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Foreshadowing in Iliad

Foreshadowing Examples in Iliad:

Book I

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"you bore me doomed to live but for a little season..."   (Book I)

This is an instance of foreshadowing. Achilles knows that he is predestined to live a short life because he chose to join the war over a long and uneventful life at home with his aging father. Here Achilles pleads with his mother Thetis to appeal to Zeus on his behalf. He asks that Zeus may grant him glory in what little time he has on the earth, and he speaks of the wrongs Agamemnon has committed against him.

"the counsels of Jove..."   (Book I)

In some translations of Homer's Iliad, this line is translated "the will of Zeus." (This translation uses the Roman names for its characters.) Here it is shown that the entire plot of the Iliad comes to pass because of Zeus's will.

"Achilles will then send his comrade Patroclus into battle, and Hector will kill him in front of Ilius after he has slain many warriors, and among them my own noble son Sarpedon. Achilles will kill Hector to avenge Patroclus, and from that time I will bring it about that the Achaeans shall persistently drive the Trojans back till they fulfil the counsels of Minerva and take Ilius..."   (Book XV)

Here Jove lays out the plan for all the events to come. The Iliad is unique in that there is no real element of suspense or surprise for the audience or the characters. Each character’s fate is predetermined from the start, leaving the real element of drama in the way each acts or reacts despite already knowing what the ultimate outcome will be. All characters still attempts to make decisions and choices even though there isn’t much room for free will under the prophecies that hang over their individual lives.

"He knew not what he was asking, nor that he was suing for his own destruction..."   (Book XVI)

This passage is an important instance of foreshadowing in the Iliad. Patroclus asks to borrow Achilles’s armor and lead his men into battle while Achilles continues to hold out against Agamemnon, thinking that the Trojan forces may mistake him for Achilles and fall back in fear. The Trojans do mistake him for Achilles, and it is this that leads to Hector’s killing him and subsequently incurring the wrath of Achilles and his rejoining the Achaean forces in the war.

"the end of Hector also was near..."   (Book XVI)

The hero of the Trojans, Hector, is faced with his imminent death. Not even Zeus's helmet can save him, though the god takes it from where it rolled away from Patroclus in the action of battle and gifts it to him in an attempt to give him an advantage.

"shall the earth cover me..."   (Book XVIII)

In this line, Achilles foreshadows his own death, which occurs after the Iliad ends.

"it is your doom to fall by the hand of a man and of a god..."   (Book XIX)

This references the death of Achilles; he will be killed by Paris, who will be assisted by the god Apollo.

"some Achaean will hurl you (O miserable death) from our walls..."   (Book XXIV)

Andromache’s words foreshadow of the terrible death of Astyanax, which will occur shortly after the fall of Troy. Greek mythology shows that he will be thrown to his death.

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