Historical Context in Iliad
The Iliad offers only a brief glimpse into the ten-year conflict of the Trojan war. According to myth, the war started with the supposed abduction (or possible elopement) of Queen Helen of Sparta by the Trojan Prince Paris. Helen’s husband, King Menelaus of Sparta, convinced his brother, King Agamemnon of Mycenae, to lead an expedition to retrieve her from King Priam of Troy. The Greek heroes Odysseus, Achilles, Castor, and Ajax accompanied Agamemnon in his quest along with more than a thousand ships. Very little is actually known about the war beyond the events Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey recount, and it is even speculated that Homer simply wrote down the bulk of his two epic poems from the vast Greek oral-storytelling tradition.
The Iliad follows four days of the war starting with Chryses, a Trojan priest of Apollo, begging for his daughter to be returned to him by Agamemnon, and ending with the death of Hector of Troy. The poem begins well into the action of the war, but alludes to events transpiring both before and after the plot arc including Achilles death and the eventual fall of Troy.