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The First Sentence of the Iliad

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    What did Homer think about the atrocities of war? Prove your thesis with examples from the text. Homer regarded war as an necessary, foolish evil. He laughed at the men foolish enough to go fight for a girl for ten years, but also said that war was the quickest way to honor, which was all important to the story being told. Homer spoke of war not as some great and glorious thing, but as what it really was. He didn’t just describe the victories, but also the defeats. Homer believed that we were all going to die and there is no hope for us, and some of that hopelessness crossed over into his stories, with the gods meddling as they willed and great men being nothing but pawns.

    In the first sentence of the Iliad, Homer writes that “The wrath of Peleus’ son of Achilles that inflicted woes without number upon the Achaeans, hurled forth to Hades many strong souls of warriors and they rendered their bodies prey for the dogs.” That last little bit shows Homer’s thinking, in how after people died, nothing was left of them but hunks of meat, to be eaten and digested. And we’re not even a whole sentence in! Another example is in Book 2, lines 83-95, Homer describes Eurypylus in battle, and he says that “And you would not have known which side the son of Tydeus stood, whether he fought in company with Trojans or Achaeans” Homer isn’t saying that Eurypylus only killed Trojans or Greeks, he killed whichever man stood in his way, regardless of which side he was on.

    When Zeus decided to give Achilles the most honor, he went about it in a roundabout way. He let the Trojans win the battles and more than once did they breach the Achaeans defenses and attempt to burn the black ships, only to be driven back by a miraculous intervention by the gods. Homer doesn’t skip over these horrific defeats, but spends just as much time on them as he does the victories. The gods are disappointed with Zeus, with Ares even going so far as to call it Zeus’ fault(Book 5, 875-876).

    Homer is just telling it how it is, with the gods and all. In the FAQ, it says that “Achilles believes that man’s chief end is to glorify himself forever. The only way to do this is to fill the brief days of life with deeds of such glory that people will remember him long after the hero is dead.” This was a common belief of the day, not just for the Achaeans and Trojans. The FAQ also states that “The [greek] gods are untrustworthy and unloving, and are the source of all that is irrational and unexplained.” This is a common theme through history and the Iliad, and Homer seems to acexcept this belief, thinking that there is nothing for us after death, with the greek afterlife being just more killing and fighting, or just a large empty field to wander around in.

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    The First Sentence of the Iliad. (2021, Aug 30). Retrieved from

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