Lecture 2: Background and Nature of the Illiad Source: Homer's Iliad, cod. F 205 inf. Late 5th-early 6th c. Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana Author and Subject Matter • Tradition says Homer, the “blind poet”—8th century B.C.E. • Broad subject is a 10 year war waged by chieftains of Achaean (Greek) warrior classes against the city of Troy • Focus: Conflict between Achaeans’ leader Agamemnon and its greatest warrior Achilles in 9th year of that war—and the consequences attendant upon that conflict Bust of Homer, Source:http://www.greece.org/hellas/0.GIF/ homer.gif Historical Basis/Cultural Values • Iliad Preserves historical memories of Achaean (Greek) warrior class who ruled the “Minoan/Mycenaean Civilization (1400-1100) – Highly developed civilizations in Crete and Greek mainland – Banded together to defeat and destroy Troy around 1200 BCE – Archeological Evidence (Schliemann 1870-1890) – Collapse of Achaean civilization into “dark ages” after invasion of the Dorians (1100-800?) • • Real memories turn into “tall tales” during dark ages: Homer turns a selection of these stories into the written Iliad and Odyssey Cultural Values – Arete: “Heroic Valor” – The joy of “carnal” life (when not fighting, they’re feasting) – Beauty – Piety towards the gods – Hospitality Genre and Structure • Genre: Epic – Definition of Epic: (Handbook of Literary Terms) • “A long narrative poem in elevated style • presenting characters of high position • in adventures forming an organic whole through their relation to a central heroic figure. . . “ • Structure of Iliad (illustrates aspects of epic) – Fateful falling out between Agamemnon, Achaean leader and Achilles its greatest warrior (“high position)” – Leading to a downturn of Greek fortunes after Achilles withdraws – A restoration of Achaean fortunes after the return of Achilles (adventures related to central character) – The death and humiliation of Hector – Climax in the meeting and mutual grieving of Achilles and Troy’s king Priam—and the restoration of Hector’s body (all three parts of epic definition) Content and Structure (cont.) Organization of an Epic A long narrative poem in elevated style Presenting characters of high position In adventures forming an organic whole through their relation to a central heroic figure Content and Structure (cont.) Structure of Illiad 5.Climax in the meeting and mutual grieving of Achilles and Troy’s king Priam and the restoration of Hector’s body (all three parts of epic definition) 2. Leading to a downturn of Greek fortunes after Achilles withdraws Verse Form • Written in “Hexameters” – Each line is a more or less complete thought and is divided into 6 rhythmic “segments” or “feet,” (Hence “hexa”) • Translators do not attempt to reproduce this verse form but in the original it reflects “the surging and the thunder” of always present sea (Andrew Lang) Island of Ithaca Poetic Style (1): “Clichés” or Epithets • “Clichés”: Notice how often a place or person will be identified with a “tag” phrase – – – – “Rosy-fingered dawn” “Wine-dark sea” Achilles “swift-runner” Hector “breaker of horses” • Purpose of Clichés – – – – “Character tags” Memory devices for oral poetry Metrically necessary “filler” (Lattimore) Emphasizes “unchanging inevitability” of Homeric world (Lewis) Style (2) Extended Simile • • • Simile is a comparison between two unlike objects using “like” and “as,” or “so.” – “My love is like a red, red rose.” – “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Homer’s similes tend to be extended as in the following from book XVI of The Iliad – As the East and South Winds fight in killer squalls deep in a mount valley thrashing stands of timber oak and ash and cornel with bark stretched taut and hard and they whip their long sharp branches against each other a deafening roar goes up, the splintered timber crashing so Achaeans and Trojans clashed….. – “As” tips us off that we are in for a simile. But a long journey before we get to the “so” which completes the comparison. What extended similes do for the poem: – Make action vivid – “Distance us” from the poem Divine/Human Relations in The Iliad • Will of human actors ruled and overruled by that of the gods • Human heroism “decorates” but does not “determine” the action. – “Nothing great happens without the aid of a divine power” (Jaeger). • Gods “rig” everything through – External intervention – Internal influence – Continuous favoritism (or disfavor) Key Gods and Important Humans • • • • • • • • • • • • • Zeus “who marshals the storm clouds”: king of the gods Poseidon: “the earth shaker”: brother of Zeus and god of the sea Hades: Zeus’s other great brother who rules the underworld Hera: “the white armed”: his quarrelsome queen Athena: “the gray-eyed”; goddess of wisdom; Zeus’s daughter Hermes: “the giant killer” and messenger of gods Thetis: a minor goddess and Achilles' mother Paris: his affair with Helen is at the root of all the trouble Helen: Menelaeus’s wife who deserts her husband and runs off to Troy Agamemnon: king of the Achaeans and organizer of expedition Achilles: “the swift runner”; the Achaean’s greatest warrior Priam: king of Troy; father of Paris, Deiphobus, and Hector Hector: “breaker of horses”; Troy’s greatest warrior Stage Now Set for Summary and Exposition of Selections from Iliad • • • • • • • • After reading this lectures could you answer the following questions? Differences between Greek and Hebrew “world view’ and how these affect the “style” in which they are written? Achaeans? Hexameter? Epic? Homeric “cliché” and “extended simile”—and their importance to Homer’s style? Arete? The other major “virtues” of The Iliad and Odyssey? The major gods and human characters of The Iliad and their role in the poem? Theatre at Epidauros Proceed to the Optional Flash Quiz and see if you can answer the above questions!