To love my lady, whom I love and serve, / And shall while life my heart’s blood may preserve” (744). Remarkably, the one who truly loves wins his fair lady’s heart.
Thus, the very idea of love is re-evaluated in the times of knights. Even though the story is set in Ancient Greece, the hero focuses on love and serving his beloved rather than on fighting to retain his possessions. The change in values is apparent, and Chaucer’s heroes (even though one of them is not such a devout servant to his fairy lady) fight to win their beloved. It is also important to note that in Chaucer’s story, the format of the fight seems almost more important than its reason. In Iliad, there is a whole war with numerous battles and quite a few rules as there can be time for mourning and killing.
However, knights have to follow numerous rules and procedures to fight for their love, and the fairy lady’s father sets the rule, “… each with a hundred knights, / Armed for the lists, who stoutly for your rights / Will ready be to battle, to maintain / our claim to love” (Chaucer 757). Obviously, at the times of knights, warfare for the sake of love was seen as a ritual. It was something similar to an effective tool to win the woman’s heart. It bore some traces of ‘glamour’ valour.
In conclusion, it is possible to state that Chaucer’s knights are not a mere reflection of Homer’s heroes. Chaucer’s story cannot be regarded as a reflection either. The story written by Chaucer is a certain kind of re-evaluation of the idea of heroes. Ancient heroes fought for glory, and they were ready to fight to protect their belongings. Whereas, knights could fight for love (or victory) to win the woman they loved. Clearly, some values of human society changed considerably, and the change is entailed in the two stories. Heroism had different tinges in the times of Homer and Chaucer. For Homer’s heroes, glory and heroic deeds were the sense of their life. For Chaucer’s knights, heroic deeds were a part of the necessary ritual. More so, for knights, fighting and a chance to die was a part of courtship while it was a means to live, to glorify their names and protect their ways for ancient Greek heroes.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Knight’s Tale.” World Literature Through the Renaissance. Ed. Linda Silva and William Overton. Charles Town, WV: American Public University System, 2011. 738-780. Print.
Homer. “Iliad.” World Literature Through the Renaissance. Ed. Linda Silva and William Overton. Charles Town, WV: American Public University System, 2011. 127-194. Print.
Epic Poems: “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, “The Iliad”, and “One Thousand and One Nights” Essay
Most epic poems present long descriptions of events that are important to certain periods in history. In addition, epic poems present readers with a detailed analysis of heroic conquests as they unfold. Most epic poetry is either primary or secondary in nature. Primary epics focus on heroes’ exploits from a firsthand account while secondary epics are mostly recreations of the author. In “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, the poem details the heroic actions of the main character with the view of incorporating them into history.
On the other hand, in the epic poem “The Iliad” the author is concerned with the heroic exploits of Achilles in the contexts of death and immortality. The main hero in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” is concerned with his own immortality throughout the entire story. This situation mirrors that of “The Iliad” where the hero is seeking to replace his mortal self with an immortal version of himself that can only be achieved after death. The heroes in both “The Iliad” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh” have elements of divinity and they have partners who are almost similar in nature as seen through the characters of Enkidu and Patroclus.
On the contrary, “One Thousand and One Nights” is written using the context of the Arabic and Indian cultures. However, most of the stories in “One Thousand and One Nights” do not primarily adhere to the epic genre but they have epic-like elements. For instance, in “One Thousand and One Nights”, the themes of death, immortality, and love are evident. These themes are also heavily featured in both “The Iliad” and “Gilgamesh”. There are various similarities and differences between these three literary works; “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, “The Iliad”, and “One Thousand and One Nights”.
The most striking stylistic aspect in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” is that the book is historically significant. Unlike other mythological accounts such as the one in the “The Iliad”, “The Epic of Gilgamesh” presents facts of an actual society that existed around 2700 B.C. The exploits of the hero and his society in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” reflect those of a king who ruled over an ancient Sumerian society. Some aspects of the plot in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” are also cited for having similarities with the Book of Genesis in biblical accounts. The story of Gilgamesh is quite rich in elements of symbolism and mythology.
Although the story was discovered several centuries ago, it mostly resonated with the Victorian society. Nevertheless, the story of Gilgamesh is cited for having various omissions and unfamiliar plots. These factors have not prevented the story from becoming a main staple in the modern society. The “Epic of Gilgamesh is subdivided into tablets and this coincides with the fact that most of the story was discovered by archeologists in parts. The oral transmissions that are used in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” are not strange to modern literature because they adhere to several aspects of Greek mythology.
The only difference between “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and most other literary works of Greek mythology is that Gilgamesh’s exploits have a viable historical context. Some of the aspects of “The Epic of Gilgamesh” are eerily comparable to the chronicle of Noah and the Ark as it appears in the Biblical accounts. Consequently, observers have questioned which of the two stories borrowed from the other or whether both accounts are borrowed from an older literary account.
On the other hand, “The Iliad” is considered to be one of the most complete works of the epic poetry genre. Both “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” are Homer’s most-known literary works and they are also the most read Greek mythologies. “The Iliad” is a product of oral literature that was passed down in history by storytellers and other narrators. This method of transmission is different from that of “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, that was written in tablets. However, the transmission mode is somehow similar to that of a “Thousand and One Nights” which for a large part was carried down in oral terms until it was finally written. The modern literary world has embraced “The Iliad” as a classic work of literature and it is the most significant of Greek Mythologies.
For a long time “One Thousand and One Nights” has been the most significant work of Arabic and Indian origins. Readers are offered a rare insight into the ancient Arabic culture through the “One Thousand and One Nights”. This collection is also rich in various forms of literature because although most of the book is in prose, some parts feature poetry and music. The main difference between the collection of “One Thousand and One Nights” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh” or Homer’s “The Iliad” is that the collection was written through the efforts of several writers, translators, and researchers across North Africa and part of India.
Consequently, the “One Thousand and One Nights” does not reflect the literary styles of a single culture but those of an entire civilization and culture. Most of the stories that are included in “One Thousand and One Nights” represent the Caliphate era and its peculiar elements. There are diverse genres in the stories that are contained in “One Thousand and One Nights”. However, “most of these stories can be traced back to the ancient Mesopotamian, Arabic, Persian, Egyptian, and Indian literature” (Gerhardt 76).
It is important to note that most of the stories that are contained in “One Thousand and One Nights” are derived from other tales. This development is an effect of oral translations and the fact that translators and writers of “One Thousand and One Nights” used a framing story to derive the other stories. In the original story, the main characters are Shahryar or the overall ruler, and Scheherazade, the overall ruler’s wife.
There are striking similarities between both the mythical accounts of Gilgamesh and Homer’s “The Iliad”. For instance, the heroes in both stories go through similar experiences of leadership. Gilgamesh the hero is a character who is involved in both physical and mythical exploits. Gilgamesh traverses the worlds of both mortals and spiritual beings (Sandars 4). The hero in Gilgamesh is involved in a number of epic encounters when his situation is compared to that of ordinary Greek mythological main character. However, through Gilgamesh the readers are offered a rare insight into the conflict between death and immortality.
The hero who is presented in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” has survived through various aspects of the Sumerian civilization. While Gilgamesh existed as early as 2700 B.C, the events surrounding Homer’s characters happened a few hundred years later. Achilles and Odysseus both interact with readers in human and spiritual fronts. However, their insight into the elements of death and immortality are not as comprehensive and detailed as the ones that are presented through Gilgamesh. Although the exploits of Gilgamesh are presented in forms of tablets, the author is able to highlight recurring themes in these short stories. When the episodes of King Gilgamesh’s exploits are presented in detail, they reveal the image of a heroic leader who undergoes through several transformations in life. By the end of Gilgamesh’s journey, the heroic king has reconciled with the rest of the world.
It is important to note that the King’s change in attitude and subsequent enlightenment in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” comes from the death of his comrade Enkidu. On the other hand, Enkidu’s character as a conqueror alongside the king does not change throughout the epic’s episodes. The same pattern is replicated in “The Iliad” where the character of Achilles follows through a similar path of heroism (Homer 3). Achilles’ partner is Patroclus, who is a constant factor in the hero’s exploits, and whose loss changes the perspective of the main character.
Gilgamesh and Achilles are divine rulers in their own right and they are also crossbreeds of gods and mortals. The origins of the two rulers are only mentioned and they are not a major part of these epics. In addition, both heroes have divine abilities to communicate with gods. In the unfolding events of these stories, the heroes’ fathers (the King of Uruk and the god Thetis) do not play any major roles. On the other hand, the heroes are not preoccupied with romantic attachments and their only allegiances are to their mothers and comrades. The epics also reiterate the need for wisdom and development among these heroes.
Most of the heroes in “One Thousand and One Nights” follow different paths in their journeys because conquering is often as a result of wit and wisdom, and not divinity. In addition, most Arabian heroes are under the mercy of gods and they are not part of these deities. Nevertheless, the themes of idolatry and obedience to gods are evident in Gilgamesh, Achilles, and Arab’s societies. Immortality in most tales of “One Thousand and One Nights” is closely tied with religious assignments and general wisdom. The kings’ ability to circumnavigate through challenging and complex life situations is a key component in most ancient epics.
The framing story in “One Thousand and One Nights” involves a condemned Queen narrating stories to the King with the view of delaying her execution (Mahdi 6). This form of wit is the central premise in most of the consequent stories where characters use wisdom to get out of complex situations. On the other hand, Gilgamesh and Achilles navigate through life using sheer military power and the favor of gods.
The issue of emotion versus reason is addressed in all the three texts. In “One Thousand and One Nights”, these two aspects are merged to constitute viable solutions to the main characters. Nevertheless, emotions play a vital role in the stories of “One Thousand and One Nights” because they are used to convey the message of ‘destiny’ to the readers. Most stories in this collection begin with the main character being confronted by destiny and continue when the main character uses other tools to deal with his/her destiny. In the case of both Achilles and Gilgamesh, reason takes a back seat and it is presided over by the emotions of these main characters. For instance, the temperament of the hero in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” outlines the direction that is taken by his story. However, in the end Gilgamesh resorts to reason to make conclusions about life and immortality.
Gerhardt, Mia Irene. The Art of Story-Telling: A Literary Study of the Thousand and One Nights, New York: Brill Archive, 1963. Print.
Homer, Unkown. The Iliad-Translated by Robert Fagles, New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.
Mahdi, Moses. The thousand and one nights, New York: Brill, 1995. Print.
Sandars, Nancy. The epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin, New York: Penguin Books, 1972. Print.
The Role of the Gods in the Iliad, a Poem by Homer
What role(s) do the gods play in the narrative of the Iliad?
This is a world of two levels. One the divine, the other human; a vast part of the Iliad’s plot, action and meaning lies in their interlinking. That there are gods is as much a reality as the men Homer portrays. Although most obviously seen as fully-fledged individuals with particularised roles like that of Zeus the ‘chief’ and Hephaestus the ‘peacemaker’ (mirroring human personalities, Agamemnon the ‘overlord’ and Nestor the ‘diplomat’, usually in a comic and trivialising manner), they are nonetheless mysterious figures of extraordinary power and influence who practice a ritualised relationship of prayer and sacrifice with mankind. Whatever their characterisation, this all-pervasive presence in the poem makes them integral. If nothing else, the sheer number of appeals for heavenly aid places them implicitly in the drama. Indirectly and directly, they are there to steer the course of the Trojan War, as when Athena convinces the foolish Pandarus to fire the arrow that reignites the war in Book 4, and Zeus brings out the scales of immortal justice, which is also that of human fate and determines the death of Hector. Yet on a less serious perhaps level, they are capable of providing a bit of light relief. Another function to weigh against is their usefulness in creating contrast and stature. Counterpoints to the mortal realm, the differences that always separate man and god both define the tragic destinies of heroes and give them their dignity. When something happens, when immense feeling is felt, and Homer telling his story with the aid of the gods wants to emphasise its cosmic scale, you may be certain that the Olympians are there, behind it, watching it and sometimes moved by it.
From the beginning, the wrath of Achilles is not alone in effecting the plot. The first word, and principal driving force, may be the rage of Achilles, but this is soon followed in the narrative by a divine motivating source. ‘and the will of Zeus was accomplished / since that time when first there stood in division of conflict / Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilles’. Here the gods are explicitly involved in the fate of men and the Trojan conflict; they are ‘the ones who drive on the ‘action’. As it is at the start so it is at the end when the very human reconciliation in Book 24 is masterminded by the gods. ‘so [Zeus] spoke’, and his delegates conduct ‘Priam to Achilles and [order] Achilles to yield to him the body of Hector’. The repetitive force of the many imperatives in the king of gods’ speech to Thetis (24.104 – 119),‘go’, ‘command’, ‘tell’, is merely the poetic expression of the ‘will’ that pervades and orders the entire tale. As a compositional device, the gods are enormously vital. Not only broadening the scope of the ‘Achillead’ from one man’s anger into a bunch of threads on the gods’ inevitable loom, the ‘plan of Zeus’, ‘ . . . also enables the poem to allow the Greeks to be beaten without losing face, as a side-effect of superior immortal resolve. It smoothes out the plot and aids the preservation of heroic dignity. In a combination of both these narrative roles, the gods actively intervene in the affairs of heroes. For, the rescue of Aeneas by his patron gods, his mother Aphrodite (5:318) and the sympathetic Poseidon (20: 325), serves to prevent the wasteful loss of warriors’ lives in otherwise thrilling duels (the tale can hardly bear a bloodbath of the noblest and best) and operates as a literal ‘deus ex machina’ to fulfil the poet’s awareness of the total story. The powerful god of the sea saves the mortal ‘for fear / the son of Kronos may be angered if now Achilles kills this man. It is destined that he shall be the survivor . . . Obviously Homer knows that this shall be the case and the gods are his omniscient, omnipotent bearers of future events.
The Iliad is both retrospectively and prospectively founded on a divine level. Their predictive knowledge of the Trojan War, its end and everything in between, ‘And glorious Hector shall cut down Patroclus / . . . In anger for him brilliant Achilleus shall then Hector . . . / [and then] the Achaians shall capture headlong Ilion’, ‘ . . . ’ (15: 59 – 68), is consistently reiterated and forms a large part of the poem’s tragic irony. When Zeus foretells the death of his son in battle with Patroclus, it is repeated again only moments before the fatal encounter: ‘among [those he will kill shall be] my own son, shining Sarpedon’, ‘’ (15: 67); ‘ / ‘Ah me, that it is destined that the dearest of men, Sarpedon, / must go down under the hands of Menoitios’ son Patroklos’ (16: 432). The cleverness of this arrangement is that the audience is also emotively complicit in his death. They ‘know’ even at the point he starts struggling in the dirt like an animal, ‘a blazing and haughty bull’ (16: 481), that it is useless and he will die. ‘Tears of blood’, (16: 460), are wept by his immortal father though and this all-too-human response points to another aspect of the gods that defines their narrative position. Not just human-like in their appearance, they are to be ‘regarded as truly anthropomorphic’. Subject to the same feelings as the human combatants, this makes them sadly more effective ‘than the poet’s own voice’ at creating ‘pathos and foreboding’ through their prognostications. They can be personally involved in a way that Homer simply cannot.
This is true also of their intense relationships and partisanships. The Olympians are depicted as a family divided; ‘Her father / Kronides caught her against him . . . / and questioned her: “Who now of the Uranian gods, dear child, has done such things to you . . .” / Artemis . . . answered him: “It was your wife, Hera of the white arms, who hit me, / father, since hatred and fighting have fastened upon the immortals’, ’ (21: 508 – 513). There are two points to this familiar characterisation. One is that such human parallels reflect a relatable situation presenting a former world of peace. Like the developed vista of the two springs in which the Trojan women used to wash their clothes ‘in the old days / when there was peace, before the coming of the Achaians’ (22: 156), the heavenly domestic drama offers an alternative, more pacific vision for the Iliad. On the other hand, there is the very pungent fact that as with any family the immortals ‘behave under Zeus . . . as individuals’. They have their own accustomed roles: Hermes is the one to whom ‘it is dearest / to be man’s companion’, ‘(24: 335 – 336), while Aphrodite is concerned largely with the ‘lovely secrets of marriage’. What’s more, such characterisations do indeed inform their behaviour. Hermes accompanies Priam on his perilous journey in Book 24, most appropriately for an end that while devised by gods is to do with human matters and human empathy, and requires a sympathetic hand to guide an old man. The goddess of love, in turn, fulfils her persona when in Book 3 she tries to inflame Helen with desire for her husband, ‘you would not think / that he came from fighting against a man; you would think that he was going / rather to a dance’, . Conversely, far from being human-like in their distinct characters, they may yet be stranger and more figurative. After all, Aphrodite inspires lust; she could very well be Lust. ‘Forces that we would consider psychological may also be attributed to an external and divine power’; abstract personifications, the gods in this perspective are more literary figures than believable entities. Herodotus’ belief that ‘it was Hesiod and Homer that created a theogony for the Greeks’ supports the idea of a flat religious expression of the pantheon within the text. However, this has been named naïve, coming as ‘a not very profound remark’ from an author who had not the benefit of any ‘prior source’. In any case, their family unit is like any family: too ‘temperamental and argumentative’ to be meant as anything other than real characters. They feast, ‘thus thereafter the whole day long . . . / they feasted’,’ (1: 601), laugh, ‘But Hera and Athena . . . began to tease the son of Kronos’, (5: 425 – 6), and fight for their chosen sides as much as the men involved, ‘for we two, Pallas Athene and I, have taken / numerous oaths and sworn them in the sight of all the immortals / never to drive the day of evil from the Trojans’(20: 310 – 12). For all their specific personalities, some more defined than others, the Olympians resemble in their Homeric portrayals nothing so much as a court hierarchy, all under the aegis of one Father and divided amongst themselves by different loyalties.
Hera’s statement of bitter, implacable hatred for the Trojans is not only peculiar to her (and Athena’s) role in the poem, their job being to support the Greeks and destroy their enemy at any cost, but forms that retrospective framework mentioned previously. The ‘Judgement of Paris’ is the cause that is never explicitly mentioned except in a hint at the last book, ‘[they] kept their hatred for sacred Ilion as in the beginning, / and for Priam and his people, because of the delusion of Paris / who insulted the goddesses when they came to him in his courtyard / and favoured her who supplied the lust that led to disaster’(24: 27 – 30). This is the reason for the animosity that leads the queen of the gods to ‘gather my people and bring evil to / Priam and his children’, 4: 30 – 1). This is why Troy falls. Of course, there is the concept of justice and right on the side of the Achaeans. When Menelaus is wounded by the archer Pandarus in Book 4, Agamemnon sees it as a breach of oaths and ‘they must pay a great penalty, / with their own heads’. The emphatic anaphora of, the second one further emjambed, has the powerful cadence of ritual, the sure trust of a mortal in the righteousness and strength of the gods’ laws. They certainly have the raw force to do it. Apollo’s ‘foul pestilence’,(1: 10), is the first terrifying vision the Iliad presents of the divine will in action. Again, like Hera and Athena’s anger, it drives the beginning of the plot: his sign of awful disfavour leads the Greeks to petition Agamemnon to return his prize, then he in turn forces Achilles and then . . . Still what is interesting is that Apollo’s reasons for righteousness are entirely selfish; the hurt done to his earthly representative dishonoured him. Rather than an externalised, impersonalised figurehead of religious morality (Chryses is a priest whose daughter has been violated), he is primarily a ‘mixture of awesome power and quarrelsome pettiness, reflected in ethics by his mixture of roles as guarantor of justice and amoral self-seeker’.
The number of prayers and sacrifices sent up to the gods shows them in the light of a reciprocal relationship with humanity. Man ‘makes sacrifices’, to palliate the wrath of Apollo in Book 1 and consecrate oaths in Book 3 between the two sides. Direct addresses are even more common, and revealing of the ambiguity of the gods’ attitudes towards and their positions concerning humans. So, at moments of great peril and importance, the divine are appealed to: Book 6, when the Trojan women beg for the goddess Athena to go easy on them and remember their piety towards her (258 – 9) and Book 24 (307 – 313), Priam seeking some sign of Zeus’ support for his seemingly crazy mission. The latter is answered; the former not. Athena is not thinking of the laws of reciprocity or ‘human fairness’ in rejecting the poor women. Her role has more to do with the upholding of a personal grudge than any moral judgement. Thus, the gods can reject the world of mortals as easily as they intrude to change or drive it. This curious paradox, of absolute involvement and identification, and yet blasé, callous detachment, may be seen in the fateful decision of Book 4. Agamemnon may think that the wielder of the thunderbolt, a force of nature, will grant Troy’s destruction ‘in anger for this deception’, (4: 165). In actuality, Zeus and Hera carry out a chilling exchange; compelled by her passionate hatred for the people of the man who slighted her, she agrees to hand over the fate of her favourite cities to her husband in return for Ilion, ‘all these, / whenever they become hateful to your heart, sack utterly’,. The simplicity of the imperative underscores her casual dismissal of the human life and achievement that is supposed to mean the most to her. In contrast to the Odyssey, whose opening lines illustrate the function of the gods as punishers of mortal immorality, ‘they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness . . . and the [Sun God] took away the day of their homecoming’ (i. 7 – 9), the divinities of the Iliad are more awful, selfish and apathetic.
If there is an implicit moral to Homer’s story of Troy it would be Achilles’ statement on how the interplay of gods and men affects the world: ‘Such is the way the gods spun life for unfortunate mortals, / that we live in unhappiness, but the gods themselves have no sorrows’. This is the fundamental part of the divine; to reflect to an extent, but ultimately show more by their differences, what it is to be human. It is a tragic vision. It is also a unifying one. Trojans and Greeks suffer the same mortal frailties and crucially the same gods. Unlike Virgil, who presents the Egyptians on the Shield of Aeneas with barbaric idols, Homer injects not only fairness, but also a common humanity into his dealing of two feuding people who nevertheless exists under one sky and one pantheon. Both limited by age and death, the Lycian Glaukos and the Greek Diomedes know men as ‘miserable’, and the gods as those ‘who live at their ease’, (6. 119 – 211). While heroes, however, ‘godlike’, are doomed to die and fail at some point in their careers, their heavenly counterparts are portrayed ‘uncontrollably’, laughing and listening ‘the whole day long’, to the lyre of Apollo (1: 601 – 4). Understandably, Homer’s gods have been accused of levity and ‘frivolous irresponsibility’. When Apollo blithely summarises the tragedy of mankind, ‘Shaker of the earth, you would have me be as one without prudence / if I am to fight even you for the sake of insignificant / mortals, who are as leaves now’, (21: 461 – 5), the audience is reminded of the trivial goings-on of the gods in battle. A parody of real combat, the ‘theomachia’ of Book 21 sees Artemis with her ears boxed, just as Asteropaios who was so proud of the generations that preceded him ‘like leaves on a tree’ is killed at the hands of Achilles. The contrast presents the yawning chasm between mortal and immortal that no hero, not ‘even Patroclus’, (21: 105), can bridge. Yet this ultimate ‘pathos’ gives Homer’s warriors a greater dignity that makes their inevitable fall both more tragic and more glorious. A paradox, this is clearly summarised by Longinus as the rendering of ‘the men of the Trojan war gods, and the gods men’. Heroism is explained as the willingness to accept death and still fight on; how can the gods reach that height if they are never to be faced with such a choice? However, there is seriousness in the figure of Zeus at least that emphasises his higher status as a divinity. The famous simile where he, in his role of punisher of the unrighteous, sweeps away in a vast flood those mortals whose ‘decrees are crooked’ (16. 385 – 95) represents the formidable justice of the king of the gods. Such a natural manifestation of moral force though is not the norm in the Iliad. Rather his, ‘eye’, is turned more on the world of men entire than those who contravene his laws. What interests the Olympians are not the ethics of the situation, as may be seen in Zeus and Hera’s agreement, but the panorama.
The distance between gods and mortals Apollo refers to in Book 21 enables them to ‘see’ humans like another audience in perhaps their most vital narrative role. Thetis’ ‘inconsolable grief’, and terrible foreknowledge make her the unique link between the two levels. In the same way, the gods are involved in the universe of men and removed, providing the listener with characters that are agents everywhere in the plot and passive commentators. For example, in Book 4, they are ‘gazing down on the city of the Trojans’ (4), and in Books 8 and 16 the same. Thus, when Zeus weeps in Book 16, as active griever of events and observer, we weep too; when in Book 8, he simply sits down to watch, we do also and are further alerted to the enormity of the passage.
In fact, the presence of the divine very simply elevates the mortal Trojan landscape into something worthy of attention. Whether to an audience of immortal beings or the real people drinking it all in, the story of the Iliad is remarkable, exciting and tragic. Its gods are an essential part of this.
A Question Of Moral in Iliad
Achilles is morally superior to Agamemnon
The long narrative poem, Iliad, combines the historical events of two legends of the ancient Greek. The two legends are mentioned to be the Greek king, Agamemnon, and the great soldier as well as Greek prince, Achilles. Homer’s Iliad portrays Achilles as possessing a superhuman strength and a close relationship with the gods. Through his superhuman characteristics, he proves the mightiest man in the Achaean army. He is also mentioned to be proud, similarly to the king and commander in chief of the Achaean army, Agamemnon. The two characters resemble in some aspects though Achilles is still morally superior to Agamemnon in many aspects.
Both Achilles and Agamemnon have a similarly hot temper and a flattering streak while Agamemnon comes out to be more arrogant than Achilles. In the poem, Achilles is portrayed as a character who is driven by a thirst for glory since he finds it difficult controlling his pride. Moreover, he possesses all the marks of a great warrior, proving to be the mightiest man in the Achaean army. Apparently, Achilles is willing to sacrifice everything so that he creates history in the military. On the contrary, Agamemnon over uses his influence to let other people feel the effect of his leadership. His is a character who appears to be very opportunistic and has the intention of acquiring the largest portions of the plunder although he does not take high risks in battle. In Homer’s Iliad, Achilles pride flares up after he is forced to withdraw from the war. On the other side, Agamemnon cannot afford to lose his pride no matter what comes his way. He appears to be a selfish leader who does not intend to hand over power despite the availability of other young people who have the leadership skills and are willing to serve. For instance, Agamemnon does not agree to hand over the leadership of the army despite the presence of his younger brother, Menelaus, whose wife, had been stolen from Paris, and has the real grievance against the Trojans (Homer).
It can, therefore, be argued out that Achilles shows his personal determination to display good morals despite the many challenges that he comes across as a great warrior. The rivalry between Achilles and Agamemnon, in this case, is indirectly caused by the nature of the traditional oral society. Agamemnon was the leader of the Greeks while Achilles was the great warrior who was the most honored for the virtue of his position and prowess in the job. Although Agamemnon was the leader of the Greeks, he wished to be honored just like Achilles. The nature of the traditional society, therefore, put the two legends in Homer’s Iliad at odds.
Achilles does everything possible to let the coming generation remember his name for doing great things in the Achaean army. He is probably willing to sacrifice everything possible so that his name will be remembered. Agamemnon, on the other hand, does not allow the Achaeans to forget his kingly status. He demonstrates the greed for power by refusing to let his brother lead the Achaean army even though he has the real grievance against their enemy. The failure of Agamemnon to hand over power to a more promising candidate makes his moral status very inferior as compared to that of Achilles. Achilles strives to make a positive history by that would give him all the glory in future.
The statement of moral superiority that tends to favor Achilles and condemn Agamemnon is very acceptable. Anybody who reads the poem could come up with an immediate judgment that tends to identify Achilles as the morally superior legend. The poet also tactically brings out his judgment about the two by dwelling on the standards of ethics and customary law, thus creating no doubt about the point of moral superiority in the poem. Agamemnon does not therefore abide by the standards of ethics and customary law as expected by the society; hence he does not qualify to be morally upright. The opposite is true for the case of Achilles. All his doings are aimed at serving the interest of the society even though he shows some sense of pride.
Achilles is committed to those seem to love him but also nasty to those who do him harm. The other character, Agamemnon, appears to be concerned with himself, having the habit of manipulating those around him to do as per his wish. Agamemnon does not show any sense of appreciation to the people whom he rules. Instead, he is apparently looking for more ways in which he can make the best out of the people. Any reader would feel a lot of sympathy for Achilles because of his guanine emotions that also lead him to reconcile with Agamemnon.
The conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon can inform the reader of the independence of the Achilles from Agamemnon. The poet elaborates on the defiance from the Achilles, making it more morally superior than the mighty Agamemnon. Agamemnon is however very dependent the Achilles ability to do what it claims. For example, he is relying on the Achilles willingness to return to the army (Homer).
Achilles values morality than material wealth, as opposed to Agamemnon, who is apparently possessed of worldly riches. The drama is evident when the king attempts to draw Achilles back into the army without offering an apology. The king instead provides material wealth, but the propasal is turned down by Achilles. In response to the offer, Achilles identifies one thing that seems to be missing from the terms set by Agamemnon. From the poem, it is evident that material things could not lure Achilles back into the army. His value for good deeds is extraordinarily evident in his refusal to begin fighting again. Unlike Agamemnon, his pride is worth more than that. The king was proud for his position and his ability to influence the action of other people for his advantage.
From Achilles’ choices, it is arguable that his acts are propelled by private passions while his individualism alienates him from the society and even human identity. Through his relationship with the community, Achilles shapes the moralist commentary of the narrative poem, creating tension between self and civilization. Achilles, therefore, comes out to be a celebrated hero due to the social structure in which he functions in the narrative. The position of the rivalry between Agamemnon and Achilles also brings up the idea of no party willing to quickly give in. Basically, the life of any human being is governed by time; hence Achilles has to repossess what he had lost initially. On the same note, Agamemnon has to lose what he gained.
In a nutshell, Agamemnon differs from Achilles in many aspects relating to the society’s customary laws. Homer’s poem, Iliad, brings out the feud between Agamemnon and Achilles, highlighting the similarities between the two characters. However, the difference in morality standards of the two characters is surprising since they can simply be judged by the reader.
Similar Themes in Iliad And Odyssey
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey share many thematic concerns, as are fundamental to the epic tradition. Most significant are the issues of lineage, xenia, and divine intervention – all of which are of the utmost important in Ancient Greek tradition.
The extracts from each poem illustrate the centrality of lineage in patriarchal Ancient Greek society, as the characters in both clearly believe in honouring their fathers’ connections. In the Iliad, the matter of ancestral ties is so important that men of the opposing armies, Trojans and Achaians, are compelled to abandon their duties as warriors; Glaukos and Diomedes reconcile with each other at the realisation of their fathers’ bond. The Greek warrior adopts a conciliatory tone towards Glaukos – as heard in the phrase “See now”, a phrase which evokes familiarity, as the narrator illustrates with the description of his “winning words of friendliness” – thus disavowing the enemy status held between the two heroes up until that moment in the battle. The significance of familial links is foregrounded as he refers to “our fathers”, the plural possessive lexically unifying them on the basis of patrimony. This unity established, the implication is that they can do no harm to one and other – it would be wholly inappropriate, and a dishonour to their fathers.
To emphasise his point, Diomedes elaborates on the history of the bond, detailing how “Brilliant Oineus once was host to Bellerophontes / the blameless”, making the connection explicit and undeniable. Whilst it can be assumed that this recollection is for the benefit of the reader, that Glaukos would already be aware of the particulars of a story which held so much importance in his family history, it does undoubtedly strengthen the Trojan’s conviction that to renounce battle is his moral and cultural duty. This scene clearly demonstrates cultural significance of patriarchal lineage to the Ancient Greeks as the two men agree that “I am your friend…and you are mine” on the basis of their fathers’ bond alone; two enemy soldiers are willing to “avoid each other’s spears” upon their discovery – in the ninth year of devastating war, this indicates the magnitude of meaning behind ancestral connection.
Similarly in the Odyssey, the goddess Athene disguises herself as Mentes, a friend of Odysseus, in order to gain the trust of his son, Telemachus. Once she has introduced herself as the man, she declares “Your father and I claim to be guest-friends by heredity / from far back”; the intensifying phrase which is the end focus of this statement stresses that their families are tied through generations, and that Mentes and Odysseus can call themselves ‘guest-friends’ solely on that basis indicates the importance of ancestry. The implication of this is clearly that Telemachus is to trust this man, as there is a history of loyal relations between their families – this is the Athene’s purpose in disguising herself as Mentes, as she is at Ithaca to reassure the young man of Odysseus’s life and advise him on his best course of action.
Athene also expresses the meaningful friendship, in order to put Telemachus at ease, by comparing him to his father. The moment in which she, presenting as Mentes, describes the likeness “about the head” and in “the fine eyes” feels immensely tender, and creates a sense of nostalgia. This touching display is to be interpreted by Telemachus as affected by the older man’s 20 years apart from his friend, as he mentions when Odysseus “went away to Troy”, for the 10 year battle, which is understood to have ended 10 years prior to the Odyssey.
A further theme evident in each extract is that of the matter of hospitality in the Ancient Greek world. In the Iliad, xenia is central to this; Diomedes gives great attention to the exchange of gifts between his and Glaukos’s ancestors, detailing the “golden and double-handed drinking cup” his father Oineus received from Bellerophontes, and is sure to demonstrate that it is still “in my house”, that it remains a significant object to him and his family. This is a show of respect towards Glaukos and his father, and it is implied that the expectation is that he too honours the “war belt bright with the red dye” from the gift exchange. The centrality of xenia is further emphasised towards the end of Diomedes’s speech, as he proposes “let us exchange our armor” in order to solidify their bond, so that “others may know / how we claim to be guests and friends” – it is clear that despite the drastic shift in tensions between the two warriors, with this display of their ancestral connection, neither hero would be questioned by their fellows of their respective armies; hospitality is too highly valued in their culture for it to be challenged.
However, it is arguable that the exchange between Diomedes and Glaukos is somewhat false, that the Achaian does not truly extend xenia towards the Trojan, as they exchanged “gold for bronze”, “nine oxen’s worth the worth of a hundred”. Whilst Glaukos’s agreement to this was due to the powers of Zeus, that Diomedes suggested this exchange indicates his intentions to cheat the Trojan and to gain personally from the encounter. This reflects the wider story of the Trojan War itself, as war is the ultimate destructor of equal and civil relations between peoples, relations which perhaps it is impossible for Diomedes and Glaukos to achieve in this context. On the other hand, it can be argued that the real xenia of this scene is not that of the material exchange, but is in “the promise of friendship” between the men. As they are physically “both springing down from behind their horses”, they metaphorically abandon the normal rules of battle, and as they “gripped each other’s hands” they closed both the literal and figurative distance between them. After nine years of intensive fighting, to agree to stop fighting with just one opposing warrior, to spare his life and not gain the glory of murder, was a major shift from the norm. Therefore, the central act of hospitality in this section of the Iliad is in the consolidation of friendship in itself.
Comparatively, in the Odyssey, Telemachus extends xenia towards Athene, who is disguised as Mentes, despite being unsure at first “what man” has entered his home; a respectable Greek feels obliged to welcome any guest into his home, as to reject them or to be a less than gracious host would tarnish their reputation, and potentially upset the gods, whom the mortals believed tested them in these instances. Thus, upon Athene’s arrival, Telemachus taking her “by the right hand”, exclaiming his welcome, and insisting that nothing can be said or done until his new guest has “tasted dinner” is not simply a sign of warm character, but one of an incredibly status conscious man.
In exchange for the Ithacan’s hospitality, the goddess – as Mentes – is a courteous guest, and a helpful one also. “I will accurately answer all that you ask me” she proclaims, showing a willingness to cooperate; Telemachus has shown great kindness to the old man, so in return, his guest is clear and informative, in order to put his anxieties about unfamiliarity at rest. This is further aided by Athene’s answers in themselves, due to the evocation of the host’s father, as well as the later assurance of Odysseus’s safety and the wise advice given to the host. Whilst this is not a material exchange, nor one of life and death, xenia is showed in the graciousness of both participants.
Another key epic theme demonstrated in the two passages is that of divine intervention. In the Iliad, when Diomedes proposes that he and Glaukos “exchange our armor”, the reader does not receive the Trojans untampered reaction; immediately, the gods interfere, as Zeus “stole away the wits of Glaukos”, which is seen to be the direct causation of his acceptance of this exchange. The suggestion is that if Glaukos had been thinking clearly and independently, he would not have agreed to this, as it is an unequal trade of “gold for bronze”. This scene is something of a microcosm, as it is a small example of immortal meddling in the affairs of the mortals; as “the son of Kronos” changed the balance of material value to the men’s arms, he also redressed the fates of great heroes such as Hektor and Achilleus.
Similarly, in the Odyssey, the entire extract is centered on Athene presenting herself as Mentes, in order to take charge of the situation in Odysseus’s Ithacan home. The reader is aware that it is “the goddess gray-eyed Athene” talking when it is said “I announce myself as Mentes, son of Anchialos / the wise”; Homer explicitly displays the intervention of the gods here. As Telemachus is miserable, “his heart deep grieving within him”, and distraught over his mother’s suitors, the gods decide that they must do something to rectify the situation – sending Odysseus’s old friend to “the very child of Odysseus” to help him is their solution. He is promised that “the gods be your witnesses”, evidently a proclamation meant to strengthen his statement, and cause the Greeks to believe and obey him, when he gathers “the Achaian warriors into assembly” to announce that Odysseus lives, and to “force the suitors out”. To be in favour with the gods ascertains your safety, and security in your position; Telemachus having the word of the gods allows him to embark on the physical journey to the homes of Nestor and Menelaos, the journey which parallels his journey from boy to man. Therefore, divine intervention is the driving force of the Odyssey’s plot.
The passages from the Iliad and the Odyssey are similar in many ways, due to the traditions of Ancient Greek culture; however, the two epics have contrasting aspects also worth noting. The former is focused on the battlefield, and everything else surrounds this context. The Odyssey on the other hand takes place 10 years after the end of the Trojan War, and the other themes are not centered on war – although the whole scenario is created by it – but on more domestic and internal matters. This is not to say that it is any less epic in scale; similar issues are merely placed in a different context, and different aspects are amplified.
A Person With a Weak Heel
Homer’s Iliad is a poem that deals with various emotions and addresses the complexity of these said emotions. From lust filled desires that led to a war that waged on for 10 years to meddlesome gods that took control of the mortals, Iliad covers it all. The central theme around which Homer revolves his story is “The Wrath of Achilles”.
Achilles, a man in search of personal glory and consumed by his pride and his might undergoes a chain of emotions from feeling his honour being questioned to rage to indifference and finding his way back to rage. His wrath is also a major catalyst as to why the war progressed for quite a long time.
The wrath has its roots from the moment Agamemnon takes away a concubine of Achilles during the time of war of the Greeks against Troy. Enraged, Achilles is determined to involve in the war against Agamemnon; but the Gods intervene and Achilles subdues his anger and decides to go rebel silently. He instigates Thetis (his mother) to convince Zeus to help the Trojans so that the Greeks would lose.
As Zeus helps the Trojans in their war efforts and Achilles, the most powerful ruler the Greeks had ever seen, The Greeks were on the losing front. Achilles who was still consumed by his pride refused to partake in the war. The war led to the death of numerous Greek soldiers and thus, softened yet proud, Achilles unwillingly his friend Patroclus to the field to fight for, Patroclus was a fine fighter. The belief was that the Trojans would back off from the war, the moment they realise that the mightiest warrior who once went on self-proclaimed exile had come back. On the war grounds, Hector confronts Patroclus who was in Achilles’ armour and attacks him. Patroclus dies on the field whilst Hector removes the armour and wears it as his own with pride.
Achilles is enraged and struck with grief when he hears that his beloved friend Patroclus suffered a horrible death on the field and thus, the “wrath” is imposed on everyone in the war. Achilles suffers a pain unfathomable to the common man and thus begins, his quest to avenge the death of Patroclus.
The theme in Iliad is established through this act. From the first book, Achilles has always been portrayed as the man who is so powerful, yet cannot control his emotions and lets them flow. His indifference to the war, followed my absolute rage is definitive proof of the same. Thus, Achilles undergoes a cycle of emotions during the war. The emotions which Achilles expresses goes on to set the background for the changes that Achilles as a character underwent throughout the entire plot of the poem.
As aforementioned, Achilles’ rage knew no bounds. Anger seared through him and he wanted revenge. Vengeance for the lost lives and more particularly, for Patroclus. He vowed to avenge his friend’s death and will not stop until he does so. Achilles charges into war, in search of the man who killed Patroclus. As Achilles finds Hector in the war, his anger is two-fold, for he sees Hector wearing Achilles’ armour, the one Patroclus wore to the war grounds which Hector so proudly and cockily wore around.
When might meets rage, the effects are certainly unimaginable. Achilles chases Hector around the city till they finally decide to duel with each other. Achilles is clearly aware of the armour’s weak points and thus, throws a spear at Hector’s throat and thus leading to Hector’s death. Before his death, Hector had a wish that his body should be sent to Trojans’ for burial. Achilles still consumed with rage refuses his last wish to be fulfilled.
Unsatisfied with the death, Achilles drags Hector’s body mercilessly around the city three times. Hector’s body dangles from the chariot hitting every stone and pebble as he was dragged around.
At this point in the book, it is evident that Achilles went in search of a relief that he wanted from the anger he developed. Killing Hector from a mere stab wasn’t satiable for Achilles. He tries to justify his actions through the anger he holds against the entire war. His anger against Agamemnon and his anger against the Trojans especially Hector still hadn’t subsided. Albeit, he reconciled with Agamemnon, the anger still persisted. A few character flaws such as this reminds us of the fact that Achilles at the end of the day is a mortal.
As Achilles carried Hector’s body around the city, Hector’s parents King Priam and Queen Hecuba were in trauma and grief for their son was being paraded in front of them. King Priam solicited for Hector’s body so as to hold a proper funeral for him. Achilles, being ever so merciless, reprimanded King Priam.
After twelve days, the Gods were tired of Hector’s body being dragged around and thus, asked Thetis, mother to Achilles to convince her son to give up the anger and let King Priam conduct an honourable funeral for his son. King Priam offers Achilles gold equivalent to that of Hector’s weight.
Since the tempting offer was kept on the table, Achilles agreed to the same and even volunteered to stop the Greeks from fighting, so that Hector’s body could be disposed of away with dignity.
At the end of Book 24, the two teams call for a temporary truce. The treatment of Achilles is done in such a way that, albeit a mighty ruler, he does show a soft corner. At least when it comes to the inevitable – death. The book ends with Achilles letting go off the anger and rage he once held and accepting the situation and moving on. In the end, it is wise after all to be accepting of the situation and let go.
The Power Of Gods And Fate in Homer’s Iliad
Gods are very powerful beings that possess abilities that are unknown to man. Also, they tend to interfere in mortal lives and influence their decisions. Even with the immense amount of powers that they do have, there is still one thing that they have no control over. That unstoppable thing is fate. Fate is something that is destined to happen. The gods cannot control what a certain person’s fate is because it is determined by something outside of their realm of power. Since they can’t control what it is, they do something else regarding it. I argue that Zeus and Athena’s interference in Hector’s death shows that even though fate is inescapable, the gods ultimately play a role in the execution and timing of it. Similar to many other mortals, Hector knows his fate and accepts it. However, he does not know the exact details of it. All he knows is that he will die in the war. Hector talks of fate saying “no one alive has ever escaped it… it’s born with us the day we are born”.
Fate is an unchangeable force that is inevitable for everyone. Even though they can’t control what a person’s fate is, they can try to prolong it and keep it from happening. Hector was with Ajax and the two would have “hacked each other if heralds of Zeus and men had not come rushing in”. Hector was losing the battle with Ajax and could have died, but Zeus stepped in and stopped it from happening. Zeus prolonged Hector’s fate and made it so that Hector could regain his strength and keep fighting. By intervening and not letting him die, Zeus helped Hector survive but he cannot escape his inevitable fate, which is his death. Zeus has the ability to influence the timing of when one’s fate comes. In Book 22, Hector and Achilles finally get to fight. This will be their first and only fight because one is going to die. Both men know their fates, but do not know when they will actually happen. Zeus sees the men fighting and sees that Hector is again losing, so he debates with the other gods “either we pluck the man from death and save his life or strike him down at last, here at Achilles’ hands”. Zeus is trying to decide whether or not he should again save Hector and prolong his fate from occurring. Zeus has this powerful golden scale that he decides to let weigh the fates of Achilles and Hector. The outcome was that “Zeus raised it high and down went Hector’s day of doom, dragging him down the strong House of Death”.
The scale showed that it was time for Hector’s fate to come crashing down. Achilles could have been the one destined to die at this time, but Zeus’s scale undoubtedly chose Hector. The time has come for Hector to finally die. Even though fate is set in stone and dictated at birth, gods can still have control over how that fate is carried out and executed. Now that the timing of Hector’s fate has been determined by Zeus and his golden scale, the only thing left is for Hector to actually die. Athena plays a part in the execution of this. Hector is running from Achilles when Athena “taking the build and vibrant voice of Deiphobus stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Hector”. She turns herself into one of Hector’s brother and convinces him to stop running and to fight Achilles head on. Hector was running from Achilles and would have kept on until he ran out of energy and was killed, so Athena just stepped in and changed the situation. If she had not done that Hector and Achilles would have eventually fought and one of them would have died. However, it is impossible to know which one was going to die at that time if it weren’t for Zeus’s scales. Also, Athena just told Hector to stop running and fight. She isn’t the one who killed him, she just helped the killing of him come faster. In the end, his fate was to die by Achilles’ hand, which is ultimately what happened. Hector’s “soul went winging down to the House of Death, wailing his fate”. All Athena did was aid in the execution of his death and will it forward. Hector knew his fate and that is was inescapable.
The god’s divine intervention is important to the epic because their actions have helped seal the fates of the mortals. The gods know that no matter what they do to try and change one’s fate, it won’t matter because the end result has already been predetermined. All they can do is try to affect how it is reached. That is what Athena and Zeus did for Hector’s fate. Zeus saved him from dying too early in the war. Then he thought about saving him again from his fate, but ultimately decided to let his scale decide if it was time for Hector’s death. Lastly, Athena convicted Hector to stop running and fight, which in turn just accelerated the coming of his death. The gods never changed his fate with their interferences in his life, they just influenced how and when it came to happen. So, even though fate is uncontrollable and inevitable, the gods still have the ability to influence the execution and timing of it.