Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy and Homer’s The Iliad Essay
In 2004, Warner Bros. Pictures released a film adaptation of Homer’s epic, “The Iliad,” which was entitled “Troy. ” The movie was directed by Wolfgang Petersen, based by the screenplay of David Benioff. Although the film credits the work of Homer as an inspiration in artfully bringing the heroic narrative of Achilles to life on screen, some parts of the film diverges from Homer’s epic. From reviewing the film and analyzing Homer’s epic novel, the primary differences lie in the depiction of some of the major characters in the novel and the story that is central to the epic and the film.
The similarities and differences between the film and the epic will be conversed in the remainder of this discussion. The war between the Achaeans and the Trojans recommenced initially because of Helen. Helen’s portrayal in both the film and the epic was accurate, such that Helen was seen as a lovely young maiden, a wife to Menelaus, and a lover to Paris. In “The Iliad,” Ucalegon and Antenor both marveled and scorned Helen’s beauty saying, “Small wonder that Trojans and Achaeans should endure so much and so long, for the sake of a woman so marvelously and divinely lovely.
Still, fair though she be, let them take her and go, or she will breed sorrow for us and for our children after us. ” (Homer 29) Moreover, in both the film and the epic, Helen consistently showed his deep regret in bringing forth the war against Troy putting in danger the lives of the great Trojan warriors and their innocent families. During Helen and Hector’s conversation, she said, “to my abhorred and sinful self, would that a whirlwind had caught me up on the day my mother brought me forth, and had borne me to some mountains or the waves of the roaring sea that should have swept me away” (Homer 62).
The minor difference was Helen’s behavior toward Paris after he backed down from his fight against Menelaus. In the epic, Helen was reproachful against Paris as caused by Venus’ meddling, while in the movie, Helen remained caring and devoted to Paris despite his cowardice. (“Troy”) Aside from Helen’s character, the character of Briseis was portrayed accurately in the film, adapting her inherent care and passion for people. Like in the epic, Briseis was a good-natured woman who thought of good things and hoped for the end of the war and chaos.
In the film, however, Briseis was portrayed as a priestess and as a prize for Agamemnon. In contrast, the epic portrayed her otherwise, revealing that Achilles sought her from the beginning and loved her. Agamemnon took Briseis by force. (Homer 5-6) The preciseness of Briseis’ portrayal in the film lacks further evidence since she played an insignificant part in the epic as compared to other characters leaving no relevant points of comparison except the behaviors and points of view of Briseis in the film and in the epic.
Another difference between Petersen’s “Troy” and Homer’s “The Iliad” is the existence of the roles that gods played in shaping the outcomes of the story. In Homer’s “The Iliad,” the intrusion of the gods and goddesses were extremely significant in the way the characters acted or behaved. Although the gods also played a significant part directing Achilles’ fate in the earlier part of the film and the will of the gods were mentioned in some parts, the rest of it has not shown any of the intrusions made by gods and goddesses in “The Iliad. This is the main reason why the confrontation between Menelaus and Paris in the film diverged from the epic. In the film, Paris’ abandonment of the combat was plainly his cowardice and fear of dying (“Troy”), while in the epic, the goddess Venus, seeing that Menelaus was about to run Paris through with a spear, “snatched him up in a moment, hid him under a cloud of darkness, and conveyed him into his own bedchamber” (Homer 33). In the movie, the death of Patroclus, Achilles’ cousin, was the reason why he sought revenge to witness the slaying of Hector by his own hands.
Achilles was angered by the unjust death of Patroclus learning that Hector, the Patroclus’ executioner, thought it was truly Achilles he was fighting. (“Troy”) In “The Iliad,” Achilles was well aware of Patroclus’ involvement in the war against the Trojans wherein Patroclus was involved. Achilles was the one who sent Patroclus to fight against the Trojans led by Hector for it was his way of knowing whether Patroclus has enough strength and courage to become a Myrmidon. Achilles prayed to the gods, asking for Patroclus’ safety saying, “grant that he may return unharmed, with his armour and his comrade, fighters in close combat” (Homer, 162)
Some minor differences between the film and the epic may be observed in the foundations and outcomes of the war. The success of the Trojans in the beginning of the battle, both in the epic and the film, was known to be caused by Apollo’s assistance and defense against the Achaeans to support the Trojans. Amongst other things, Apollo was greatly angered by Achilles’ blasphemy when he desecrated the temple of Apollo ransacking the riches within it and, in the epic, taking Chryses and Briseis, the priestesses as prize for Agamemnon and himself (Homer, 3), and in the film, taking only Briseis to Agamemnon.
Later on in the film Achilles seizes Briseis from Agamemnon. (“Troy”) Moreover, the size of the Greek army that was sent to fight the Trojans was also different in the film and in the epic. In the film, Odysseus mentioned that Greece will send ten thousand ships to fight against the might Trojans while he was trying to convince Achilles to join the battle. (“Troy”) In “The Iliad,” there was a recitation of all the Greek cities who contributed to the bulk of the Greek army, sending several amounts of ships with men ranging from twenty five to one hundred twenty five.
In all, the total number of ships that were sent to Troy amounted to over eight hundred ships. (Homer 19-25) The deaths in the film also significantly differ from that of the epic. “The Iliad” ends when Achilles compassionately allowed King Priam to take Hector’s body to Troy. In the film, the popular narrative of how Achilles died was included. King Priam also died while the Greek army was taking over Troy. (“Troy”) Although the film was primarily based on “The Iliad,” some of the short scenes may be attributed to other epics, such as “The Odyssey” by Homer and “The Aeneid” by Virgil. The Aeneid” by Virgil, which narrates the journey of the Trojans to seeking a place where they may be able to rebuild their city, was briefly embarked upon in the film. In the end, when the Achaeans was able to penetrate the Trojan walls through the Trojan horse, Paris led the escape of the Trojan people, including Helen, Briseis, Andromache and her son with Hector, through a hidden passage, escaping the fall of Troy behind them. Later on, Helen would be seen climbing a mountain with the Trojan people as they flee from the ruins of the war. “Troy”) The character of Odysseus, who is the central character in “The Odyssey,” played a primary role in the movie. In the film, Odysseus, being Achilles’ friend and counsel, was the one who convinced Achilles to support the Greek army in attacking Troy and to stay behind when Achilles, in rage about Agamemnon’s pride and injustice towards him, Briseis, and the army, threatened to desert the war and head back to Phthia. In the latter part of the movie, the plan to build a Trojan horse was Odysseus’ idea. (“Troy”)
Focusing one’s attention to the film, the primary theme depicted was the glory there is in war that seems to go with one’s name, in both the perspectives of the Greek and the Trojans. Aside from Agamemnon’s determination to lead the Greek army despite having no just reason to go to war as compared to his brother Menelaus’ grievances, the singular confrontations between individuals in conflict, such as the fight scene between Menelaus and Paris, and between Hector and Achilles, portrayed how glory and honor is important to both the Greeks and the Trojans.
Another scene which strikes up a memorable view on the glorified take of the Greeks and Trojans on combat is where Hector and Achilles is seen putting on their armor piece by piece. This scene not only depicts the rituals of going into war but also builds on the gravity of engaging in one, especially when both individuals know what is at stake in losing, understanding that at the end of the combat, one will emerge victorious, and one will definitely depart life.
By and large, the film is a valuable instrument in exploring Homer’s epic. However, one should keep in mind that while “The Iliad” focuses on the magnificence of war and its outcomes that are prelude to the greatness of men, “Troy” depicts this theme on the point of view of Achilles, where he is portrayed as a heroic and compassionate human being who neglected his aspirations to be known even after death when he fell in love with Briseis.