The Iliad

Did the Trojan War really happen?   The Late Bronze Age saw the fall of many civilizations, a time chronicled for Israel in the book of Judges.

A timeline for Mycenaean civilization, the era of the Trojan War, the Minoans, and the so-called Dorian Invasion is available.  The Timeline.

See ” In Search of the Trojan War “, a multipart BBC documentary providing an interesting background of the work and its critical-historical context.

Was Homer an actual poet?  The unity of the composition, originally an oral Epic, shows a highly focused intention.

Geometric Outline of the Text by Cedric Whitman

(Whitman, Cedric Hubbell. Homer and the Heroic Tradition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1965. Print.)

Geometric Iliad
Geometric relationship of the Iliad

Book I 

The Rage of Achilles sets the scene.  The conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles soon becomes a conflict between Zeus and Hera.  Zeus Broods over his choices.

Book II

Zeus initiates his plan in a deceptive dream.   The Achaeans are deceived into prosecuting the war.  The Catalog of Ships counts off the participants.

catalog of ships map
This map connects the names and the geography of Mycenae

Book III

A duel between Menelaus and Paris is thwarted by the intervention of of Aphrodite.  The Judgment of Paris and its ramifications, as well as its reflection on the characters of Aphrodite and Paris, the involvement of Helen and her doom are shown.

Book IV

Zeus and Hera come to an understanding concerning the destruction of cities.   Pandarus unleashes a treacherous arrow, wounding Menelaus.  Agamemnon marshals his troops, and war begins in earnest.  Treachery of the Trojans.

Book V

Diomedes begins his warring bolstered by Athena.  Pandarus tries to bring him down with an arrow, but he is too favored to be stopped.  Aphrodite, Apollo, then Ares are subdued, Hera and Athena being matchless.

Book VI

Hector marshals his troops back in Troy.  Glaucus meets Diomedes, and they reflect on man and friendship.  Hector meets with Andromache, and wishes the future for Astyanax.  This is the pity of the Trojans.

Book VII

A duel is set in the plains.   The hero Hector meets with the Giant Ajax and they battle each other to a draw.  Gifts are exchanged and piety reigns.

Book VIII

Zeus sets the battle in motion with his lightening.  Hera and Athena are outraged, but restrained from interference.  Zeus pronounces his doom, and Troy pushes to across the plains to encamp in the night, waiting to assault the Argive ships in the morning.

Book IX

Agamemnon is distraught, his advisor Nestor advises reconciliation with Achilles.   Three heroes, Odysseus, Nestor, and Ajax are appointed to appeal the Argives case to Achilles.   Achilles sleeps on it.

Book X

Odysseus and Diomedes execute a night raid into the plains below Troy.   They destroy sleeping men and steal horses.  They encounter a Trojan infiltrator, Dolon, who they interrogate and execute.

Book XI

Dawn rises, and Eris (strife) shouts Agamemnon on to battle.  The Mycenaean chief battles forward, and Hector who is advised by Zeus withdraws.   In succession, Agamemnon, Diomedes and Odysseus receive wounds and withdraw.   Achilles, concerned over the rout, sends Patroclus to investigate where he meets Nestor, who suggests that Patroclus himself should lead the Myrmidons out to fight.

Book XII

Hector continues the assault.   An evil bird omen appears, and Polydamas warns Hector of his fate, but Hector seizes the opportunity and pushes the fight through the Achaean trenches.   Sarpedon and Glaucus commit to the assault.

Book XIII

During a lull in Zeus’ attention, Poseidon takes the Argives plight in his hands, and helps them to drive the Trojans back.   Polydamas urges Hector to regroup, and he does.   Zeus returns and the Trojans push the Argives back once again.

Book XIV

Now the wounded trio of Odysseus, Agamemnon and Diomedes must return to direct their flagging troops from the rear.  Hera distracts Zeus and returns Poseidon to the fight.   Ajax severely wounds Hector with a thrown boulder.

Book XV

Zeus awakens and in rage returns to the battle.  Zeus reveals his doomsday plan to the frightened Hera, who returns in horrified resignation to Olympus.   Patroclus, now alarmed at the Trojans reaching the ships, resolves to beg Achilles to intervene.

Book XVI

Achilles’ rage against Agamemnon is unabated.  He suggests that Patroclus borrow his armor, and lead the Myrmidons forth himself, being careful to only drive the Trojans away, but not to pursue them to Troy.  Patroclus, exulting in his success in battle, not only pursues the Trojans to the walls, but assaults Apollo himself, who ultimately kills Patroclus.

Iliad reading guide XVI

Book XVII

Menelaus sets forth to recover Patroclus’ corpse.  Hector decides to don the armor of Achilles and enter the struggle for the body.   The Argives manage to keep the body of Patroclus, retreating with it headlong to the ships and the beach.

Iliad Reading Guide XVII

Book XVIII

Achilles now learns of the death of his best friend.   Achilles weeps, decides his doom in battle, and utters the loud cry from the trench, stopping the battle.   Hephaestus sets to making new armor for the warrior.

Iliad Reading Guide XVIII

Book XIX

Achilles meets now with Agamemnon.   He refuses food and drink, hungry only for battle.  His horse prophesies his death, and Achilles, telling him not to waste his breath, drives his chariot forward.

Iliad Reading Guide XIX

Book XX

Zeus sets the gods loose to war among themselves with the Trojans and Greeks.  Achilles faces Aeneas, who is saved by the gods.   Achilles blazes forward.

Iliad Guide XX

Book XXI

Achilles, killing so many men in the river bed, offends the river god Scamander.   Achilles is nearly overwhelmed fighting the river itself, but is  saved as Hephaestus’ fire assaults the torrent.  Apollo diverts the ravening Achilles by a ruse, leading him far from the Trojan walls.

Iliad Guide XXI

Book XXII

The Trojans open their gates to allow their army to shelter within the walls.   Hector waits for Achilles outside, tricked by Athena into believing his brother Deiphobus is there to fight with him.   Achilles chases Hector around the city three times then kills Hector, dragging off the body behind his chariot.

Book XXIII

Achilles prepares for the funeral games of Patroclus.   The Argive heroes compete in a series of contests and Achilles awards prizes.   The funeral pyre is built, massive sacrifices, including twelve Trojans, are slaughtered and burned along with Patroclus’ corpse.

Book XXIV

The gods are shocked and insulted by Achilles treatment of the body of Hector.   Thetis is sent to beg Achilles to release the body, and king Priam journeys clandestinely through the Argive lines to approach Achilles.   Achilles and Priam grieve together,  agreeing to a funeral truce as Priam retrieves the body of his son for burial.