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The Iliad




The Iliad traces almost clinically the stages of Achilles' development. More than tragedy, epic makes real use of time; whereas Oedipus, for instance, reveals himself before our eyes, Achilles creates himself in the course of the poem. He progresses from young hopefulness, cheerfully accepting the possibility of early death with glory, through various phases of disillusion, horror, and violence, to a final detachment which is godlike indeed. Tragedy, especially that of Sophocles, slowly uncovers a character which is complete from start to finish, but Achilles is actually not complete until the poem is complete. He is learning all the time.

Cedric H. Whitman, Homer and the Heroic Tradition, 1958


The similes have a double purpose: to crystallize, in a sphere close to the listener's own understanding, a sight or sound or a state of mind; and to give relief from the harshness and potential monotony of warfare by suddenly actualizing a quite different and often even peaceful, even domestic, scene....

G. S. Kirk, The Songs of Homer, 1962


Hector is the pure patriot, who is fighting to save his city, not to defend his brother's guilt; he feels the sin of Paris as a stain upon his city's name, a fatal weakness in the Trojan cause. Thus he enters the poem with his nobility and purity of motive thrown into sharp relief against the background of guilt which spells Troy's inevitable destruction.

E. T. Owen, The Story of the "Iliad," 1966


Nestor's constant claim is that he has lived a hero's life. Having already proved his worth in heroic encounters, he sets his life before the young heroes as paradigm. Now it is their turn to prove their characters. As paradigms, then, his stories are never told for their antiquarian interest but because they are his most persuasive form of rhetoric.... They reflect a pervasive need to justify an action in the present by an appeal to a past precedent.

Norman Austin, "The Function of Digressions in the Iliad," in John Wright,

Essays on the "Iliad," 1978


Achilles' greatness is a greatness of force and negation. He is different from other men by his greater capacity to deny, to refuse, to kill, and to face death.... Hector, by contrast, is a hero of illusions; he is finally trapped between a failed illusion and his own capacity for disillusionment. Hector is surely a figure less grand than Achilles, but it is Hector's story that gives Achilles' story meaning; Hector affirms all that Achilles denies.

James Redfield, Nature and Culture in the "Iliad," 1975

[The Iliad Contents]


We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.

Murray Bromberg, Principal
Wang High School of Queens, Holliswood, New York

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
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National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
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State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
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Frank O'Hare, Professor of English
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

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National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
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Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois

[The Iliad Contents]



Bowra, C. M. Tradition and Design in the "Iliad." Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950.

Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths. 2 vols. New York: Penguin Books, 1955.

Hogan, James C. A Guide to the "Iliad." New York: Anchor Books, 1979.

Kirk, G. S. Homer and the Epic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965.

_____. The Songs of Homer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.

Murray, Gilbert. The Rise of the Greek Epic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960.

Owen, E. T. The Story of the "Iliad." Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966.

Page, Denys L. History and the Homeric "Iliad." Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963.

Redfield, James. Nature and Culture in the "Iliad." Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.

Whitman, Cedric H. Homer and the Heroic Tradition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958.

Wilcock, Malcolm M. A Companion to the "Iliad." Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.

Wright, John, ed. Essays on the "Iliad": Selected Modern Criticism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.


    The Odyssey
    The Homeric Hymns are sometimes ascribed to Homer.


ECC [The Iliad Contents] []

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