The American University in Cairo Department of English and Comparative Literature 506 Greek Classics- Dr. Doris Shoukri Essay Exam- Part II of Midterm The poet is a ‘student of his culture’ and thus both The Iliad and The Odyssey are directed sources of their own period. Select any one episode or scene from either of the poems as one that you feel is most memorable. What does it tell about Homeric culture? A writer is a reflection of his age. A work of art is considered a mirror of the customs, culture, and concepts of the age to which it belongs. Homer’s writings are a true representation of this.
His Iliad and Odyssey both reflect the old Greek culture, yet in Homeric touch. The meantime the Greek gods and goddesses are glorified in old Greek literature, Homer portrays them differently: he dramatizes the gods to make them more human like rather than god like. However, glory in Homer’s writings is dedicated to Man, not gods. In his Iliad, Homer evolves his poem around the theme of ‘kingship’. He focuses on the heroic part of his characters; unlike his Odyssey that focuses on the human part. Both The Iliad and The Odyssey are about stories; or in other terms ‘kleos’. The term ‘Kleos’ is derived from ‘Clio’.
Clio is one of the nine Muses; she is the Muse of History. Since Greek literature highlights the history of its heroes, Homer follows the same tradition. His Iliad is a good representation of a famous tradition of his age: kleos. This is evident in Homer’s portrayal of his main characters in The Iliad. His major male characters; Achilles, Priam, and Hector are good examples of the idea of man and his kleos. In his portrayal of the three aforementioned characters, Homer relies on the ‘foiling’. He presents three models that best reflect the main theme of his poem; kingship.
The meantime Achilles is presented as the ‘god-like’ warrior, Priam is presented as the king who has ‘a heart of iron’; while Homer’s portrayal of Hector is different. In the first books of The Iliad, the reader is introduced to Hector as the son of Priam, the great warrior of Troy. The first physical presentation of Hector as a warrior is in Book VI. In this book, Homer writes one of his master scenes: that of Hector’s speech to his wife and son. This scene is considered to be a master scene due to many reasons. The reader is first introduced to Hector as a human, not as a warrior.
Although Homer’s description at the opening of this scene suggests he is to continue with Hector the warrior, he shifts the focus to a very sincere husband/ wife speech. The scene opens with Homer’s description of Hector as ‘Great Hector of the flashing helmet’. The reader is able to see the reflection of the Sun on Hector’s helmet; a scene full of glory. Then, Homer zooms to describe the husband/wife relationship between Hector and his wife. This conversation started with this fatherly look of Hector to his son: Hector looked at his son and smiled, but said nothing.
Andromache, bursting into tears, went up to him, put her hand in his and said: ‘Hector, you are possessed! This determination of yours will be the death of you. You have no pity on you little boy or luckless wife… so Hector, you are father and mother and brother to me, as well as my strong husband… Andromache was trying to stop Hector from going to the war and fight because this means he is to die, she is to be a widow, her son an orphan, and might be taken by the enemies. Hector’s response to his wife perfectly reflects the culture of the age.
Hector does care about his wife and son, yet he has a duty towards his people, and towards ‘history’. Hector, the great warrior of the flashing helmet, reminds his wife of his ‘kleos’ saying: Andromache, I too have all this constantly on my mind. But if I hid myself like a coward and slunk from fighting, I would feel nothing but shame before the Trojans and the Trojan women in their trailing gowns. My heart would not be in it either, as I have trained myself always to be a good warrior, to take my place in the front line and try to win glory for my father and myself.
Homer here waves glory with fear. Hector; though confident of himself as a warrior, is afraid to lose his family, his people, and his homeland Troy’. Homer presents a Greek hero with a human touch: a husband, a father, and a warrior who has duty towards his people and his family. This duty is to be brave, defend his land, to take his place in the front line, and not to escape his fate. He wants his people to remember him as a hero, a great warrior who died in the battle field defending his people and his land, a kleos to be recorded in history and be recited after his death.