Monday, May 23, 2011


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The Iliad was written long ago about 75 B.C. but it is still being read and analyzed over and over again until this very day. Themes are the most important and often universal ideas explored in a literary work; the Iliad revolves around several major themes. It stresses on war and peace, the heroic code, anger and responsibility, and mortals and immortals. When reading the Iliad we are able to recognize and relate to the experiences of the different characters and learn from them.

Homer did a great job of showing the realities of war in the Iliad. Men would die gruesome deaths getting their head chopped off or their limbs ripped apart. A plague broke out in the Achaean camp and destroyed the army. Even the strongest warriors occasionally experienced fear in the poem. The brutal images that Homer brings to our minds can still be seen in present times. Men have not stopped killing each other and there’s still war going on between other countries.

Many people die for no good reason because of arrogant and emotional decisions made by men. The anger of Achilles was the main reason of the destruction of the Achaeans in the beginning of the poem. Although he proved his heroic character at the end of the poem, through most of The Iliad, Achilles was driven by anger and revenge. In fact, his greatest flaw was the intensity of his emotions, which usually lead to more disaster. Insulted by Agamemnon, he refused to continue in the fight against the Trojans. Instead of performing like a warrior, he preferred to stay angry and seek for personal vengeance. Step by step the anger of the hero increased until the death of Patroclos, an event which replaced the deeply rooted anger with extreme grief. I myself tend to get very angry sometimes. I shout and throw things at people not thinking of my actions and I hurt people’s feelings on the way. Anyone can ruin their self and their relationship with others if they don’t learn how to control their anger and other negative emotions.

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Throughout The Iliad, the heroic characters make decisions based on a set of principles, which are referred to as the code of honor. The heroic code that Homer presents to the reader is a basic cause for many of the events that take place, but many of the characters have different views on of how honor should be achieved. Achilles strives for honor based on the respect he is given. He gains respect by winning battles and by taking full command of his troops. Agamemnon on the other hand can see honor being gained materially. To be a remarkable leader in the eyes of his people, Agamemnon thinks he should attain material affluence, like women as war prizes. Agamemnon simply desires more so that he may be seen as more powerful. Hector is most probably the most selfless character. He tells Paris that though he is handsome, Paris has no strength or courage in his heart. Hector values recognition for his deeds; however, unlike Agamemnon and Achilles, he sees his worthiness or dignity in the love of his family as well as the love for his country. Today, people may receive honor through trophies or other forms of awards. But just like Hector, Achilles or Agamemnon different people also have degrees of their honor measured either by public recognition, or by love of self, or by love of family.

Throughout the Iliad of Homer there can be seen many features of the Greek religion. The Greeks in the Iliad believe in many gods. Each god had a specific “power” or “gift” that was known by people. Zeus was the supreme god in their religion and is also the King of Olympus. The Gods were there to make sure that whatever that was destined for the humans wouldn’t fail to happen. They were able to control the mortals and predict their every thought and move. The Trojans and the Achaeans would pray to Zeus for guidance and help to win the war. There is also sign of a belief in an after life in the Iliad, for if they didn’t have a proper burial they’d go to Hades (hell).

Today, we have different religions all over the world from Christianity to Buddhism. We still have the belief in a God or Supreme Being. When times turn to war, poverty, famine and such, it becomes much easier to accept the existence of an all-knowing being or an afterlife to escape to. It is much easier to accept a God handing down punishment to the wicked or deserving members of society than to accept the suffering or accept personal responsibility. The Gods are a way out to explain the atrocities that are part of the everyday human experience.

I look at the Iliad and I see a story about the greatest human follies, war. I look at the Iliad and I see how anger can never solve anything. I look at the Iliad and understand that it is always best to avoid war and to forgive and find peace instead. I look at the Iliad and see how important respect and honor is to us. I look at the Iliad and I see how we still are today. Who does not care about how one is seen by others? Who has never let rage control action? Who has never treated a fellow human being as an object to an end? Who has never felt controlled by a greater power, which cared little for the humans? We aren’t as evolved as we think we are. Homers portrayal of us is how we still are. Several thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of years did not evolve us that far.

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