2101 Iliad and Odyssey

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Iliad & Odyssey: 

Iliad & Odyssey Honors 2101 Unit 2: Greece

Rough Outline: 

Rough Outline Homer in Ancient Greece Themes and Persons Illiad Odyssey Closing Thoughts

Homer in Ancient Greece: 

Homer in Ancient Greece Earliest Greek Literature Written c. 750 BCE from oral trad. (c. 1200 BCE) Recited by Rhapsodes Epic = dactylic hexameter or long poem on war/myth Cultural Importance for Greeks Taken as History Hellenic Unity Educational Texts


Greece and Trojan War

Some Themes: 

Some Themes Glories of War/Adventure Reasons for War Realistic Descriptions Ideals of Heroism Areté, timé, and kleos Fate & Courage “shame culture” Others Gods & Humans Individual vs. Society Word vs. Deed


Areté Excellence, virtue, or what makes and individual the best or among the best; usually some combination of physical prowess & persuasive speech or command. Timé Honor, material symbol of status among others, usually capable of being taken away (prize, booty, trophies). Kleos Glory or Fame, understood as public opinion, or what others say or remember.

Persons in the Iliad: 

Persons in the Iliad Acheans Achilles & Patrocles Agamemnon & Menalaos Odysseus, Ajax, Phoenix Trojans Hector & Alexandros Priam, Helen, Andromache Gods Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite Athena, Hera, Thetis

Iliad (Book I): 

Iliad (Book I) Wrath of Achilles, Part I In medias res: Trojan War & Plague of Apollo Menis: Quarrel with Agamemnon Consequences Thetis’ Supplication of Zeus Glimpse of Olympus Is Achilles’ anger his own fault?


Thetis supplicant to Zeus

Iliad (Book VI): 

Iliad (Book VI) Behind the Walls of Troy Hector as Tragic Hero Women and Family Life Fate Troy & Hector Trojan Women Is Hector a sympathetic hero? Why or why not?

Iliad (Book IX): 

Iliad (Book IX) Embassy to Achilles Discourse among equals? Odysseus’ plea Phoenix’s plea Ajax’s parting words Is Achilles being unreasonable? Why or why not?

Death and Heroism: 

Death and Heroism The prospect of death drives the heroes to pursue timé (honor). The hero is defined by his(her) action in the face of mortality, especially in combat or contests. And resulting kleos (glory) is the hero’s only immortality.

Sarpedon declares to Glaukos (Book XII.322-28): 

Sarpedon declares to Glaukos (Book XII.322-28) “Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle, would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal, so neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost nor would I urge you into the fighting where men win glory. But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us in their thousands, no man can turn aside nor escape them, let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.”

Iliad (Book XXI): 

Iliad (Book XXI) Wrath of Achilles, Part II Death of Patrocles and Achilles’ Armor Death of Lycaon: a ruthless death Death of Hector: revenge Is Achilles’ anger inhuman?

Hector at the Gates of Troy: 

Hector at the Gates of Troy …Achilles was coming closer, like Enyalius,
the warrior god of battle with the shining helmet.
On his right shoulder he waved his dreadful spear
made of Pelian ash. The bronze around him glittered
like a blazing fire or rising sun. At that moment, as he watched, Hector began to shake in fear.
His courage gone, he could no longer stand there.
Terrified, he started running, leaving the gate.
Peleus' son went after him, sure of his speed on foot.
Just as a mountain falcon, the fastest creature
of all the ones which fly, swoops down easily
on a trembling pigeon as it darts off in fear, the hawk speeding after it with piercing cries,
heart driving it to seize the prey in just that way
Achilles in his fury raced ahead

Hector faces Achilles: 

Hector faces Achilles When they'd approached each other, at close quarters,
great Hector of the shining helmet spoke out first:"I'll no longer try to run away from you, son of Peleus, as I did before, going
three times in flight around Priam's great city.
I lacked the courage then to fight with you,
as you attacked. But my heart prompts me now
to stand against you face to face once more,
whether I kill you, or you kill me.
So come here. Let's call on gods to witness,
for they're the best ones to observe our pact,
to supervise what we two agree on.
If Zeus grants me the strength to take your life,
I'll not abuse your corpse in any way. I'll strip your celebrated armour off, Achilles, then give the body back again
to the Achaeans. And you'll do the same." Swift-footed Achilles, with a scowl, replied: "Hector, don't talk to me of our agreements.
That's idiotic, like a faithful promise
between men and lions. Wolves and lambs
don't share a common heart they always sense
a mutual hatred for each other.
In just that way, it's not possible for us, for you and me, to be friends, or, indeed, for there to be sworn oaths between us,
till one or other of us falls, glutting Ares,
warrior with the bull's hide shield, on blood.
You'd best remember all your fighting skills.
Now you must declare yourself a spearman,
a fearless warrior. You've got no escape. Soon Pallas Athena will destroy you
on my spear. Right now you'll pay me back,
the full price of those sorrows I went through when you slaughtered my companions.” With these words, he hefted his long-shadowed spear,
then hurled it.

Achilles abuses Hector’s body: 

Achilles abuses Hector’s body Then on noble Hector's corpse
he carried out a monstrous act. He cut through
the tendons behind both feet, from heel to ankle,
threaded them with ox-hide thongs, and then tied these
onto his chariot, leaving the head to drag behind.
He climbed up in his chariot, brought on the splendid armour,
then lashed his horses. They sped off eagerly, 
dragging Hector. A dust cloud rose above him,
his dark hair spread out round him, and Hector's head,
once so handsome, was covered by the dust, for Zeus
had given him to his enemies to dishonour
in his own native land. So all his head grew dirty. From Book XXII, translated by Ian Johnston: http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/homer/iliad_title.htm


Abuse of Hector’s Body

Iliad (Book XXIV): 

Iliad (Book XXIV) Priam’s Plea Achilles’ grief What moved Achilles’ to release Hector’s body? Has Achilles finally come to his senses?

Questions about the Iliad: 

Questions about the Iliad What are the chief motivations for war or conflict in the Iliad? Compare/Contrast Achilles and Hector as representing heroic ideals. Does the character of Achilles develop over the course of the Iliad? If the Iliad is about the wrath of Achilles, what is the lesson to be learned, if any? What relevance, if any, does the Iliad have for us now?

The Odyssey: 

The Odyssey Journeys Disguise, Deception & Craftiness Fantastic Voyages Women in the Odyssey Homecoming: Loyalty & Order Concluding Remarks

Two Journeys in One Story: 

Two Journeys in One Story Odysseus and Telemachus Fantastic and Worldly Narrative Thread: Time and Memory Theme: Heroic Struggles Gods/immortality (Bk. V) Monsters Finding home Theme: Xenia generosity and courtesy towards strangers


1. Mt. Olympus 2. Troy 3. Cicones 4. Lotus Eaters 5. Cyclops 6. Aeolia’s Island 7. Laestrygonians 8. Circe’s Kingdom 9. Land of the Dead 10. Sirens 11. Scylla & Charybdis 12. Calypso 13. Ithaca

Disguise, Deception and Craftiness: 

Disguise, Deception and Craftiness Odysseus is polutropan = of many twists (Bk. I, Proem) Odysseus’ arete Cf. Achilles & Hector Examples: Nausicaa (Bk. VI) Polyphemus (Bk. IX) Circe (Bk. X) Homecoming (Bk. XXIII)

Fantastic Voyages: 

Fantastic Voyages Horrible and Seductive Cyclops (Bk. IX) Circe’s Island (Bk. X) Land of the Dead (Bk. XI) Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis (Bk. XII)

Women in the Odyssey: 

Women in the Odyssey Seduction and Symbol Cf. Women in the Iliad The Women Calypso Nausicaa (& mother) Circe Penelope

Land of the Dead (Bk. XI): 

Land of the Dead (Bk. XI) Rites of the Dead Vision of the Underworld The Message

Homecoming (Bk. XXIII): 

Homecoming (Bk. XXIII) Disguises at Ithaka Now Athena Killing the Suitors Xenia? Penelope & Telemachus: Loyalty and Order

Concluding Remarks: Iliad & Odyssey: 

Concluding Remarks: Iliad & Odyssey Heroic Ideals: arete, time, kleos Gods and Humans: mortality or fate Moral and Social Order: xenia, arete, women Place of Homer in Greece

Some Paper Topics (See also slide 20): 

Some Paper Topics (See also slide 20) Compare the areté of Odysseus with Achilles (or hector, Gilgamesh, Moses, etc.). How does the quest for honor and glory account for their actions? How important is the recognition of mortality? Compare the women characters from the Iliad and Odyssey. Clearly the women characters are more prominent in the Odyssey, but in what way are they similar or different? What role do women play in each epic work? What is the role of women in Homer? Clearly they represent domestic ideals, but they also represent other important values and features in the narrative. Explicate what you think of Homer’s us of women characters in the Iliad and Odyssey. Are there any interesting modern parallels? The Odyssey is best known for the fantastic series of adventures the Odysseus undergoes. Pick one or two episodes and draw modern parallel. What is the significance of this episode? Does it teach us a lesson or reveal something important about the human condition (or just archaic Greek values)? Odysseus is constantly trying to get home to Ithaka. He forsakes a goddess (Calypso) and other alluring women (e.g., Circe), so why does he seek out home and a reunion with Peneolpe? What does this tell us about the virtues of Odysseus?


How does Homer portray the relationship between gods and humans in the Iliad and Odyssey? What roles do the gods play in human life? How does this make a difference in the storylines? In what way does Odysseus’ character develop during the course of the narrative? Does he develop at all? Compare other characters (e.g., Achilles, Gilgamesh, etc.). An important cultural concept in the Odyssey is xenia – generosity and courtesy to strangers, especially travelers form afar. What role does it play in the narrative? How is it established as a key value? Why might hospitality have held more significance in Homer’s time than it does today? Draw a comparison between the themes presented in any two of the works we have read thus far (Epic of Gilgamesh, Genesis, Exodus, Job, Iliad, Odyssey). Pick a theme that spans both works and discuss how it is similar and/or different, but also tell us why this is interesting or revealing. Use specific examples to illustrate the theme(s) and your main point about its treatment in the stories. In the Odyssey and the story of Gilgamesh have given us two visions of the underworld. What is the picture of the underworld we are given in these works? Does it resonate with modern versions of the underworld? Why is water so important? Blood?