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Homer: the Great Greek Poet

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  核心提示: Frustrated because you have to read theIliador theOdysseyand are having trouble understanding them?...

Frustrated because you have to read the Iliad or the Odyssey and are having trouble understanding them? Have to write a paper and wish there were easier ways to gather your information? Tired of Cliff notes (tm)?

This page was designed to make the information given by Homer easier to access. It gives background about the factual information about the start of the Trojan war, as well as the mythos behind it. You can also access what life was like for the Greeks and the Trojans of the time.

To understand how the Greeks thought and why Homer wrote what he did, there is also the section on Greek mythology. Here, a Deity family tree is given. Also synopses of the individual deities nentioned in the lliad and Odyssey.

Of course, the most important section deals with the poems themselves. There is a character breakdown which detais who everyone is and what type of person they are, plot summary, and possible themes for both poems.

*Cliff notes (tm) are a registered trademark of Cliffs Notes inc. Lincoln, Nebraska

Greek Mythology

Gods and Dieties of THE ILIAD

  • Zeus-Gives his word to Thetis (Achilles mother) he will have Achilles withdraw from the war to show his importance. Decides the fate of Hector with his Golden Scales.
  • Hera-Loves both Achilles and Agamemnon, does not want to have a war.Taunted Zeus for helping Thetis. Sets Achilles on his feet.
  • Apollo-Answers a prayer and propels arrows for nine days killing the Achaens. Taunts Achilles, Gives Hector the extra strength in his legs to avoid Achilles. Believed Achilles disgraced Hector's body.
  • Athena-Made herself look like Hector's brother (Deiphobus) to make Hector fight Achilles. When Achilles threw his spear and missed Hector, she gives the spear back to Achilles.
  • Hephaestus-Made the Shield of Achilles along with his armor.
  • Hermes-Aids Priam in getting Hector's body back.
  • Artemis-Puts an arrow through Andromache's mother's heart to put her to rest.
  • Thetis-Sea Nymph, Achilles mother, asks Zeus to help her son.
  • Nereus-Thetis' father.
  • Ares-God of war-mentioned briefly.
  • Hades-God of death-mentioned briefly.
  • Aphrodite-also mentioned briefly.
  • Leto-(referred to) Apollo and Artemis' mother.
  • Cronus-(referred to) Zeus' father.
  • Nine Muses-(Zeus' daughters) Goddess' of the arts and a source of artistic inspiration.

Gods and Dieties of THE ODYSSEY

  • ZEUS---> Agreed to allow Odysseus to leave Calypso's island and return home to Ithaca. He later destroyed Odysseus' crew with a lightening bolt for killing Helios' cattle.
  • ATHENA---> Begged Zeus to allow Odysseus to return to his wife Penelope and his son Telemachos. She felt Calypso held him captive long enough. She later disguised herself as Mentes, an old family friend of Odysseus. While in disguise, she made Telemachos accept he was a man and to take responsibility for upholding honor in his father's house.
  • CALYPSO---> Held Odysseus prisoner but treated him well. She forced him to stay with her on the island through trickery. She offered him immortality if he would stay with her, but all he wanted to do is return home to his wife.
  • POLYPHEMOS---> One of the cyclopes (one-eyed giants). Son of Poseidon. Ate four of Odysseus' men. Odysseus then carved a pole from Polyphemos' club to blind him. Polyphemos prayed to his father in hopes that Odysseus would not return home for many years and he would be left without a crew.
  • POSEIDON---> God of the sea. Angry that Odysseus blinded Polyphemos, he caused the ships to stray which resulted in his return to Ithaca many years later without a crew.
  • AIOLOS HIPPOTADES---> Appointed by Zeus as Warden of the Winds. Allowed Odysseus to stay on the island for one month. As Odysseus prepared to leave, Aiolos gave him a leather bag filled with storm winds to help Odysseus reach Ithaca.
  • CIRCE--> An enchantress who desired Odysseus. She turned Odysseus' men into swine, but changed them back after she and Odysseus slept together. He stayed on the island with her for a year. As he readied to continue his journey home, Circe forewarned him to block the ears of his crew when they heard the songs of the Sirens and no matter what the reason not to kill Helios' cows
  • SIRENS---> Sing to enchant men away from their journey. These women cause men to become mindless (often not a difficult task) and to forget about their wives and children. Failed at enticing Odysseus and his crew.
  • HELIOS---> Gcd of the Sun. Keeper of immortal herds and shepherds. Became angered when Odysseus' crew killed his immortal cows and feasted on them for six days. He prayed to Zeus to punish the men for what they had done.

Trojan War

A. What started the Trojan War ?

We know for a fact that the Trojan War actually occurred. Troy fell into the hands of the Greeks. Archaeologists have found historical evidence in the ruins of Troy to support this. The war took place in the beginning of 12th century B.C. and is generally thought to have lasted from 1193 - to 1184 B.C.

Modern historians suggest that the war was started over commerce and trade between Greece and Asia Minor. Many of the main characters in Homer's account of the Trojan War in the ILIAD many have been drawn from real personalities.

B. How did the war affect the Trojans?

The Trojan's city was in havoc and there was nothing left to their kingdom because of the war. That itself caused much stress on the Trojans. They were left to life in ruins. The women were taken by the Greeks to be slaves, and the men that were left did not have a bright future to look forward to. But more than that, they mourned for the losses of their great heroes and family members.

C. How did the war affect the Greeks ?

The Greeks would go back to a city that was not in ruins; they still had some type of comfort. However, the Greeks had also lost faith in themselves because there were many men dead over this war. The Greeks knew things would not be same after generations of men were lost in this long battle.

Mythological Beginning/Causes of the Trojan War

  • I. Wedding of King Peleus to sea-goddess, Thetis (parents of Achilles)
    • A. What happened?
      • 1. all gods and goddesses invited except for Eris, goddess of discord
      • 2. Eris angry - tosses golden apple inscribed, "For the fairest one" among the guests
      • 3. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite claim prize
      • 4. Paris, son of king Priam and Queen Hekabe of Troy, chosen to decide who gets apple
      • 5. Goddesses offer Paris bribes
        • a.) Hera - kingship
        • b.) Athena - victory in war
        • c.) Aphrodite - love of most beautiful woman
      • 6. Paris chooses Aphrodite's bribe and wins Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta (a Greek city-state founded by the Dorians in approximately 900 B.C.)
      • 7. Menelaus asks for aid of brother, Agamemnon, king of Mycenae
      • 8. after refusal of Greeks to return Helen, Trojan War begins in approximately 1200 B.C.)
  • II. "the Trojan war, which was fought, according to legend, because of a quarrel among gods and the resulting incidents of betrayal among mortals." (2)
    • A. Intervention/Competition of Gods
      • 1. Personal Glory
        • a.) "It is undeniable that if we take Homer literally, divine intervention determines a great many outcomes in which a human life is at stake."(1)
      • 2. Divine Intervention
        • a.) Zeus arranges the tremendous loss of Greek lives so that Achilles (the greatest warrior among the Greeks), feeling void of his honor, after losing his war prize to Agamemnon, will be begged to rejoin his men--fueling progression of war.
        • b.) Helen uses Aphrodite's pressure as an excuse for her engagement. "I know that I behaved badly, but I was so in love I couldn't think straight." (1)
        • c.) "The great leader of the great expedition is Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. His place in a list of what seem to be shepherd kings, deriving their authority from Hermes, the god of flocks, given very early in THE ILIAD." (8)
        • d.) The gods meddle with human lives by offering spiritual gifts and people, like bargaining chips, taking pieces of human souls.
      • 3. Personal Biases
        • a.) Athena - encourages Hector, Trojan hero, to fight Achilles, knowing it will lead to his demise--fueling battle.
        • b. Hera - favors Greeks; rejected by Paris at wedding of King Peleus and sea-goddess, Thetis
      • 4. Competition/Jealousy
        • a.) competing bribes offered by Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, at all costs, to win honor of being "the fairest"
    • B. Mortals
      • 1. feud between Achilles and Agamemnon over war prizes (4)--fuels battle
      • 2. Importance of honor to characters like Achilles and Hector--honor is major part of their identity
      • 3. pride in homeland (Greece or Troy)
  • III. "the face that launched a thousand ships"--Helen of Troy (7)
    • A. Book III
      • 1. Single combat between Paris and Menelaus
        • a.) "The fact that it is a duel ensures this immediate interest, the simple desire to know how the thing will end, and the fact that it is a duel between Paris and Menelaus brings out naturally the whole story of Helen and the shameful cause for which Troy is fighting." (7)
        • b.) combat is episode that reveals the cause of the fighting
        • c.) "The princes of Greece thereupon raised a force of a thousand or more ships, manned by fighters, with a view to forcing the return of Helen."(6)
        • d.) "and thus they would leave to Priam and to the Trojan Helen of Argos, to glory over, for whose sake many Acheans (Greeks) lost their lives in Troy far from their own native country."(6)
  • IV. The Judgment of Paris
    • A. "The ultimate cause of the Trojan War was the judgment of Paris. (6)
      • 1. "There is one statement that Hera, Poseidon, and Athena hated Ilion (Troy) and its people 'because of the sin of Paris, who insulted the goddesses when they came to his courtyard, and praised that one who gave him disastrous lust'."(6)
  • V. Fate
    • A. Achilles - fated to Die in battle; only surviving son of King Peleus and Thetis
    • B. "That is, I completely reject the view that gods and mortals alike are controlled by some higher destiny."(1)
    • C. "The end of the Trojan War is fixed, but the sorrow of Achilles brings it about." (5)


(1) Baines, Hazel E. THE MEDDLING GODS. Lincoln: University of Web Press, 1974.

(2) Corcoran, James. LITERATURE -- WORLD MASTERPIECES. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1995.

(3) Doniger, Wendy. GREEK AND EGYPTIAN MYTHOLOGY. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

(4) Homer, THE ILIAD. (Book I)

(5) Knight, Douglas. POPE AND THE HEROIC TRADITION. London: The Kingsley Trust Association, 1951.

(6) Latimore, Richard. THE ILIAD OF HOMER. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951.

(7) Owen, E. T THE STORY OF THE ILIAD Canada: Clark Irwin, and Company, ltd., 1966.

(8) Pinsent, John. GREEK MYTHOLOGY. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1986.

(9) Wood, Michael. IN SEARCH OF THE TROJAN WAR. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985.

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