Questions for Further Discussion

The Iliad

Questions for Further Discussion ~ Scroll to the bottom of the page for a printer friendly version.

Book 1


1. According to the first 8 lines, what will this poem be about?


2. What do you think the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles is about? Compare / contrast to the "quarrel" that started the war. Do gods or men or both cause the quarrel?


3. What do you think of Apollo's murderous response to Chryses' prayer? What do you think of Zeus's response to Thetis' request?


4. What accusations do Achilles and Agamemnon level at each other? Do you think these charges are just?


5. Who do you think is in the right in this quarrel? Who do the Achaeans think is in the right? Why? Why do you think Achilles and Agamemnon fail to take Nestor’s advice?


6. What kind of people do you think Agamemnon and Achilles are?


7. How do you think Achilles "decides" to refrain from killing Agamemnon? Why does Achilles give up Briseis? What do you think of Achilles' refusal to fight?


8. In what senses is Agamemnon more powerful than Achilles?


9. How do men get gods to do what men want?


10. Name some similarities between Zeus and Achilles (and Zeus and Agamemnon).


11. How do you react to the way women (mortal and immortal) portrayed in Book 1?


12. What do you think the heroes in the Iliad are fighting for? Do the heroes seem to like fighting? What do the gods seem to care about? How are their concerns like / unlike the heroes' concern for honor and glory?


13. How do you know who has the most honor? Why do you think Zeus honors Thetis' request? What do you think of Zeus' response to her ?


14. In what ways do you think the men's and gods' quarrels are like / unlike? Why do you think these quarrels have different outcomes?



The Iliad

Questions for Further Discussion

Books 2-4.



1.What do you think Homer intends to show the reader (about Agamemnon's character, about the morale of the Achaeans, about Odysseus) in the scenes detailing Agamemnon's plan to "test" his troops and its result?


2. Why do you think Homer included the episode of Thesites' abuse of Agamemnon and his chastisement by Odysseus? Why is it OK for Achilles to abuse Agamemnon but not OK for Thersites to disrespect him? Why do you think the troops laugh?


3. What do you think the scepter / staff could symbolize?


4. What do you think of Paris' answer to Hector? Why do you suppose the people of Troy haven't just gotten rid of Paris and / or Helen?


5. Why do you think Menelaus agrees to the truce and single combat?


6. What do you think is Helen's view of her situation? Who does she blame for her predicament? Who would you blame?


7. Now a strange question: where do you think Helen's emotions come from?


8. What do you think would happen to Helen if Aphrodite "let go" of her?


9. Why does Aphrodite rescue Paris? Why do you think Helen gives in to Paris ?


10. Why do you suppose Homer organized Book 3 in the following way?


    a) Battlefield: Hector chides Paris; Paris suggests duel and oaths; Achaeans accept, suggest sacrifice.

    b) Troy: Old men converse; Helen and Priam look at soldiers.

    a) Battlefield: Priam goes out; sacrifices, oaths; the duel; Aphrodite intervenes (breaks chinstrap; hides Paris in cloud).

    b) Troy: Helen and Aphrodite; Helen and Paris.

    a) Battlefield: Menelaus looks for Paris.


11. Give some reasons for why the gods love some men, women, and cities and try to destroy others. Why does Hera want peace?


12. Why do you think breaking the truce brings "glory" to Pandarus?




The Iliad

Questions for Further Discussion

Books 5-8



1. What do you think of the gods' behavior in Book 5? Can the gods be heroic? Why or why not? Why do you think Book 5 concentrates so much on Diomedes' heroic feats? 


2. Why do you think Diomedes and Glaucus exchange armor? Does their friendship pact make any sense to you?


3. Compare / contrast the three scenes in book 6: a) Agamemenon's attitude, b) Glaucus and Diomedes , and c) Hector in Troy.


4. Why is it important that Menelaus not be killed?


5. Why won’t they let Menelaus fight Hector in book 7? Do you think Pandarus wins glory by wounding Menelaus, as Agamemnon says he does?


6. Does Paris tell his brother the whole truth at the top of ? What do you think of Helen's speech on the same page?


7. Have any of the events in Book 6 altered your view of what the heroes are fighting for? If yes, which events and why?


8. What are the Trojans fighting for? What do you think Hector is fighting for?


9. If Hector knows that "holy Ilion will perish", then why do you think he keeps on fighting and wants his son to be just like him? In what ways do you think Hector is like / unlike Achilles? (selfish?)


10. Compare / contrast Andromache’s attitude towards the war with Helen’s. What do you think of Andromache’s advice to Hector?


11. Why do you think Homer put in the scene with the child becoming afraid? Do you think that Homer would like to perpetuate the honor / glory system as Hector does?


12. Why do you think Hector decides to challenge the best of the Achaeans? (What might this challenge accomplish militarily?) What do you think of duel's outcome?


13. Once again, one of the Trojans, Antenor, suggests they just give Helen back, but they don't. How are their reasons for their actions similar and different from the scene on?



The Iliad

Questions for Further Discussion

Book 9


1. After studying carefully Achilles' long answer to the ambassadors, list some reasons why Achilles spurns Agamemnon's generous truce offer. (Who is "the man who says one thing and thinks another"? Do you think his reasons are good ones? Why or why not? What emotions and thoughts strike you as most important in this speech and why?


2. Do you think Achilles is questioning or redefining honor and glory? Why or why not? What do you think he means when he says, "my honor comes from Zeus"?


3. If Achilles won't take all the stuff Agamemnon offers, then what would it take to pay him "in full" for "all [his] grief" ? Compare / contrast Agamemnon's gifts with the exchanges of gifts between Glaucus and Diomedes and Hector and Ajax .


4. Why do you think that none of the arguments of Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax can persuade Achilles to swallow his rage and re-enter the war?


5. Which arguments do you find most convincing and why?


6. Do you think that Achilles owes his comrades any loyalty? Why do you suppose he won't help his comrades? Why do you think he stays angry?


7. What qualities make Achilles godlike? Do you like him? Why or why not?


8. Can you tell from his descriptions and similes of battle, killing, and wounds what Homer thinks of war and heroic glory? What different kinds of images and similes does Homer employ to describe the deaths of warriors? What do you think is Homer's attitude towards the dead? Does he think the glory is worth all this death? Why do you think Homer spends so much time describing wounds, boasts, and families of the heroes?



Achilles' little speech may mean that he will re-enter the fighting and stop Hector only after Hector goes through all of the Greek ships and finally gets down to the Myrmidons' and Achilles' ships at the end of the line. What do you think?

Patty Brown,
Oct 24, 2010, 2:52 PM
Patty Brown,
Oct 24, 2010, 2:53 PM
Patty Brown,
Oct 24, 2010, 2:53 PM
Patty Brown,
Oct 24, 2010, 2:53 PM