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Quotes in Iliad

Below are several of the most famous quotes from The Iliad of Homer. Each has an accompanying annotation with analysis.

Quotes Examples in Iliad:

Book I

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"SING, O GODDESS, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus..."   (Book I)

Homer begins his Iliad by bidding his Muse to sing of the wrath of Achilles and how his anger has done much more harm to the Greeks than the war with the Trojans over the abducted Helen. With this first line, Homer establishes one of the main themes in the Iliad: the implications and consequences of one’s pride. Achilles himself embodies this theme, for his anger at Agamemnon has made him refuse to fight, which has severely harmed the Achaean army.

"Even now, however, be appeased, and put away your anger from you..."   (Book IX)

As the war progresses, the Achaeans realize that they need Achilles if they have any hope of defeating the Trojans. Odysseus (Ulysses) is sent to make an appeal to Achilles. Knowing that Achilles is prideful, Odysseus appeals to this characteristic, telling him that regaining the Achaeans respect means putting away his wrath for Agamemnon and returning to the conflict. Note how Odysseus carefully accuses Achilles of intentionally forgetting his own father's warning about checking his temper and avoiding vain quarreling.

"If I stay here and fight, I shall not return alive but my name will live for ever: whereas if I go home my name will die, but it will be long ere death shall take me...."   (Book IX)

In this passage, Achilles rejects Agamemnon's promises of material gifts. Instead, he ponders between choosing a short but glorious life or a long and contented life without fame. Whether he really has this choice is debatable, since it has already been foreshadowed that his life will be cut short. In any case, the passage stresses the theme that no amount of gifts or material possessions can substitute for either life or glory.

"Why, pray, must the Argives needs fight the Trojans?..."   (Book IX)

Achilles has withdrawn from the battle and taken his army with him. Their absence has caused Agamemnon's own forces to start losing against the Trojans, and an envoy is sent to convince Achilles to return to the battle. The underlying plot of the Iliad is the efforts to win Achilles back to the side of the Achaeans because only his presence can grant them victory.

"Thus did he speak, and the Achaeans rejoiced in that he had put away his anger...."   (Book XIX)

Grieving over the death of Patroclos and realizing what he quarrel with Agamemnon has cost him, Achilles finally decides to rejoin the war against the Trojans. Achilles was able to see his own grief in Priam, and this allowed his heart to soften enough to not only forgive Agamemnon, but also gain the strength to ensure he will earn honor for generations to come. Achilles has embodied the theme of wrath and pride throughout the tale, and now he eschews his wrath and gains strength in forgiveness and honor.

"The two wept bitterly—Priam, as he lay at Achilles' feet, weeping for Hector, and Achilles now for his father and now for Patroclus, till the house was filled with their lamentation..."   (Book XXIV)

Achilles returned to the battle to avenge the death of his best friend, Patroclos, who donned Achilles’s armor to fight Hector. However, having felt dishonored, Achilles has revenge on the Trojans in kind, dragging Hector’s body around the plains. When Priam appeals to Achilles’s sense of decency as a son, not a warrior, so Hector may be buried, Achilles finally make peace with his own internal struggle between pride and honor. His understanding of true honor is clarified, knowing that what one does after the battle is most important.

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