Poetry

Iliad

Translated by Samuel Butler

An epic poem written by the Greek poet Homer, the Iliad recounts the events of the final weeks of the Trojan War and the siege of the city of Troy after Helen of Sparta is kidnapped by the Trojan prince Paris. Homer’s Iliad is one of the oldest works known in Western literature and is typically dated back to some time in the 8th-century BCE, though its exact date of completion is speculative. The poem focuses on the quarrel between King Agamemnon, the leader of the Achaean (Greek) army, and the Greek hero Achilles, whose prowess in battle alters the course of the war. Agamemnon incurs the wrath of Achilles after claiming one of his concubines as his own, slighting the hero and resulting in Achilles’s withdrawing himself and his army from the Achaean forces completely. This departure puts the Achaean forces at a significant disadvantage, and the remainder of the story explores the effects of pride in the quest for glory. Through its portrayal of significant events in the Trojan War, the Iliad explores themes of mortality, glory, and fate while relating one of the most widely read and celebrated stories in history. The Iliad was followed closely by Homer’s Odyssey, which followed the hero Ulysses (also known as Odysseus,) on his journey home from the Trojan War, and inspired Virgil’s Aeneid, which follows the hero Aeneas on his journey to Italy.

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