The Mythological Background of the Iliad, List of Greek Mythologocial Figures, Primordial Deities, The Elder Gods or The Titans, Additional Mythological Figures, Summary of the Odyssey, Adventures of Odysseus, Short Gist of the Iliad, Analysis of the Iliad
List of Greek Mythological Figures
Olympian Deities (Twelve Olympians)
The Elder Gods or the Titans
Additional List of Greek Mythological Figures
Adonis. An extremely handsome young man loved by Aphrodite. Ares, who was jealous, had him torn to pieces by a boar. He descended to the underworld, where Persephone fell in love with him.
Aeetes. King of Colchis and father of Medea, he was guardian of the Golden Fleece. Jason and the Argonauts succeeded in returning to Greece the Golden Fleece, once the coat of a flying ram sent by Zeus to save Prince Phrixus of Thessaly.
Aegeus. The king of Athens who in his youth secretly married Princess Aethra of Troezen. He threw himself into the sea in sorrow. Since then the sea has been called the Aegean Sea.
Ajax. A Greek hero who fought in the Trojan War. He and Odysseus rescued the slain body of Achilles. The dead soldier’s weapons were to be awarded as a prize to one of the two men. When Ajax learned that he would not be the winner, he committed suicide in desperation. On the spot where he died, a flower sprang up, the hyacinth.
Alcmena. The queen of Tyrinsand mother of Heracles.
Amazons. Fierce women warriors who fought on horseback.
Andromeda. The daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia of Ethiopia. Her father tied her to a rock in sacrifice to a sea monster that was destroying the region.
Antaeus. The gigantic son of Poseidon and Gaea, Mother Earth, he was unbeatable as long as he stayed in contact with his mother.
Arachne. A skillful spinner and disciple of Athena. She was turned into a spider by Athena, who became jealous of her skill and condemned her to spin for eternity.
Argus. The monster with a hundred eyes who guarded the cowloon orders from Hera. Argus was killed by Hermes, who received orders from Zeus. Argus is also the name of Odysseus’ faithful dog who died of joy when his master returned home.
Ariadne. The daughter of King Minos of Crete, she fell in love with Theseus, the hero who came from Athens to kill the minotaur. Ariadne helped Theseus to kill the monster and leave the cave by holding a string at the entrance to the minotaur’s labyrinth.
Atalanta. The daughter of the King of Arcady, who abandoned her because he wanted a son. She was raised by a bear and became a great hunter. Atalanta was the only woman who participated in a hunt organized to kill the terrible boar of Calydonia. She wounded the beast and her proud father finally recognized her as his daughter. She promised she would only marry the man who could beat her in a race. Hippomenes succeeded: during the race he dropped three golden apples given to him by Aphrodite. Atalanta bent down to pick up the apples and lost the race.
Bellerophon. He achieved many fears riding Pegasus, the winged horse that only he could tame. His pride grew to the point that he wanted to ride his magic horse to Olympus. He was punished for his arrogance and the god made him fall back to earth. He died lame beggar in a distant land.
Calchas. The high priest of Apollo and seer who gave the Greeks advice during the Trojan War.
Centaur. A creature half man and half horse. The centaurs fought Heracles and the Lapiths, who drove them out of Thessaly. These brutal creatures lived in the mountains and forests and ate raw meat.
Chimera. A monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a snake. She was killed by Bellerophon.
Chiron. The only kind centaur, Chiron taught many of the Greek heroes. Achilles and Jason were among his students. Heracles killed him with an arrow whose tip was tinged with the poisoned bloodof the Hydra of Lerna.
Cyclopes. A race of giants with just one eye. They made Zeus’ thunderbolts.
Daphne. The nymph Apollo loved. She tried to escape Apollo’s attentions and invoked the help of Mother Earth, who turned her into a laurel tree. From that day on, the laurel tree became Apollo’s favorite plant.
Deianira. The wife of Heracles, she was kidnapped by Nessus, the centaur. Heracles shot a poisoned arrow at the centaur. Before he died, Nessus gave some of his blood to Deianira, telling her it would ensure her husband’s love forever. Years later, Deianira gave Heracles a tunic dipped in the blood, hoping that this would discourage her husband from falling in love with another. Her husband suffered greatly from the poison and returned to Mount Olympus to be with the gods. His distraught wife committed suicide.
Endymion. The son of Zeus and a nymph. He was so handsome that Selene, the moon goddess, fell in love with him and rewarded him with magical sleep and eternal youth.
Erinyes. Terrible goddesses of the underworld born from drops of blood from Uranus. They avenged the most horrible crimes, especially those against families.
Galatea. A sea nymph and loved by the Cyclops Polyphemus.
Ganymede. The most handsome mortal. Zeus had him kidnapped by an eagle and taken to Olympus to become cupbearer to the gods.
Gorgons. Three terrible sisters named Stheno, Furvale and Medusa. The last one was deadly: she had snakes for hair and her glance could turn human into a stone.
Harpies. Ugly birds with women’s heads.
Ladon. A dragon that guarded Hera’s garden of the Hesperid.
Medea. An enchantress and daughter of the King of Colchis. She helped Jason obtain the Golden Fleece and regain the throne of Ioclus that was usurped by Pelias. When Jason fell in love with Creusa, Medusa killed her and then murdered her own children.
Melampus. A mortal with the gift of prophecy.He understood the language of animals and cured the daughters of the King of Argo whom Dionysus had made insane. He married a daughter of the king as a reward.
Minotaur. A monster with a human’s body and a bull’s head. He ate human flesh.
Nymphs. Young women who lived in the woods, mountains, or sea and personified the forces of nature. The Oreads were mountain nymphs, the Nereids were sea nymphs, the Meliads were goddesses of the ash trees, and the Amadriads were goddesses of all trees.
Orion. A huge hunter who killed the wild beasts on the island of Chios. In exchange for his deeds, he asked the king for the hand in marriage of his daughter. The king, however, had him blinded. Orion regained his sight by wandering East where the sun’s rays healed him. He angered Artemis, who made a scorpion sting him. The scorpion and Orion were turned into constellations. That is why the Orion constellation seems to escape from the scorpion constellation behind it.
Orpheus. A talented poet and musician whose music tamed wild beasts. He descended into Hades to save Eurydice, his dead wife. Touched by the music of his lyre, the gods of the underworld let Orpheus take back his wife to Earth on one condition: he could not look at her. Orpheus turned back once before reaching the sunlight, however, and lost his beloved wife forever.
Pegasus. A winged horse born from the blood of the Medusa when Perseus cut off her head. Pegasus was tamed by Bellerophon.
Pleiads. The seven nymph daughters of Atlas, they were loved by the hunter Orion. The gods turned Orion and the nymphs into constellations.
Psyche. The beloved of Eros, who visited her at night. Although Psyche was not allowed to look her lover in the face, she disobeyed and lit a candle one night. When a drop of hot oil fell on Eros’ face, he fled. Aphrodite, jealous of Psyche’s beauty, tormented her. In the end Zeus allowed her to become a goddess and marry Eros.
Satyrs. They had a man’s chest and a goat’s legs. They were demigods of the woods and companions of Dionysus.
Sirens. Sea nymphs that sans so sweetly that sailors were lured towards their island and shipwrecked.
Sphinx. A monster with the head of a woman, the body of a lion, and the wings of a bird. She killed wayfarers who could not answer her riddle.
Tiresias. A blind soothsayer of Thebes. Hera, displeased with her behavior during an argument with Zeus, blinded her. Zeus consoled Tiresias by giving her the gift of prophecy and the privilege of living for seven generations.
Short Summary of the Odyssey
The Odyssey or Odússeia is a sequel to Homer's Iliad. The Greek epic poem is one of the two works of the Greek literary genius. The poem is an extant work composed around the eighth century. A summary of the Odyssey highlights the journey of the Greek hero Odysseus or Ulysses, after the fall of Troy...
Odyssey is unique among poems of the time. The focus on a unified theme within an
epic cycle via rapid, but direct, evolution of thought and expression makes the
Odyssey a classic. Homer was recognized around the Western world for simple
syntax in hexameter verse. The poem spotlights grammatical form led by verse
structure to attribute rhythm through uniform pauses. Homer's poetic skill
defies age and time by surpassing degree. Odyssey may lack the expression and
distinguishing qualities of Iliad, but the subtle version of the epico-lyrical
attempt remains a ballad. Homer's powerful style of verse defines the popular
epic as a ballad, set against Greek
culture. The Odyssey is indigenous and easily distinguishable from a
Dante or Milton.
Odyssey battles internal and external conflict to take part in the Trojan War. It is at a time when his son Telemachus, is only a month old. Ten years after the war, Odysseus retraces his steps back home. By that time, Telemachus is twenty and living with his mother Penelope in Ithaca. His mother has to deal with 108 suitors, who are boisterous and adamant that she should agree to marriage.
Athena, Odysseus’s guardian, decides with the King of Gods according to Greek mythology, Zeus, to take the form of Mentes, a Taphian chief and speak to Telemachus. She urges the boy to look for his father. Telemachus and Athena witness Phemius the bard entertaining the rowdy suitors with "Return from Troy". Even as Penelope objects, urged by Athena, Telemachus orders Phemius to read on.
Athena finds Telemachus a ship and crew and helps him to depart for the mainland. Welcomed by the Nestor family, Telemachus then embarks on a land journey alongside Sparta, Nestor's son. He chances upon Helen and Menelaus bear witness of a meeting with sea-god Proteus. They inform Telemachus that his father has been captured by Calypso, a nymph.
Odysseus, meanwhile, spends seven years in captivity. He is released only to incur the wrath of Poseidon, the sea god who was not present on Mount Olympus when Athena and Zeus interacted. Escaping the wreckage, Odysseus swims ashore exhausted and falls asleep. He then seeks the hospitality of Arete and Alcinous. Odysseus struggles through a situation where his identity is always in doubt.
A raid on his twelve ships by storms, lotus eaters and blinded with a wooden stake, leaves the hero a broken man. A boon from Aeolus, the wind god helped Odysseus harness all the winds. However, with destiny playing truant, Odysseus does not retain the only 'safe' wind that could blow him homeward. His escapades with the pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses, a treacherous sailor, Laestrygones the cannibal, Circe, the witch goddess and the spirit of Tiresias, leave Odysseus spent and longing for home.
Odysseus' lucky meeting with the Phaeacians, buys him a homebound journey. Disguised as a beggar, Odysseus learns about his family. He meets Penelope with the intention of testing her love for him. Eurycleia, the housekeeper, discovers Odysseus’ identity and all is well when he strings his own bow as part of the suitor competition set by Penelope.
A. The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Return to Ithaca
After Homer in “The Iliad” related the story of the war that shook all of Greece in mythical times, he went on to narrate “The Odyssey”. Many experts consider this work by Homer to be more mature, containing the adventures of Odysseus, the capture of Troy, from the time he left Troy to the moment he reached his home in Ithaca. During our time, the word “odyssey” has come to mean precisely that: a series of seemingly endless vicissitudes experienced by everyone in his life, taken from the work of Homer, which describes the wanderings and the tricks of a great hero, the immortal spirit of the Greek race, set off with an entire fleet to at last arrive at his longed for island alone, exhausted and replete with experience. His yearning for Ithaca kept alive the flames of his desire to return, to the point that the word “Ithaca” has come to mean a “great passion”, the goal and its pursuit, the dream that each person sets out to capture.
During his wanderings Odysseus sometimes found himself in inhospitable lands with barbarous peoples and strange creatures and at other times, in places where he was well received and offered assistance.
He knew the difficulties that beset the navy of his day; turbulent currents and dangerous passages, inhospitable, barbarous and fearsome inhabitants. He overcame them all with his persistence and his courage, seeking out his fate and his destiny. He even went down to the underworld which very few mortals had ever existed. The people and the gods welcomed him, loved him, to the point that they wanted to keep him there, far from his beloved Ithaca.
His strange fate made it so that he returned home alone and on a foreign ship after starting with an entire fleet and crew. But let’s follow his long journey.
B. The Cicones and the Lotus-Eaters
After the destruction of Troy, Odysseus set out for home with Agamemnon’s fleet but the ships were scattered in a storm. Odysseus ran aground on the coast of Thrace, where the Cicones lived. They were allies of Troy, a land that Odysseus overcame and looted Ismarus, one of other cities, sparing only Maron, the priest of Apollo, who made him a gift of twelve jars of sweet intoxicating wine. The landing and the attack on the city of the Cicones cost Odysseus the lives of six men from each of his ships. Now they sailed south again, to the sea of Cythera, near Cape Males. Their next stop was an island off the coast of Africa. The people of the country welcomed Odysseus and his companions when they landed to reconnoiter, offering them the lotus which they themselves ate. But when the sailors of the ships of Odysseus ate the fruit they forgot their homeland and their wish to return home. In the end, Odysseus had to use force to get them to re-embark.
C. In the Country of the Cyclopes
Odysseus’ little fleet now sailed north and anchored at an island called the country of the Cyclopes, tentatively identified as Sicily. When they landed, Odysseus took with him twelve of his companions and bags of the wine of Maron as a gift to any people they might meet. On their way into the interior of the island, they came to a cave. Inside were huge quantities of fresh milk and cheese. Odysseus was so curious about the size of all the objects lying about that he paid no heed to the warnings of his companions, who wanted to leave. His desire was to see exactly how large was the being that lived in the cave. When the owner of the cave, the Cyclops Polyphemus, came home, he saw the strangers and imprisoned them in the cave by blocking its mouth with a boulder so large fifty men could not have moved it. He devoured two of Odysseus’ companions on the spot, and continued to eat them in pairs. Odysseus then offered him some of the wine of Maron. Polyphemus drank quite a lot of it with pleasure, and in a much merrier mood, he asked Odysseus what his name might be. “My name is Noman,” came the hero’s answer. In order to repay Odysseus for the fine wine, Polyphemus promised to devour him last.
Odysseus wracked his brains for some way of escaping from the clutches of this cannibal beast. His first idea was to kill Polyphemus. But then who would move the rock across the mouth of the cave? And so he decided to blind the giant. Polyphemus, drunk, had sunk into a deep sleep. Odysseus and his surviving companions found a pointed stick in the cave. They heated it in the fire to make it as effective as possible, and then plunged it into the giant’s one and only eye. The cries of Polyphemus in the night shook the island. The other Cyclopes answered, calling out to Odysseus who answered “Noman”. They thought he must have gone mad, and blind Polyphemus searched in vain for those who had injured him. Odysseus and his companions escaped from the cave by clinging to the thick wool on the bellies of the sheep of Polyphemus’ flock. When they got back to their ships, they had raised the sails and were ready to depart when Odysseus called out to Polyphemus that if he were ever asked again who had blinded him, he was to say, ‘Odysseus, spoiler of the cities.” In his rage, Polyphemus hurled huge boulders at the ships, but in vain. By now Odysseus’ little fleet was out in the open sea. Polyphemus called on Poseidon, his father, to help him take revenge – and this was the beginning of the wrath which the powerful god of the sea felt for Odysseus, and the start of a new round of troubles.
D. The Island of Circe
Sailing on now as the winds might take them, Odysseus and his crew reached the country of the Laestrygonians, who were fierce eaters of human flesh. They escaped by the skin of their teeth from the cannibals, who pursued them with stones and sank all but one of their ships. This last craft and its crew were all that Odysseus had left when he sailed north again, to the Island of Circe. The island where the witch Circe lived, called Aea, is now the headland of Monte Carlo, to the south of Latium. Circe was the sister of Aetes, the king of Colchis whom we have already met in the myths about the Argonauts and Pasiphae, wife of Minos of Crete.
To begin with, Circe welcomed the detachment which Odysseus sent out to reconnoiter under Eurylochus. But after serving them a banquet she began to touch them with her magic wand and turned them into swine and other animals. Eurylochus managed to escape and brought news to Odysseus of what was happening. He decided to go to meet the witch, to persuade her to give his sailors their human form once more. At first, Circe tried the same trick on Odysseus, but he proved invulnerable to her charms, thanks to a magic potion which Hermes had given him before he approached the palace. Odysseus threatened Circe with his sword and extracted from her a promise, under oath, that she would harm none of the company.
The rest of their stay on the island was pleasant. On Circe’s advice, Odysseus descended into the underworld to ask the soul of Tiresias, the seer, about his return home. Tiresias told him he would have to go home alone, on a strange ship, and that he would be avenged on the suitors who wished to marry his wife. Apart form Tiresias, Odysseus also met the souls of many of his fellow warriors who had been killed at Troy, together with a long list of famous people who dwelt in the underworld. Homer describes the lives in Hades of many of those sentenced to perpetual exemplary punishment there, including Sisyphus, Tantalus, and the Daniads.
E. On the Island of Aeolus
The next stop after the country of Polyphemus was the Island of Aeolus, master of the winds. Aeolus made Odysseus and his companions welcome, and gave them hospitality for a month. When the time came for them to leave, he presented Odysseus with a priceless gift: a bag made of ox leather in which he had shut up all the strong winds. Only one wind had been left free: the breeze Zephyr, which would blow gently and take the ship straight home to Ithaca. Odysseus passed on to his companions Aeolus’ warning that the bag was not to be opened because the winds would escape and blow them into great dangers on the rest of their voyage.
But the crew did not obey their master. They thought Aeolus had given Odysseus a bag of rare wine and so when Odysseus was asleep one night someone opened the bag. Out rushed the howling winds, the little ship spun round and round like a nutshell in the fearsome storm. The gale blow them back to the island of Aeolus, but it was in vain that Odysseus begged Aeolus to send them another tailwind; he was convinced now that the gods did not want to help Odysseus, so he left him to his fate.
F. The Island of the Sirens – Scylla and Charybdis
The sirens, whom we have met before – in the story of the Argonauts – were the next threat in store on Odysseus’ voyage. In order to prevent his sailors from being overcome by the song of these evil spirits, who were half-women and half birds, the wily Odysseus blocked up his companions’ ears with wax. But he himself was curious to hear what the song of the sirens sounded like. So he ordered the crew to lash him to the mast of the ship, where he could listen without endangering anyone. He told the sailors that if he should attempt to tell them in sign language to set him free, they were to bind him tighter.
After passing the island of the magical sirens, Odysseus next had to deal with the Clashing Rocks and the channel between Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla was a sea monster which resembled a woman from the waist up, the remainder being composed of six fierce and monstrous dogs. She lived in a cave on the Italian side of the Strait of Messina, and she devoured passing sailors.
Just opposite, on the other side of the strait which separates Italy from Sicily, was Charybdis. This gigantic monster swallowed vast quantities of sea water three times a day, sweeping down her throat anything which happened to be floating past on the sea, including ships. Then she regurgitated the water she had swallowed. These monsters made the Strait of Messina an extremely dangerous place, because it was not possible to avoid both of them. In the end, Odysseus sailed closer to Scylla so as not to be swallowed by Charybdis, and she devoured some of his sailors.
G. The Oxen of the Sun – The Island of Calypso
The Island of Thrinacia was Odysseus’ next stop. Here there were herds of white oxen sacred to the sun. The winds prevented the companions from sailing on and their supplies had run out. Odysseus had strictly forbidden the sailors to slaughter and eat the sacred oxen of the Sun, but they disobeyed him and, in hunger, killed and roasted some.
Helios, the sun god, demanded that Zeus punish Odysseus for this insult. As soon as the companions set out on their voyage once more, their ship ran into a storm, was struck by one of Zeus’ thunderbolts, and sank. Only Odysseus, who had refused to eat any of the meat of the sacred oxen, was saved, clinging to the mast of the ship. The current swept him toward Charybdis, from whom he was saved at the last moment. Just as she opened her mouth to suck in the water, Odysseus caught hold of a fig tree whose roots were deep in the rock. He was battered by the waves for nine days before being washed up on the shores of Ogygia, the Island of Calypso. It was thus as a castaway that Calypso found him. She was a nymph, the daughter of Atlas, and she lived in a deep and beautifully decorated cave which led out into wonderful gardens and forests. Odysseus spent an enchanted time with Calypso. She did everything in her power to keep him by her side, even going so far as to promise him immortality. But his desire to go home would not fade in his heart; and one day Zeus, on the request of Athena, sent Hermes to beg Calypso to let Odysseus go home at last. Calypso even helped Odysseus find the wood he needed to make a raft, and provided him with supplies and advice for the journey.
H. On the Island of the Phaeacians
Calypso sadly bade Odysseus farewell, and he set off in an easterly direction. But the wrath of Poseidon had not yet died away. He blew up mountainous waves, wrecked Odysseus’ raft, and cast him into the seas once more. After hours of struggle with death among the wreckage of his raft, Odysseus, son of Laertes, was washed ashore, exhausted, on the Island of Phaeacians, now called Corfu (but which Homer terms Scheria). In his exhaustion, he fell asleep, but was awakened by a girlish voice. It was Nausicaa, daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete, rulers of the island, with the maidens of the palace. The girls had come to a nearby stream to wash clothes. When Nausicaa saw the stranger, she helped him up, gave him clothes to wear and – when he had washed in the river and stood before her looking as handsome as only Homer could describe – she showed him the way to her father’s palace. So as not set tongues wagging, she and her girls went home separately.
Alcinous and Arete welcomed Odysseus very warmly, and held a feast in his honor. He told them of all his adventures and hardships. They expressed their sympathy, their admiration for his feats, which had made him famous everywhere, and their desire that he should stay with them and marry Nausicaa. But Odysseus politely explained that he was longing for his home, Ithaca, and that he looked forward only to the day when he would see the smoke rising from the chimney of his house, even from a distance. When they heard that, the king and queen were so moved that they lent him a ship to take him to Ithaca. On the way Odysseus fell asleep. The Phaeacians set him ashore on a quiet beach on Ithaca, surrounded by the gifts of Alcinous. The time sent by the gods had come for Odysseus to set foot on his home island, after twenty years.
I. Odysseus in Ithaca
The years and the hardships had changed the son of Laertes. But what he had lost in youthfulness he had gained in experience and maturity. The grace and support of the goddess Athena had kept him handsome and strong. But no one recognized him – not even his wife Penelope, who had remained faithful to him. Over the years of his absence, much had changed. Odysseus’ son Telemachus had grown to manhood, and had set off to seek out those with whom his father had fought at Troy, in the hope that they might know his whereabouts.
Odysseus went first to the hut of Eumaeus, his swineherd, in whom he had complete trust. Once Eumaeus had recognized him, Odysseus met Telemachus and learned about what had been happening at the palace. The suitors who wished to marry Penelope – and thus ascend the throne – had gathered from all over Ithaca and the other lands over which Odysseus held sway. They had installed themselves in the palace, eating and drinking at Odysseus’ expense and squandering his fortune. Penelope had initially been able to keep them at bay by a trick, telling them that she would make her choice as soon as she had finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law, old Laertes, which she was making on her loom.
Penelope wove all day – but at night, in secret, she undid what she had woven. In the end, the secret got out, and now eight of the suitors were becoming insistent and the queen had been forced into a corner. She was under pressure from all sides to make up her mind as to which suitor she would marry. When Odysseus found out about this, he decided to teach them a lesson they would never forget. He disguised himself as a beggar and entered the palace with Telemachus. No one recognized him except Argus, his faithful dog, who had been merely a puppy when Odysseus set off for Troy. As soon as he saw his master, Argus climbed to his feet, lay down in front of Odysseus, wagged his tail, and died.
J. Odysseus takes Revenge on the Suitors
The sudden appearance of this unknown beggar asking for food caused the suitors to behave roughly toward him. When she was told that a stranger had turned up, Penelope was the only person who had wanted to talk to him – in case he had some news of her husband. Odysseus did not reveal himself to her, but he raised her hopes that Odysseus would be coming soon. Penelope, however, was unwilling to believe him, and so she announced that the suitors would compete against each other in games. She would marry the winner. The archery contest required considerable skill on the part of the competitors – not least because first they had to bend the bow of Odysseus himself, which Penelope had kept safe. Then they had to shoot the arrow through the holes in a number of axes set in a line. One after another the suitors tried, but they all failed even to bend the bow. In the end, Odysseus asked if he could try. With amazement, the suitors saw him bend the bow easily and hit the target effortlessly with his first shot. The hour of reckoning had come. Odysseus’ devoted servants locked all the palace doors and the king and his son Telemachus picked up the weapons which they had left earlier in an upper room. The slaughter of the suitors followed. Word came to Penelope in her apartment, and she hardly dared believe that her husband had come home. In the end, he convinced her of his identity by revealing the secrets that only the two of them knew, and by describing her bridal chamber.
The following day, Odysseus looked around his farms. Now it was time for old Laertes to feel the joy of locking his son in his arms and recognizing him. However, the families of the suitors now gathered, in an armed mob seeking vengeance for the massacre of their sons. The goddess Athena disguised herself as sweet-spoken, wise old Nestor, and acted as the intermediary to calm everyone down and ensure that peace and good order reigned in Ithaca.
The Greeks have been besieging Troy for nine years, trying to win back Helen, who was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris. A plague spreads through their camp, and the gods tell Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, that in order to restore health, he must return a prize – a girl that he has captured. Agamemnon obeys, but to compensate for his loss, he takes a girl who belongs to Achilles, the greatest warrior among the Greeks. Achilles, insulted, refuses to continue fighting. His defection weakens troop morale; many of the Greeks want to return home, but, eventually, they are persuaded to stay.
Paris, then, challenges Helen’s husband Menelaus to a duel to settle the war. Menelaus accepts and they fight, but just as Paris is about to be killed, the goddess Aphrodite snatches him up and takes him to Helen’s bedchamber. So no one is victorious and the war goes on. The heroes on both sides aided by their favorite gods, fight nobly and show their valor, while Achilles sulks in his tent.
Finally, Agamemnon sends envoys to him, offers to give back his girl, and promises many valuable gifts if he will rejoin the army. Achilles refuses. With the help of a divine stratagem, the Trojans begin to gain the advantage. Achilles’ friend Patroclus who had also withdrawn from the fighting, insists on returning to the battle. Achilles reluctantly consents to his going and lends him his own armor. Patroclus fights nobly, but he cannot overcome the great Trojan hero Hector. Hector kills him and strips him of the armor.
Now Achilles is infuriated and decides to fight Hector. His goddess mother procures him new armor from the god Hephaestus, in which, and with the aid of another divine stratagem, he is able to kill Hector. To avenge the loss of Patroclus he drags the body three times around the wall of Troy. When he returns triumphant, the Greeks hold funeral games in Patroclus’ honor.
Meanwhile Hector’s father, King Priam of Troy, prepares to approach Achilles and begs for the body of his son. The gods grant him safe conduct through the Greek lines. Achilles, moved by the old man’s grief, grants his request. Thus, Hector is buried with honor.
1. Subject Matter
- The anger of Achilles and its consequences
2. Source of the epic
- Derived from the Mycenaean War
3. Outstanding episodes
a. The quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles
b. the single combat between Menelaus and Alexandros
c. the farewell of Hector from Andromache as he leaves to fight Achilles
d. The single combat between Aias and Hector
e. The games played in the funeral of Patroclos
f. The ransoming of the body of Hector by his father, King Priam
g. The lamentations of the Trojan women over the dead body of Hector
4. Moral significance of the epic
4.1 Achilles’ behavior
- his temper is the downfall of the man from a great noble stature to a moral degradation
Its causes are:
a. preference to injured pride than to his
duty as a warrior (egotistic, demonic pride)
4.2 Moral tragedy deepens
- Achilles persists in his anger, rejects all avenues of reconciliation, scorns the emissaries of peace, and perseveres in his wrath. This leads to a grave flaw or fault of character. The disastrous effect of this grave fault of Achilles is the death of Patroclus and all the Achaean warriors blame Achilles who finally realizes his fault and arms himself once again to return to the battlefield. He unleashes his animal fury on the Trojans, primarily on Hector. He goes into a terrible carnage, kills Hector brutally and mercilessly and then desecrates the corpse of Hector.
4.3 The guilt of the Trojans
- is their illegitimate support of Alexandros or Paris because of blind loyalty to the house of Priam. Paris’ flaw of character has led him to abduct Helen. This is an act of violation. Hector and his family condone the immortality of Paris and instead of reprimanding and punishing him for his deed; protect him by fighting for his cause, thereby plunging the whole city and the people to destruction.
5. Devices used for plot development
a. Repetition of certain lines and phrases
ex. when Paris arms for battle and when Patroclus arms for battle, both are repeated word in order to create an atmosphere of emotional tension
b. Repetition of situations
ex. The repeated duel scenes
- duels between Paris and Menelaus (for Helen’s sake)
- duels between Hector and Aias (for Troy and
c. The alteration of the ending of the story
- pointing out and emphasizing the effects of terrible anger which brought about
- at the same time, he also showed that by his own honorable deed, Achilles can
still achieve moral regeneration and can recover lost honor and retain and
maintain it by a noble act of heroism.
6. Main theme of the epic
- tragedy of moral failure
a. Achilles – he embodies the Greek ideal of a great noble hero. He has all the virtues and defects of a great man. He is gentle, courteous, and physically beautiful; he has superior skill and possesses prowess, courage, and superior intelligence. But the main flaw of his character is his irascible temper and anger. Achilles lives only for one thing: personal glory in war; hence, he is geared only for battle and he believes he will die young; he is self assertive and vindictive. He is capable of gentle affection and tenderness, which is shown in his love of Patroclus and his pity for him when Patroclus cries and feels unhappy over the defeat of the Achaeans at the hands of the Trojans. He is capable of moral regeneration in his act of allowing King Priam to ransom and retrieve the corpse of his son Hector for a proper hero’s burial.
b. Hector –
he does not possess a god-like nature, he is essentially and truly human in
nature for he is brave, courageous, noble, and generous. He uses his wits to
win the war and to cover himself with glory for his own self and for his own
country; his nobility of character is dictated by his self-sacrifice. He is a
true patriot in the sense that he fought for the sake of his country’s glory
c. Agamemnon – he is physically brave but he lacks moral courage and resolution. He is greedy, violent, boastful, and dishonest. he is also stubborn, egotistic, subject to violent passions, arrogant, tyrannical, and abusive of his right as a liege lord yet he is also generous.
d. Menelaus – he is a weakling, he lacks self-assertion, he is lazy and he has no initiative. He is simply dependent on others for decision.
e. Odysseus – he is a man of action, resourceful, extremely intelligent, and everybody’s friend. He is tactful, prudent, has enormous self control for he never loses his equanimity.
f. Priam and Hecuba - they are the parents of Hector and Paris. Priam is an old man, a loving father, gentle and kind and also courageous. Hecuba is a woman simple in her piety and is a real mother who prays for the safety and welfare of her sons.
g. Paris – he is a lustful man, a weakling and a coward as shown in battle. He is self-centered and is not willing to sacrifice for others.
h. Andromache – she is the devoted wife of Hector, whose main concern is the welfare of her husband. She is courageous for she accepts her fate without any fear.
i. Helen – wife of King Menelaus, her beauty is a curse and a burden. She is just a plaything of fate.