The Iliad

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The Iliad Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Homer's The Iliad. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Homer

Virtually nothing is known of Homer’s life. Many people believe no such person ever existed, and that "Homer" is a pseudonym uniting the works of many authors from various time periods. Others believe that he was a blind court singer in the 8th-century BC.
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Historical Context of The Iliad

The events described in the Iliad refer to the Trojan War, a semi-mythical conflict that was supposedly waged sometime between 1300 and 1100 BC. For Homer, the events of the war would have taken place long ago. The facts of the war would have been passed down through the ancient Greek oral tradition, to which the Iliad owes a great deal. Whether or not the Iliad refers to real events is still an open question, subject to heated debate.

Other Books Related to The Iliad

The Odyssey, another epic poem attributed to Homer, also follows the cycle of myths about the Trojan War. The Odyssey takes place after the events of the Iliad, focusing on the hero Odysseus’ troubled homecoming from Troy. The two epic poems together are the oldest examples of epic poem form in Western literature, and are generally considered to be the first literary works of Greek antiquity.
Key Facts about The Iliad
  • Full Title: The Iliad
  • When Written: Uncertain, but recently dated to around 710-760 BC
  • Where Written: Unknown
  • When Published: Manuscripts existed throughout antiquity. The oldest surviving copy is from the 10th century AD.
  • Literary Period: Classical (Ancient Greek)
  • Genre: Epic poem
  • Setting: The city of Troy and its outskirts, located on the northwest coast of Anatolia (modern day Turkey)
  • Climax: The slaying of Hector by Achilles
  • Antagonist: Hector, Paris, Apollo, Aphrodite
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient

Extra Credit for The Iliad

The Epic Cycle: Along with the Iliad and the Odyssey, there were several other ancient Greek poems that concentrated on the events of the Trojan War, filling out the events not mentioned in the Homeric epics. Titles included the Cypria, the Aethiopis, and the Little Iliad. It is often suggested that these works were written after the two Homeric epics, and most of them are much shorter than Homer’s masterpieces. Altogether they formed a narrative of the war, known as the Epic Cycle. However, all of the texts of the Epic Cycle have been lost, with just fragments remaining.

The Cult of Homer: Homer’s epics were considered the foundational works of ancient Greek literature and culture. Adoration for Homer was so great that in some places he was nearly revered as a god. Shrines dedicated to Homer have been discovered, and it is thought that he was the subject of what is now known as an ancient Greek "hero cult", a religious practice dedicated to individuals who were considered to be greater than men but not quite gods.