In a Nutshell

‘The world does not have tidy endings. The world does not have neat connections. It is not filled with epiphanies that work perfectly at the moment that you need them.’
Dennis Lehane

Considered one of the greatest western literatures in the world, the Iliad still generates enthusiasm and intellectual discourse. A story which spans almost 3000 years it is a phenomenon I am sure Homer did not envision. Of course every storyteller hopes their creative scribbling’s would have such impact and be remembered long after they have left the world. Even if people haven’t read the story, they have heard of Helen, the Trojan War, Akhilleus, Hektor and Paris. What a legacy to leave behind!


What is fascinating and drives the story are the characters. Some may be two dimensional and quite a few are one dimensional, it those elements which add to the layers of the epic tragedy. They are all flawed in some way even if considered heroes of the story. And the gods were no different. The gods had their quirks, showed favoritism, argued and fought against each other, much like any family. This clever ploy by Homer demonstrated while yes the gods controlled the fate of their subjects, they too could not control their emotions.

There has been numerous discussions, documentaries and still academics argue whether the events as told by Homer are true. A few telling points:

1. The sites of Ilios, Mykenae, Tiryns, Pylos, Ithaka the list goes on not to mention the cultures on the west coast of Turkey existed.
2. There was a war, the Hittite texts have confirmed the city Wilusa, was under siege and King Alaksandu was reigning at the time. The Hittites fought as allies with the people from Wilusa against the Ahhiyawans (Greeks). According to their records, the Ahhiyawans came from the west and interfered with the Hittites political interests.
3. A probability there had been numerous conflicts in the region and the memory of those wars told and re-told and based on fact.
4. Women, since Palaeolithic times, been captured and taken as spoils of war or from tribal feuds.

As for the characters in the story, I think it’s the storyteller in me, but I believe they existed. Obviously not in the exact manner Homer described them but a representation of the people. For example, let’s take Jason and the Argonauts. Archaeologists have been busy digging in Iolkos, Jason’s home and have found strong evidence he existed and did set out on a journey to find the ‘golden fleece’—gold in Georgia. If there was a Jason, why cannot the characters from the Iliad exist?

Homer Roman copy of a lost Hellenistic original fo the 2nd Century; Baiae, Italy British Museum Wikipedia
Roman copy of a lost Hellenistic original of the 2nd Century; Baiae, Italy
British Museum

The bard knew how to keep his audience enthralled right to the end. The opening sequence starts with a bang, an argument between the King of the Akhaians and their champion. Wait, that’s not all. They have been fighting for ten years! Right from the outset, Homer had his listeners in the palm of his hand and keeps them there till the end for the sobering scene of Hektor’s funeral. The story is replete with romance, cunning and antagonism, blood and gore, death, adrenaline jumping scenes and war.

Was the war over a woman? A great plot for a story but no. The location of Ilios/Troy was right at the mouth of the Hellespont (Dardanelles), a highly trafficked region from the west to the east and vice versa. This made Priam wealthy and powerful as every ship stopped at his city before sailing on. Greed and power was the impetus behind the war, a political stratagem. Conquer the city command the straits, gain wealth and power. No wonder the Hittite king lent his support; no way a westerner gain a foothold on their turf.

Homer’s Iliad is a cautionary tale about hubris, the effects of war, tragedy and humanity. Yet, despite our knowledge of the past, wars still happen. Sorry Homer, the human race are slow learners.

Thank you for visiting and reading. I always look forward to your comments.

Accursed Women
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Add Yours
  1. Aquileana

    I truly enjoyed this overview on “The Iliad”, Homer’s Masterpiece… How interesting that you pointed out that there are historical facts involved with the plot of the book… And regarding the characters well I would say that some of them are “models” of behaviour … They are stereotypes of Virtues and even vices.
    Once again the mention rounding Helen of Troy is accurate and I think it is one of the most interesting topics on this epic tale.
    But what I have also found mesmerizing is the way that facts, Gods/ Goddesses and people are linked here to Fate. And how the main feelings of the human being are represented. Greed, love, friendship, envy, lus, power… Just to name a few ones. As a literary magnum opera, “The Iliad” would always be one of the most thorough and complete cultural, historic and sociological analysis ever.
    Thanks for sharing this great post, happy weekend ahead and best wishes, cara Luciana,
    Aquileana 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Buongiorno cara Aquileana

      I do enjoy reading your responses, they are always insightful and informative. There are many elements to Homer’s story and it does represent the various aspects of human nature. And as you pointed out, even the gods and goddesses illustrate the most human of traits.
      Fate does play a big role and that comes through in both Homer’s works. We are all pawns in the threads woven by the Fates. Are any of us truly in charge of our destiny? I think that was Homer’s ultimate message.
      Thank you as always cara.
      Luciana 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Linnea Tanner


    I’ve enjoyed your posts on the Iliad and the insight you have provided on the characters from this tale. As you indicate, the Iliad has so many layers from which we can learn. This epic poem is a tragic presentation of the effects of war and the consequences of pride. Yet, as you indicate, humans do not seem to learn from these cautionary tales, but they continue to repeat history. Your posts have been thought-provoking on the Iliad and I have enjoyed learning more about some of the less known heroes and heroines.

    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise on this epic poem and sharing your thoughts in a nutshell. Have a wonderful weekend.


    Liked by 2 people

    • cav12

      Hi Linnea

      Thank you for the lovely compliment. I’m not sure about being an expert but am an avid student of ancient history and of Homer’s work. I still have plenty to learn.

      I’ve enjoyed exploring the various themes and characters in the Iliad and wanted to share my thoughts. I am so glad you have enjoyed reading my posts and I have very much appreciated your wonderful comments.

      Thank you my friend
      Luciana 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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