The Iliad

by

Homer

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Themes and Colors
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Wartime Versus Peacetime Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Iliad, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Honor and Glory

One of the central ideas of the Iliad is the honor that soldiers earn in combat. For an ancient Greek man, the ability to perform in battle is the single greatest source of worthiness. The glory earned by soldiers on the battlefield enabled them to live on in legend, becoming heroes who would be remembered long after death. The characters of the Iliad often make reference to the great heroes of past ages, such as…

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The Gods

The gods in Homer often take an active interest in the lives of mortals, who are sometimes their children by blood. At times the gods take the form of men, as when Apollo speaks into Hector’s ear, persuading him toward a particular course of action or filling him with the strength to push back enemies. At times, the role of the gods can seem metaphorical, explaining strange changes in the moods and strength of…

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Fate and Free Will

Throughout the Iliad there is a deep sense that everything that will come to pass is already fated to happen. For Homer, the Trojan War was already an old story passed down for generations, and the poem is presented from the very beginning as a completed story, “the will of Zeus…moving toward its end.” In the lives of men, the gods are powerful enough to act as fate, spurring them to actions they might…

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Wartime Versus Peacetime

Although the Iliad is largely the tale of a brutal war, it contains many reflections of the peacetime life of the ancient Greek civilization. For the characters of the poem, war is something that is connected with the other parts of life, something that every man must undergo as he defends his city. The most important sign of the relationship between war and peace is found in Book 18, when the god Hephaestus forges the…

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Mortality

As a story of war, the Iliad confronts the fact that all men are doomed to die. The poem’s battles are filled with descriptions of the deaths of soldiers who only appear in the poem in order to pass away. Homer frequently provides a small story of the life or family history of the deceased, a gesture that shows the tragedy of how much those soldiers leave behind them. However, death in battle is also…

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Love and Friendship

Throughout the Iliad strong ties of love and friendship are central to the poem’s development. The friendship between soldiers can be a vital force that spurs them onward, whether in living friendship or out of revenge for the fallen. Two warriors, like Great and Little Ajax, can become a powerful fighting team because of their camaraderie. However, the desire to protect friends and loved ones extends beyond the battlefield. In some sense The Trojan…

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