Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Iliad - Homer

Rating : 4.5/5
Reason for reading : Various challenges, always meant to get around to it

The well-known story of the Trojan War is recounted here. It was all started when Paris (son of Priam of Troy) ran off with Greek Helen the wife of Menelaus. Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon raise an army and lay seige to Troy consisting of a selection of famous warriors including Odysseus, the two Ajax's, Achilles, Nestor, Patroclus and Diomedes. The Trojan side is led by Hector (eldest son of Priam), Paris, Aeneas, Sarpedon and Polydorus.

The story begins six years into the fighting with an arguement between Agamemnon and Achilles over a girl. Achilles refuses to help in the fighting, even though the Greeks are losing, until his best friend Patroclus is killed by Hector. He then gains his revenge by killing Hector even though his death has been prophesised to follow not long after. The novel ends with Hectors funeral and before Achilles dies and the sacking of Troy.

There is a great collection of characters on both sides and the story is filled with action and some great speeches. It can get a little A killed B, C kills B in retaliation and then D etc. To stop it from being just a list of the names of the fallen and their killer, Homer has a little back story for most of the characters just before they are killed. The methods of killing seem to be mostly by rock or by spear just above the nipple, in the liver or in the eyes or mouth. It's pretty gruesome in places and the killing blows nicely match my imagination of their armour and their weak spots.

My favourite, yet most annoying aspect, is the role of the Gods (mostly Hera and Athena who really mix things up and cause havoc). The Gods are not content to sit on the sidelines and let destiny unfold naturally and as prophesised, they are constantly argueing and getting involved. They often help their favourites by whisking them away from battle or shielding them from attack. They also make things more difficult for the opposition and attack the other Gods in the process. It's like the traditional image of them playing chess or another board game with the human warriors as the pieces.

Overall though, a great book. Again I can see why it is such a classic and I am looking forward to reading The Odyssey in the near future.


Literary Feline said...

I have not yet read this one, although I did read The Odyssey years ago. It seemed less threatening and more suitable for a girl at the time. That's what my high school teacher told me anyway. I really enjoyed The Odyssey and hope that you will too when you get to it/ I hope to read The Iliad one of these days.

alethe16 said...

I LOVE THE ILIAD! This is probably my favorite literary work of all time. I re-read it at least twice a year and find myself taking away different lessons.

You mentioned the gods and the killing alot, but to me the most moving part is the humanity found in it. The relationships between Hector and Andromache, and Priam and Achilles, and just the character of Achilles himself (his inner struggles) are what keep me gripped each time.

chrisa511 said...

I loved both The Iliad and The Odyssey. Though I must say that The Odyssey is by far my favorite of the two. The gods' involvement was my favorite part of The Iliad as well. I've always loved Ancient Greek lit. One of my favorite genres. Glad to see you read this one :)

Ana S. said...

I've read so many retellings of this - it's more than time I read the real thing! Your review is certainly encouraging. I plan on reading "The Odyssey" this year, and then "The Iliad" next year for sure.

Alice said...


Rhinoa said...

Literary Feline - Yeah I can't wait to read it, I don't know the story as well so it will be more interesting to read.

Alyson - I can definately see why you loved it so much. I enjoyed the relationship side as well between the characters and Achilles redeemed himself to me at the end for his treatment of Priam. You might like The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley which is a re-telling told from the perspectives of the female characters, mostly Cassandra.

Chris - When I have read The Odyssey I will get in touch for some more recommendations as loving the style so far.

Nymeth - I know what you mean, I had read a lot of re-tellings and thought it was time to read the original that started it all off.

Alice teh - Cheers, right back at you!