“The Iliad” by Homer is a largely referred to epic poem that was originally written in Greek. Over the years, it has been translated into English by different authors. It is based on the traditions of the Greeks and is hugely mythical. It was written during the final weeks of the year of the renowned Trojan War. It mainly talks about the quarrel that existed between King Agamemnon and the renowned warrior, Achilles. The initial version is dated back to the eighth century BC (800 BC). (Homer 1851)
The war was between the Trojans and the Greeks. It begins when Chryses, who is a Trojan priest of Apollo, offers King Agamemnon wealth so that he may get his daughter, Chrysies, in return. The King however, does not agree. This is despite the fact that the army men were for the idea that the priest should get her daughter back. However, the King was their leader and they had to be loyal to him. Henceforth, the disagreements continued as each community was out to proof that they are more powerful than the other. The Trojan people were out to make sure that the Greeks still needed their help while the Greeks were completely sure that they were self sufficient and independent.
Throughout the war, the Trojans defeated the Greeks and vice versa. As the war persisted, the exchanges of unequal gifts made the war to intensify. Eventually, the Trojans were successful and they won the battle. Achilles and his people were driven out with rage and Hector died. The war was also propagated by the constant interference by the gods.
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According to my understanding of the poem, “The Iliad” more often than not glorifies war. Due to the mythical beliefs of the two societies, Homer constantly uses gods and goddesses to explain their role and importance in the warfare. He uses them to show how they offered their help to the preferred side in the war that was constantly getting larger with the passage of time Since these communities believe so much in the powers of the gods, the use of the concept by the author acts more on telling these communities that the gods would support them in any time of war. There were both the Greek gods and the Trojan gods. Therefore, “The Iliad” as a poem largely glorifies war to the people reading it.
According to “The Iliad”, war was a source of fame and wealth or riches. Throughout the poem, people are being abducted and held hostage and in due course, those who wish to rescue them must pay up in form of wealth. By abducting the hostages, the abducting side had power and control and everything was done in their own terms. For example, when the daughter of the Apollonian priest was held hostage by King Agamemnon, her father offered the King wealth in return of releasing her. Also, when Helen is abducted by Paris, the war is initiated. By abducting her, spiritual oaths are also broken. King Agamemnon leads the war in her defense as she was the brother’s wife.
The display that through having differences among communities there results war and evil deeds eventually begin, is a clear indication that through war there exists some long term benefits which eventually make one superior. The evil deeds that get the conflicting side at the one’s mercy include abduction. As seen above, it is clear that the author in a big way advocates for war as implied by his work. Through war, people can become rich. This was applied by the Greeks as a myth. Considering the fact that these communities highly value their myths, this could easily be misinterpreted by the upcoming generations. The author’s glorification of war could be misleading or largely misunderstood by his dedicated readers.
In the poem characters’ importance is largely based on their bravely and success in war. For example, Paris is despised by both his family and his lover, Helen, because he is completely afraid of fighting. He is afraid as he fears being wounded. Instead he prefers to give as much wealth as it is needed rather than fight. He is considered less of a man because according to them fighting is a priority. Going out to a battle is considered a great achievement. He is continuously mocked by Hector as being so cowardly that he may even be referred to as a woman.
The poet’s glorification of war is also depicted when Hector and Paris enter the battlefield and Athena tries to counter the Trojans to no success. Hector puts his life on the line if he looses all in the name of the fame and honor of being a winner. He puts his life at risk in the war against the Greeks. To him, proving his masculinity is more of a priority than his own life. However, he is confident that he will be successful. Even when the gods abandon Hector during war, he does not chicken out as he is ready and willing to prove how mighty a warrior he is. Above all this, unlike most of the characters that are described Hector has a soft spot for his family and children. He has a heart. He even forgives his brother Paris. This is unlike Achilles who constantly appears to possess hardly any emotions for human kind. However, he combines these two contradictory traits and does what he is meant to do both as a man with the belief of masculinity culture and a father and husband. We however note that in case the two collide, he is highly attached to his duty as a warrior. War is displayed as an achievement and the author glorifies war through his work. The poet therefore achieves his motive of glorifying war because despite the fact that the warriors may have other responsibilities for example families, they still very much hold their responsibility in war with high regard.
According to the author, to go into the battle field to fight brings with it honor and shows one’s integrity. On the other hand, not fighting indicates cowardice and laziness. Throughout his poem, men die every other time during warfare and women are turned into slaves. However, the poet indicates that what is happening as a result of war, whether good or bad, is justifiable. He does not give the readers any indications that warfare is leading to unnecessary loss of life and time. To him, being in war is something that one should be hugely proud of. After all, men believe in the masculinity culture and their wives and children have the solemn duty of helping them uphold this culture. The bad results from war will go into history and the person who withstands all those hard times will forever be remembered.
The characters in the epic poem are willing to anything in war so as to prove that they are not at all cowardly. This is especially seen through Achilles who is largely willing to do anything in war so that his name can be remembered as the hero who was most outstanding during this specific war. He kills fellow warriors and has no mercy and is only moved to return Hector’s body at the end of the poem. He is the greatest warrior of the Achaean army and this is due to his ability to constantly act with integrity. He even challenged the King when they could not agree and even resigned from his army. They later reconciled. His continuous success is constantly driven by his huge thirst for glory and honor in the society. He wishes to live a quiet easy life but he is completely torn between the two. He however chooses war. The poet uses his character to show how important war was in this society and also shows its value. (Homer 1999)
This is a clear illustration of how much war is glorified in the poem and this could be translated into the minds of the readers. Much as the war is largely disastrous, it seems that nothing would stop the ego of the fighters. Despite the fact that lives are continuously being lost, the characters in the poem continue to fight on so as to leave their great fighting legacy behind. To them, winning is a source of pride and identity.
Agamemnon on the other hand, is equally determined to win the war for fame and his pride. He takes very little risk in the battle due to the fact that he is the King. However, he hardly ever gives up and being at the top is his priority. When his younger brother’s wife, Helen, is abducted by Paris, he insists on leading the war yet it does not directly affect him. This shows his hunger for honor and glory. After all, if they come out successful in the war, the fame and glory will all be bestowed on him. His value for war is too great to go unnoticed. He continuously tests the loyalty of his troops. Through his character, it is clear how much victory is valued especially to the leaders. They believe in solving disputes through war. It does not matter what the reason is, whether it directly affects them or not. Of importance is that when they go out to war, they become successful.
During the war, there is so much suffering yet, though the fighters regret, they never give up. For instance, the priest of Apollo prayed to the gods to cast a plague on the Greeks yet they did not give up his daughter till nine days later but the war continued. Each fighting side was out to prove the other side wrong. Even when the women are turned into slaves, the army men are still strong and do not give up the war so as to stop the suffering. They hold on as they do not want to seem cowardly. In case of war, the suffering does not play the largest role but the desire to come out victorious. The glory and honor is what matters to them.
Masculinity strength is defined in terms of ability to participate in war. This is all under the culture they have continuously adapted, the culture of masculinity. A man who does not participate in war is hugely despised in the society. Being a real man is equitable to participation in the battle field. Men in this poem believe in going out there either to hit or to be hit. They should forever be in combat for better or for worse. If one dies in war, they are considered heroes that will forever be remembered in history. However, one who does not go out to fight is considered a coward. War to them is source of glory for a real man. When Paris was afraid of going to war as he might get wounded, Hector mocks him and says that he is not worthy to be considered a man. Due to the fact that he cannot engage in war, he is considered to be hugely of feminine nature; after all, he is referred to as a lover in the poem. As such, he is subject to ridicule and mockery. (Homer 1998)
Women on the other hand, are expected to support the masculine culture despite the risks involved. Even when they can foresee the danger of death that clearly presents itself before their husbands, they can hardly talk them out of going to the battlefield. Much as they may try, deep down they know that their husbands are bound to their duties. For instance, when Hector was going out to the battle field, his wife pleaded with him not to go as they both knew the danger and risk that was awaiting him. Hector on the other hand, did not even see the possibility of him not going to the war. Instead of offering her words of comfort so that she would not be so worried about him and what was awaiting him, he told her that it was his duty and he had to comply. He did not give the impression of even being scared as that would be considered as cowardice. It was only later in the battlefield that he actually died. This is another of the poet’s glorification of war. (Homer 2000)
In the poem, it comes out clearly that women are meant to support the masculine culture in all that they undertake to do especially when it come war. Their decisions to participate in war were unquestionable as it was their source of glory and pride in the society. The author leaves the reader with the impression that war is very important in this society and every part of the society had to appreciate it. The author largely glorifies war.
In the poem, if a fight pursues on and a winner is not determined, another fight must take place as the characters are portrayed as people who hardly ever give up. For example, the fight between Ajax and Hector. Initially during the fight, Ajax appears to be winning as he wounds Hector with a spear and even knocks him down. As the fight proceeds, Hector regains himself and the fight eventually ends as a draw without a winner. Later on they engage themselves in another fight and Hector is destined to burn the ships of the Greeks as revenge. Ajax then throws a rock at Hector that almost kills him. Later, Hector manages to get all the weapons that Ajax is armed with and Ajax finally withdraws saying that the fight is unfair.
This persistent fight between Hector and Ajax is an indication of how much the fighters are willing to hold on so as to come out of the fight eventually as winners with all the glory. They value the victory of war so much that they are wiling to go to any heights so as to come out victorious. The deep description presented by the author creates the impression that war is glorified as we have already seen throughout the entire poem. (Homer 1997)
The gods had a huge role in the wars. They acted depending on who seemed to be their favorite in the war. For instance, when the Apollonian priest prayed for a plague for the Greeks, it befell them and only stopped when he asked the gods to stop it. On other occasions, the gods did not favor any side. The existence of gods to help the characters in war is a form of glorification of war as it was a form of competition ground for the characters. The one favored by the gods most times survived the war and won. The author uses gods to come up with twists in the plot of the entire war. In his work he largely glorifies war using the gods and even creates humor as we see the gods competing.
Generally, it is clear that Homer intentionally glorifies war in his work. This is especially seen through how he uses his characters and their role in war. He also clearly outlines how the characters’ crave for war affected not only those around them, but also anyone who according to them was meant to participate in the war.
Greeks have high value or their traditions and customs as well as the resultant myths. The myths that root from as far as when “The Iliad” was first written. They still keep them and uphold them. He has used war in the poem as his main theme to try and pass his message of how greatly people can stick to what they believe. This is irrespective of what risks come with these beliefs. According to the Trojan War, participating in war meant prosperity, honor and pride. No man could afford to lose his pride. It was an element of masculinity that they held in high regards.