The Iliad (summary) ~700 B. C


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The Iliad (summary) ~700 B.C.

"Sing, Goddess, of the anger of Achilles..."
The story of Homer's Iliad happens at the tenth, and final year, of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, called the Trojan War. Though it is not formally told in the story, the audience/ reader would already know the history of Helen. Blessed by Aphrodite, she was the most beautiful woman in all of Greece and was already married to Menelaus, a Greek king. However, Helen fell in love with a prince from Troy named Paris who was visiting the kingdom. He also fell in love with her and they sailed back to Troy together. This, naturally, infuriated her husband, Menelaus, who got his older and powerful brother, King Agamemnon to go to war to defend his honor.
The Iliad begins with a fight between the leader of the Greeks, King Agamemnon, and the Greeks' best fighter, Achilles who had a goddess, Thetis, for a mother. The Greeks had won a battle and were splitting up their treasures. Achilles had a woman slave, whose name was Briseis (brih-SAY-iss), but Agamemnon decided that HE wanted the pretty Briseis, and he took her. Achilles in his pride and anger, refused to fight for the Greeks anymore. He remained camped on the Trojan beach without fighting. Without their best warrior, the Greeks began losing battles.
Finally Achilles' best friend Patroclos put on Achilles' famous armor and went out to fight against Achilles’ orders. Both the Greeks and the Trojans thought Achilles had come back to the battle and the Greeks won a big victory, but Patroclos was killed in the fighting; he might dress like Achilles but he could not fight like him.

When Achilles heard that Patroclos was dead, he was heartbroken and ashamed of how he had been sulking. In his fury and desire for vengeance, the Greeks overpowered the Trojans; the gods had also promised Greek victory when Achilles fought. So the best Trojan fighter, Prince Hector, who was cowardly Paris’s brother, came out from Troy to fight Achilles. And though Hector fought bravely and with help from several gods, it was Achilles who finally won. Achilles ruthlessly tied up Hector’s dead body to his horse and drug it back to his camp.

Hector's father, King Priam, came to Achilles at night to ask for his eldest son's body back, and after the two men shared their grief, Achilles relinquished the body.

The Iliad ends here, but this is not the end of the story.

The Trojan Horse

After the events of Tthe Iliad and the death of Hector, the Trojan War still wasn't over. Neither the Greeks nor the Trojans seemed to be able to win, until one of the Greek kings, Odysseus of Ithaca, had an idea.

"Build a big wooden horse on wheels," he said, "big enough for a bunch of Greek soldiers to hide inside it." So the Greeks constructed the giant horse and many climbed inside. Then the remaining Greeks all pretended to sail home. They acted like they had given up and left, but remained close by to await nightfall.
Soon the Trojans, believing that they had finally won the war, found this wooden horse and believed that it was a gift from the gods and should be taken to Athena’s temple. They brought the giant horse into their gates and celebrated their victory. Upon nightfall, the Greeks climbed out of the horse, and opened the gates to allow the Greeks who had secretly sailed back to Troy, inside the city walls. The Greeks attacked the unsuspecting Trojans and killed or enslaved the remaining men, women, and children. Achilles, the Greek’s strongest fighter, was killed in these last battles when an arrow pierced his only weak area—the Achilles tendon in his ankle.

This portion of the story does not actually appear in The Iliad or The Odyssey, but it is told in Virgil's Aeneid and in other ancient sources.


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