Discussion Forum: Week 4

This week we’ll be reading a primary source from ancient Greece for the first time this semester: Homer’s Iliad, the oldest text to survive intact from Greek culture. You’ll be reading an abridged version that covers the major points in the story. For your discussion forum, I’d like you to select a moment in the text that provoked a reaction for you: something surprising, disturbing, moving, exciting, alienating, funny, offensive, enlightening, any kind of strong reaction. Describe it briefly below, or comment in response to one of the moments highlighted by your family members!

    This week, each family will hold its own conversation below. Reply to my family comment headers below, or to someone else in your family!

    Remember, you can be very brief in these comments, but you need to add something new (an observation, an argument, a quotation, a question). For full instructions on participating in the discussion forum, click here. Your comment should be submitted before midnight on Wednesday.


      1. I was surprised by the moment in Book 1 where Achilles says to his mother, “Mother, since you bore me for a short life only, / Olympian Zeus was supposed to grant me honor” (1.367-8). It reminded me of the class discussion about how heroes, driven by their mortality, seek glory so they can preserve their legacy. Achilles expresses the same idea here, but I was surprised by the certainty in his statement. He frames it as a direct transaction: instead of being immortal, he is promised honor. Achilles not only feels that he should seek honor to make up for his mortality, he feels that he deserves this honor. This made me wonder where Achilles gains this sense of entitlement—is it something that all heroes have? Is it because of his divine parentage or his position as the strongest of all the Greeks?

        1. This is a really interesting and subtle point – I didn’t pick up on this, but it’s definitely very true that Achilles was entirely certain of this “transaction.” I also think it’s very true that Achilles has an ego and a maybe greater sense of entitlement than other heroes (I haven’t read other myths in a while, but from the way Achilles is portrayed I often think of him as this like shining starlet adored by the gods). Maybe it’s partly due to the gods love of Achilles that he is so certain that he’ll receive honor? But I don’t think he’s always so certain. Not sure!

        2. I agree with your question Avery, where does Achilles get all of that entitlement? It is very common for greek heroes, but I think this need for reward/compensation is a trait shared by a lot of greek warriors and men, and perhaps those feelings of entitlement (misguided privilege) are heightened by his divine lineage. We see this in an instant when Achilles refuses to fight as a result of his war prize Briseis being taken away from him. He states in book 9, “They all have their prizes, everyone but me – I’m the only Greek from whom he (Agamemnon) took something back.” Once again we see how Achilles is very defensive of what he claims as his and what is promised to him. Achilles knows his power and uses it to secure his honor, and when that honor is insulted, he sees it as an unforgivable offense. As with many greek heroes, their pride is their poison, it just surprised me so much to see how so many characters are guided by blind principles of morality and honor. Thinking logically must have been very hard for them. 🙂

        3. I don’t know if it’s entitlement so much as what he knows– he knows that he is going to die soon, but he will get glory. When he’s offered a long life of obscurity, he turns it down, choosing instead to die and win glory everlasting, which i think is an interesting aspect of his character. I think the certainty comes with the knowledge of his fate — it’s something that Will happen because it Must happen

      2. Something that struck me as both offensive and disturbing was the description of Thersites on the beach as the Greek troops are assembling. They describe Thersites as “the ugliest soldier” who was “bowlegged” and “walked with a limp” and whose “shoulders slumped over his caved-in chest” (1.236-238). This description makes me think Thersites had some sort of physical disability, which is something most people wouldn’t harass another for today. Furthermore, this description blatantly links disability with “ugly.” The ancient Greeks definitely had some very specific beauty ideals for men and women, and I’ve been wondering more about how disabled people were treated. Were they deemed “ugly” and brutalized, like Thersites?

        1. I totally agree! Another, arguably more famous example of these unrealistic beauty standards and how that affected how you were treated was the case of Hephaestus. He was born “ugly” and his mother, Hera, deemed him unfit to be any child fo hers and proceeded to exile him and throw him off Mount Olympus. Many tales recount this exchange and describe how other gods treated him as less when he finally returned to the kingdom of the gods, all because he did not have the physical appearance that was associated with being divine. He was made fun of and disrespected, even by his own parents, despite his/his domain’s importance to ancient Greek life. In short, yes — people and gods alike who did not meet these standards were in fact deemed “ugly” and were brutalized and bullied for being born that way.

        2. I agree with you, Nat!
          I think the idea of physical appearance is so interesting in Greek Mythology, as I am first thinking of Hera & Hephaestus, and how she treated him as a child, and how Aphrodite, his wife, treats him. I also have found that in other older texts, people with disabilities are “ugly”. I do think that Thersites had a physical disability, and calling him ugly seems super dehumanizing. I’m sure they were brutalized by their “normal looking” counterparts.

        3. I strongly agree with your point here. Thersites is not as valued because of his disability which hinders his ability in war. I think this instance also shows how glorified war is. A parallel can be drawn to the portrayal of women throughout the reading. While they are acclaimed for their ability in the military it is almost as if they are still just an extension of man. They are going to war for a purpose that is not their own. They are sexually objectified but since war is almost on a pedestal they can find recognition through success in battle.

        4. this is a really interesting point. Through all of history there have been very rigid definitions of physical beauty however it is especially prevalent in ancient greek literature. There are many instances of people with disabilities being described horribly and this is just another example. It’s very interesting the way the text contrasts Thersites with the other soldiers. It is a great point that I had not previously thought about since I have become so accustomed to hearing this language in texts similar to this.

        5. I completely agree with you, Nat. The group’s emphasis on depicting Thersites as ugly, due to the fact that he didn’t fit into the extremely strict box of ancient Greek beauty standards, resonated with me. It is astounding to me how brazen the Greeks were in shining light on the direct correlation between being “ugly” and being disabled. It makes me think about how these strict beauty standards affected the people who were not falling into the inflexible Greek ideologies concerning their standards of beauty. Was everyone who did not look like a direct descendant of Aphrodite ostracized due to their lack of “beauty”? I wonder how these rigid beauty standards played a role in the social classes within ancient Greek.

      3. I was disturbed in Book 1 when Agamemnon refuses to release Chryses’ daughter because he, “likes her better than [his] wife… She’s no worse than her when it comes to looks, body, mind, or ability.” This is not the only quote where women talked about like objects and prizes for the keeping of men. Men repeatedly refer to women as their possessions without acknowledgment or care for how they might feel. Another example of this is when Agamemnon proclaims he is “taking” Achilles’ “prize” Briseis. Agamemnon explains that since he cannot keep Chryses’ daughter he will go and take Achilles’ wife instead. We discussed in class that sexual violence in Greek mythology was a common occurrence, however, I was still startled by the contrast between how Gods are portrayed in Percy Jackson and how they are portrayed here. After reading the middle school version, it was shocking to return to the “real” portrayal of the Greek gods.

        1. I agree that women are portrayed as objects throughout the material we read. Throughout the reading, men are the protagonists and narrators while women are byproducts, objects, and trophies. Women are repeatedly referred to as prizes and objects of war. The interesting contrast is that, while objectified and taken advantage of, the power of women is emphasized and acknowledged. For example, Agamemnon mentions that “I don’t want to see an army destroyed like this,” in reference to Chryses’ daughter. It is clear that the men of this story believe that women have the power to do great things, like destroy armies, which serves as an interesting comparison the consistent patronization and objectification of women in other parts of the text. While women are regarded and treated badly, their power, especially in the military, is nevertheless made apparent.

        2. I was also startled at the contrast between the portrayal of gods in Percy Jackson versus in the Iliad. Before this class, I had never read the Iliad, but I had read Percy Jackson. I was also shocked to see how objectified and horrible women were treated. Women were seen as a prize, and when that prize was threatened to be taken away, it caused them to become upset. An interesting example is when Achilles is upset at Agamemnon for taking Chryses’ daughter. Due to Achilles not participating in the war, Agamemnon, once he realizes his army’s bad position, sends people to negotiate with Achilles to return to fight in the war. Agamemnon not only offers Chryses’ daughter back but even more women, but Achilles refuses the offer stating that he felt his honor and appreciation of all he had done was not being fully acknowledged by Agamemnon. The loss of Chryses’ daughter was not only a loss of Achilles’ prize but also a loss of his honor and pride. Women are viewed simultaneously as objects that can be taken and passed around at will but also as something that represents honor, which is such a stark contrast that it leaves me surprised.

        3. I strongly agree with you! This reminds me of the attitude of the Greeks and Trojans towards Helen. They treat her like an object. No one had asked Helen where she wanted to live before the war began. According to the Iliad, Helen did not come to Troy completely unwillingly. Nevertheless, the Greeks still made it an honor to bring Helen back to Greece. They were completely immersed in their own macho heroics. It’s funny and sad to see this story from the current mainstream perspective. This group of “heroes” use their own lives to maintain their own glory. But in fact, They were just moving themselves.

      4. I found Andromache’s speech to Hector in Book 6 particularly moving (6.427-460). Andromache voices her concerns about what will happen to herself and her son should Hector fall in battle, and she particularly emphasizes what Hector is to her, saying, “Hector, you are my father, you are my mother,/You are my brother and my blossoming husband” (6.451-52). Hector is literally all Andromache has left; Achilles has murdered her entire family, and she has no one left to care for her or love her should Hector perish. Andromache distinctly understands the peril of her situation and what will happen to her if Troy is conquered, and her speech reminded me of the far-ranging effects of the Trojan War. Andromache is not involved in the fighting, but she faces a fate arguably worse than death if Hector should die.

        1. I also found Andromache’s speech to be heart wrenching. I think this portion of the text is even more emotional when considering the backstory to the beginnings of the war. It seems ridiculous that so much damage is done simply because so many heroes want to be remembered. It’s hard to really think of these figures as heroes by today’s standards if they are causing so much pain at the expense of so many others for their own selfish motivations. For these reasons, I wonder if Ancient Greeks were able to see these figures as “heroes” or if they too saw their selfishness.

      5. I was surprised by Achilles’ behavior in Book 1 after Agamemnon’s heralds have taken Briseis from him: “Then Achilles, in tears,/ Withdrew from his friends and sat down far away … His voice, choked with tears, was heard by his mother … settling beside her weeping child/ She stroked him with her hand and talked to him.” Prior to this passage, Achilles has been potrayed as a mighty king, a hero, an object of awe. Yet now, disappointed by his prize being taken away, he is depicted as a little boy who wants his mommy. The contrast between these two characterizations of a hero raises questions of the vulnerability of these demigods, and what we can expect of them.

        1. I think it’s also interesting to see the contrast between modern vs greek definitions of masculinity. Back then, family was a much more sacred concept so it’s more common to see a scene like this. Also, this is a great example of the question that was asked in class about men crying (if it was acceptable under masculinity).

        2. I too was a bit suprised reading this passage since for the most part Achilles is talked about as the greatest of the Greek warriors, seemingly on another level from the rest of the characters in the Trojan War. However, in this scene he was portrayed as a mere mortal, with human emotions, and in my mind that helps to equal himself with the rest of the Greeks. Thus, while still recognizing him as an extremely powerful hero, understanding he is still very much so human and acts similarly to the rest of us creates an interesting dynamic in my mind.

      6. I felt moving when Achilles gave this long and emotional speech in book 9, telling his stories, choices made and to be made, and this unavoidable fate waiting in front of him. This speech reveals a hero’s desperation and sorrow. He speaks: “But a man’s life cannot be won back once his breath has passed beyond his clenched teeth” (9.420). Next, he speaks: “if I stay here and fight, I’ll never return home, but my glory will be undying forever. If I return home to my dear fatherland, My glory is lost, but my life will be long, And death that ends all will not catch me soon” (9.425-9). The life of a mortal is vulnerable to lose. Its irreversibility makes it precious, and preserving it to its wholeness is supposed to be treated as the most important duty oneself. But at the same time, mortals often put some greater value before preserving life. Here, Achilles is comparing his life to the honor of himself and his land. Achilles is the greatest of all the Greek warriors, yet he has at one point pondered the dilemma of whether glory is worth a life.

        1. I completely agree. This emotional speech delivered by Achilles takes a look at the nature of human mortality and the inevitability of death, while contrasting it with the immortality of the gods. But most importantly, Achilles reflects on the paradox of a hero’s life, where they can achieve glory and victory in battle, but ultimately they will face death on the battlefield. Achilles said, “If the gods Preserve me and I get home safe Peleus will find me a wife himself.. I’ve always wanted to take a wife there”(406-412) But then he later explains the inner conflict he is facing because he wants this amazing life but also to have battlefield glory at the same time, showing the true human side of this character.

        2. I too agree, especially with the idea of the paradox of a hero’s life that Daniel mentions. Moreover, the dilemma that Achilles faces strikes me as a problem that occurs due to his human nature. Since humans are often considered naturally selfish creatures, it makes sense that he wants to preserve his own life rather than have the glory of living on in people’s memories. While immortality in that sense is great, it seems to me that living through one’s own life is of greater immediate, selfish importance, and through this lense we can better understand how the human side and hero side of Achilles interact.

      7. After our discussion in class today, I went back and read the interaction between Andromache and Hector, and specifically focused on this section here. “Aloud then laughed [Astayanax’s] dear father and queenly mother/ and forthwith glorious Hector took the helm from his head and laid it all-gleaming upon the ground.” Knowing what I know now about Astayanax’s fate, being thrown off the wall, and coming from our recent read of the Percy Jackson series, I’ve been thinking a lot about the theme in greek mythology of ‘sins of the father’. This idea, that children pay the price for their parents actions comes up a lot. Like the sexual violence found in many greek stories, I think it’s often kind of smoothed over in the sense that it’s expected and so it’s not always treated as the tragedy we would think of it as. But as we’re reading the Illiad, especially with this sentence here, there’s a lot of emphasis on grief, and this idea that children are almost cursed by having famous parents.

        1. I was also thinking similarly. I find it interesting to see how much that ‘sins of the father’ plays into greek myth while so many greek myths are based around father-son conflict. The gods themselves deal with this a lot – Zeus overthrows his father Kronos, who overthrew his own father. So there is tragedy in the way that children pay the price, but there is also tragedy in how the familial relationships are then affected.

      8. I was struck by the moment at (3.10-13) where the greeks and the Trojans are marching. There is something about the line “the Greeks moved forward in silence” that really hammers home the drama of the situation. I can totally picture some traveling story teller back in ancient Greece telling this story and everyone listening in a silent stupor. The last part of the line also cements what we talked about in class how the Illiad focuses on grief.

      9. One thing I found very interesting at the beginning of the epic poem was lines 9-10: “Which of the immortals set these two at each other’s throats?” Homer is describing the great clash between Achilles and Agamemnon – two mortals – but he insinuates that their feud was representative of one that the gods started. I think this is a fantastic line of sight into how the Greeks viewed the different Gods’ interactions in their daily lives, represented through a famous tail.

      10. I found it very moving the extent to which Achilles seems to know and acknowledge his own tragic fate. It invokes countless emotions in both Achilles himself and the reader. I also think it is interesting that this context is given to the audience so early in the poem, as this gives them immediate insight both into what is eventually going to happen to Achilles and what his motivations will be with respect to his glory and legacy. One quote I found compelling was from Achilles’ mother, Thetis, when she says to him, “Now you’re destined for both an early death and misery beyond compare” (1.438-439). I think that even though heroes act out of selfish motivation and in order to be remembered, the reader is meant to feel bad for Achilles who is stuck at this point early in the and knows his death is coming. And, without much background to the brutal violence and rage that is to come in the story, one may feel sad for the intense emotions Achilles experiences in this moment.

      1. One moment I found particularly funny was the dialogue in Book 3 leading up to the duel of Paris and Menelaus on the battlefield. More specifically, I found the dynamic of Paris and his brother Hector to be comical (although I’m not sure if that was the intended goal). Paris begins the Trojan war by capturing Melenaus’ wife, Helen, but once he is faced with the task of defending himself and his actions on the battlefield he becomes timid. As a result of Paris’ visible timidness and fear, his brother Hector begins to criticize him, effectively calling him a coward; “Paris, you desperate, womanizing pretty boy!…You are nothing but trouble for your father and your city, A joke to your enemies and an embarrassment to yourself” (Iliad 3.45,55-56). While Hector was quite harsh on Paris, I found some of the lines in his monologue interesting because they are from brother-to-brother; arguably this speech of Hector’s is an act of ‘tough love’. The ironic or funny part is that Paris agrees with Hector (he knows he is right) and as a result, Paris agrees to fight Menelaus. I thought the family dynamics at play in the beginning of Book 3 of The Iliad were particularly funny and added additional layers to the complex narrative at hand.

        1. I also picked up on the complicated sibling dynamic between Paris and Hector. I think that this is one of the most interesting relationships in the Iliad. Personally, I believe that while Hector scolds Paris for his softness, he still loves him as a brother. He may be disappointed with him or even ashamed of him, but Hector still wants the best for his younger brother. On the way back to the battlefield after talking to Andromache, Hector tells Paris “It breaks my heart / To hear what the Trojans say about you” (6.552-553). I believe this is part of the reason why he is so harsh on Paris: to encourage him to be braver so that he isn’t so harshly judged by the society that they live in. I think that the sibling dynamic between Hector and Paris fleshes both of them out as more human characters and ultimately makes Hector’s death (as it was more or less caused by Paris’s foolishness in the first place) more tragic.

        2. Celia, I think this moment is not only comical, but surprising and exciting as well! Calling his brother a “pretty boy” is comical in my opinion, as it still is a used term to this day and age. What is surprising is that in perhaps the most important moment of Paris’s life, instead of motivation or any sort of good luck, Hector blatantly calls out his brother for what he has done to his entire city, and I believe that calling him “trouble” is an understatement. Lastly, it is exciting because with Paris’s lack of battlefield or fighting experience, he now has to summon the courage to fight, with his brother heckling him all the while. Also like you mentioned, I think it is both courageous and honorable for Paris to agree to fight Menelaus. He is owning up to the consequences of his actions, and this makes him even more of a likeable character that the audience can root for.

      2. A moment that surprised me was in Book 1, where we see how Hera and Zeus interact. At first, when Thetis asks Zeus to help the Trojans, Zeus is quite worried about what Hera will think, and ultimately acts on his own accord in helping Thetis and the Trojans (1.549-559). And while it is already disrespectful that he agreed to do this intentionally behind Hera’s back, the lack of respect Zeus has for Hera directly to her face immediately following that scene was interesting for me to witness. He calls her a “witch” and says “I like you less than ever. And so your worse off…So sit down and shut up and do as I say” (1.594-600). While at first it appears that he fears what Hera will think, he is so explicitly rude to her and really puts her down. I think that at the end of Book 1, where Hera is cheered up by a drink and music, and how there is mention that Zeus and Hera slept together peacefully that night, serves as a way to show the reader that these quarrels happen very often, and I found it sad that this kind of disrespect is normalized even among the Gods.

        1. I was also struck by Zeus’s treatment of Hera in Book 1, Celine. Zeus disrespects Hera by going behind her back to speak with Thetis. Hera, fully aware of this interaction, confronts Zeus, which he views as a challenge to his authority. Zeus’s response to his wife outsmarting him is to insult and threaten her, revealing his insecurity. During this scene, Zeus uses fierce and hurtful language, even going so far as to threaten violence. Soon after calling Hera a “witch,” Zeus says, “You see these hands? All the gods on Olympus / Won’t be able to help you if I ever lay them on you” (1.594; 1.599-600). Here, Zeus establishes that all the gods combined are not as powerful as him, evoking an intense feeling of fear in Hera.

      3. What stuck out to me was how the conflicts over women in The Iliad are actually not about the women at all. Of course the entire conflict with Troy is over Helen but what stuck out the me was the conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles over Briseis. In Book 1, Achilles says that Agamemnon “Has taken away my prize and dishonored me” (1.370). However, when Agamemnon attempts to convince Achilles to enter the war in Book 9, he offers to return Briseis but Achilles refuses. “It doesn’t matter/ That I won her with my spear. He took her,/ Took her right out of my hands, cheated me,/ And now he thinks he is going to win me back?” (9.351-354). Achilles doesn’t actually care that Briseis was taken away. If he did love her as he claimed, he wouldn’t have refused the deal to get her back. Achilles cares more that he was slighted than about Briseis. While the story of Helen is a bit more complex, it is true that the men fighting for Helen have a similar mindset to Achilles and his view of Briseis as a prize that he won and thus deserves.

        1. I completely agree, these fights about women are about control and power not the women themselves. The women are just vessels that the men of the story can exert themselves on.

          1. Yeah I also wholeheartedly agree with this point. The women in the story are simply being used as objects for men to fight over, without any regard for them as actual human beings. This definitely seems to connect to the later parts of the Iliad, where women and children are nothing but the spoils of war, captured and enslaved after all the men have been killed. I am definitely interested to see how these ideas potentially contrast with the arrival of the amazons later on in the epic.

        2. Totally. I think this is also evident in the very beginning of the story, when Paris chooses Aphrodite because of the prize she offers him. He doesn’t choose Helen specifically to be his wife, but the “most beautiful woman on earth”. He completely disregards everything except her beauty, not even seeing her as a person with agency or free will.

        3. I agree and I think this is an interesting point to focus on. The disregard/ lack of true care for the women in their lives highlights a reoccurring characteristic of Greek heroes. Their pride is what they really fight for and really want to protect, not the women in this story. Their legacy is so important to them that they cannot afford to back down from a fight or let another man slight them. The women are just pawns in the intense fight to be the most masculine and the most glorious fighter.

      4. One moment that was particularly funny to me was in Book 2 when Agamemnon tried to motivate and test the courage of his army by saying that he has given up, in hopes that this will all provoke them to want to stay and fight more. Agamemnon explained that the war was hopeless and declared, “Cut and run!” (2.164). However, this reverse psychology backfired as the soldiers all rushed to the ships. I thought that this moment was funny because it showed that Agamemnon really underestimated the soldiers’ low morale and ended up discouraging them even more.

        1. I had a similar Reaction JJ!
          I think the way the men interact is comical and I believe the way they spoke to each other was insulting yet in their own way comical and funny to them. Interactions between Gods and the soldiers was entertaining as it was nice to see some lighthearted interactions and a sense of humor. Learning the way, they find humor and speak to each other becomes more funny as I begin to understand their way of interactions.

      5. It’s almost comical how extreme all of the insults are in the regular dialogue between men. It’s difficult to get a sense for how heated a situation is because the standard is for the language to be quite extreme. Throughout the first book, I assumed the language was charged because most of that book was detailing fights. However, even into the second book, the loaded descriptions persist. When Odysseus is responding to Thersites, he says “… and may I never again be called Telemachus’ father if I don’t lay hold of you, strip your ass naked, and run you out of the assembly and through the ships, crying at all the ugly licks I land on you” (Book 2, page 23, lines 282-285). Perhaps this emphasizes how aggressive and straight-forward these men were with the arrogance to feel like they could say whatever they wanted to whoever they wanted.

      6. Something I found to be quite prominent is the rampant objectification of women throughout this story. For the Greek soldiers, women are simply prizes to be won after succeeding in battle and conquering a city. In the passages depicting the argument between Agamemnon and Achilles, they usually don’t even refer to their forcefully obtained concubines by name. Instead, they’re referred to only as a “prize” or “my prize.” It’s normalized to the point where it just becomes one of the common spoils of war: no more valued than a conquered city’s gold and bronze. This universal objectification, and, frankly, dehumanization of women is a particularly interesting, if not necessarily comforting, insight into how Ancient Greek culture thought of women and their apparent lack of inherent value as people.

      7. What really captured my attention throughout the story was Thetis. Especially in her interaction with Zeus, It shows how deeply she cares about her son. She talks down to herself, kneels, and begs the king of the gods for help. Even though she is divine in her own right, she can’t do anything on her own to help her son. She, like all the other women in the Illiad, are subject to the whims of the men around her. Which is particularly awful, because the men around her are gods.

      8. I find it interesting that even the Trojans don’t like Paris. They are in this endless war protecting a man they despise, which we see in book 3, where Homer tells us “they hated Paris as they hated death itself” (3.480). They are fighting to protect a cowardly man who refuses to fight his own battles and gives them orders from behind walls. Even when he does choose to fight, he has to be saved by Aphrodite during the duel with Menelaus. So why keep fighting this war? It could be for Helen, but none of the rest of the book shows anyone genuinely caring about the desires of Helen. I suppose, at this point, it is more in self-defense since the war is already happening and has been for so long. But it’s amusing to think about the fact that this whole war is about the actions of one man, who both sides viciously hate.

        1. I agree with you. It’s actually hilarious because Helen would have been the reason for the war. But due to the fact that both sides hate Paris. It’s as if the war is to prove how far will they go in war for their hatred. The war itself is also such a mix of things unnesscary, confusing, and useless. Why have a war for the hate of one man? Why not come together to fight one man? The one you both hate the most. It’s ridiculous that he is the one to give orders. No one cares about Helen do to the simple fact that she isn’t the priority the hate for Paris is. Which clearly fuels the war on both sides.

      9. A moment in the text that surprised me was lines 442-445 of Aphrodite’s conversation with Helen in Book three. When Helen refuses to share Paris’s bed, Aphrodite lashes out and says, “don’t vex me, bitch, or I may let go of you and hate you as extravagantly as I love you now.” These lines surprised me because the language that Aphrodite uses is so vulgar and ugly, completely juxtaposing what the goddess represents: love and beauty. Aphrodite continues her seemingly uncharacteristic rant and says, “I can make you repulsive to both sides, you know, Trojans and Greeks, and then where will you be?” These lines were interesting to me because the threat Aphrodite makes is more sinister than it seems. While being ugly shouldn’t be that consequential, women in the Illiad are portrayed as objects that are usually only valued for their beauty, usefulness, and relationships to men. By threatening to make Helen ugly to all men, Aphrodite threatens to take away the only currency that Helen as a woman holds. This conversation as a whole speaks to the power of the patriarchal society the Iliad is set in. It is shocking how powerful the patriarchy is that men are able to define a woman’s worth and cause even a mighty goddess to abandon her usual persona on behalf of a man she favors.

      10. One part I found funny was Zeus and Hera’s interaction after Zeus agreed to help Thetis. After Hera vocalizes that she saw that Thetis won Zeus over and she knows he will help her, Zeus responds, “You witch! Your intuitions are always right. But what does it get you? Nothing, except I like you less than ever” (Book 1, pg 18). While Zeus respects Athena for her wisdom, he seems infuriated by Hera’s intelligence, which is both hypocritical and funny.

      11. One part I found intriguing was in book 6, the interaction between Glaucus and Diomedes. What surprised me most about this part was the humanity of the situation in the middle of the war as they talk and then promise not to fight each other based only on the fact that their grandparents knew each other. And, even in this nice moment among the war, at the end of the interaction the gods get involved to further one side of the fight as Zeus influences Glaucus to take the inferior armor.

      12. Perhaps the most impactful scene to me was the discussion between Hector and Andromache (Book 6), and his subsequent interaction with Astyanax. The hopelessness of the plea and Hector’s obstinance to change both contribute to the Iliad’s larger themes of the hopelessness of grief, war, and violence. The scene is portrayed as though we know the outcome (Hector’s death and desecration), which makes it feel extraordinarily futile. Watching two characters whose fates are already determined dread and lament that fate is reminiscent of some of the greatest works of fiction from our modern era. The scene gives off the vibes of the Star Wars prequels, when Anakin and Obi-Wan express their friendship and bond, before departing for the last time. Since the movie is a prequel, we know that this is the last time they will meet as friends, and their next meeting will be a hateful battle to the death. Thus, it makes the meeting poignant, melancholy, and hopeless. Though an expression of love between a husband and wife/father and son is a beautiful thing, the Iliad presents it with a tone of sorrow and sadness, showing us that war disrupts even the most sacred and basic of human relationships.

      1. The interaction between Helen and Aphrodite surprised me the most while reading the Iliad because it showed a different side to Helen that I have not been accustomed to see. The scene takes place after Aphrodite has whisked Paris away from his duel with Menelaus as she is convincing Helen to go be with him in their bedroom. Helen tells her “You eerie thing, why do you love Lying to me like this? Where are you taking me now?…Where you have some other boyfriend for me?…I’m not going back there. It would be treason To share his bed. The Trojan women Would hold me at fault. I have enough pain as it is,” (Hom. Id. 3.427-440). Typically, I’ve thought that it was out of Helen’s own free will that she left with Paris to Troy, yet this passage tells a contrasting tale. It seems that Aphrodite had somehow transfixed Helen to leave with Paris, using her power to manipulate events into Paris’s favor. This leads me to view the Trojan War as an event calculated by the Gods that was fired up by the desire for glory and wealth on the part of the Greeks.

      2. One part that I found funny was in Book 1 where Achilles, Agamemnon, and Athena are engaging in dialogue. Achilles is pretty much just berating Agamemnon for a couple pages. He uses insults like “You bloated drunk” while conversing with the warlord. They exchange reminds me of brothers arguing back and forth. Additionally sitting in our shoes we understand that Achilles is considered the mightiest of all greek warriors so his arrogance and sarcasm throughout the conversation is not only expected but warranted.

        1. I also noticed during this conversation that Achilles seems to be emphasizing that the war was Agamemnon’s creation, but Agamemnon often dismisses his opinions, implying that Achilles has great value as a warrior, but that is the only value he holds for Agamemnon. While I definitely agree that Achilles’ demeanor is arrogant and sarcastic, I thought that Agamemnon’s demeanor was very self serving. He aims to portray himself in the most flattering light even at the expense of belittling one of his greatest heroes (as many of the characters throughout Greek mythology do), which I think will be an interesting theme to track throughout the Iliad.

      3. One thing that repeatedly surprised me throughout the Iliad was how fellow women, especially the goddesses, were not disgusted and angered by the use of other women as war prizes and trophies. Instead their perceived understanding of Achilles’ anger at losing his “prize” and not their outrage at his behavior was something I thought was astounding. I was especially surprised by the behavior of his mother Thetus, who comforted her weeping son for having lost his prize, enraged that his deserved prize was being taken from him. In reality, this prize was a real human being, a woman, stolen from her father. Even from a tactical viewpoint Thetus did not fear the wrath of Apollo in not returning her, though morally, allowing her son to see women as prizes shocked me (I recognize this is due to time and culture related differences).

        1. I was also surprised by how women were so accepting of other women being treated as objects and literal prizes. Most of these women, including Thetus, are goddesses, and I wonder how this influenced their viewpoints on mortal women. I feel like it is quite possible that as powerful immortal beings, the goddesses did not care for individual human lives. Compared to the eternal lives of goddesses, humans exist for just a speck in time. Thus, it would make sense that Thetus would care more about Achilles losing his “prize” than about the mortal woman who in comparison, is minuscule and insignificant in the grand scheme of her own life.

        2. I unfortunately was not surprised by the way women were treated within this story, as well as the goddess being so accepting of this behavior. In this time of heroes, taking “war prizes” was not only the norm, but the expectation, which is more a commentary on the culture of the time. If reading this with a focus on Achilles, this story is about glory and wanting to do anything to save it, so when Achilles claims to be humiliated when his “prize” Briseis is taken from him, his glory, fame, honor, or whatever you wish to call it is put at risk which is the most intense way to dishonor someone during this period of time. Additionally I am not surprised by Thetus’ attempts to console Achilles. As a goddess herself she is also selfish and wants her sons glory for her own personal benefit and she will do whatever she can to get it.

      4. What stuck out to me was how the conflicts over women in The Iliad are actually not about the women at all. Of course the entire conflict with Troy is over Helen but what stuck out the me was the conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles over Briseis. In Book 1, Achilles says that Agamemnon “Has taken away my prize and dishonored me” (1.370). However, when Agamemnon attempts to convince Achilles to enter the war in Book 9, he offers to return Briseis but Achilles refuses. “It doesn’t matter/ That I won her with my spear. He took her,/ Took her right out of my hands, cheated me,/ And now he thinks he is going to win me back?” (9.351-354). Achilles doesn’t actually care that Briseis was taken away. If he did love her as he claimed, he wouldn’t have refused the deal to get her back. Achilles cares more that he was slighted than about Briseis. While the story of Helen is a bit more complex, it is true that the men fighting for Helen have a similar mindset to Achilles and his view of Briseis as a prize that he won and thus deserves.

      5. The argument between Hera and Zeus at the end of Book 1 was fascinating to me, specifically how normal it was for two incredibly powerful Gods. They bicker like a mortal married couple (very aggressively),and it is even moderated by their own son Hephaestus. For example, Zeus ridiculously says, “You witch. Your intuitions are always right. But what does that get you? Nothing, except I like you less than ever,” (Homer, 18). Their argument serves as comic relief, as their petty comments seem laughable coming from people so powerful.

        1. I actually thought that the argument between Zeus and Hera at the end of chapter 1 was more serious than just comic relief. Yes, some of their comments seem petty in comparison to their statuses as gods. However, Zeus escalates the conversation by warning, “You see these hands? All the gods on Olympus won’t be able to help you if I ever lay them on you” (599-600). This comment brings a much more serious tone to the conversation, and shows the tendency for men to resort to violence in response to women. Hephaestus then tells Hera that she “[has] to be pleasant with our father Zeus so he won’t be angry and ruin our feast,” implying that Hera is the one to blame, even though Zeus threatened to act violently (611-612).

      6. In Book 9 I found the passage with the conversation between Achilles and Odysseus very candid and raw. Achilles is melancholically plucking strings on a lyre, contemplating his future after tirelessly fighting in the war. He appears unconcerned about the material goods Agamemnon is offering him: “seven unfired tripods, ten gold bars, twenty burnished cauldrons, a dozen horses — solid, prizewinning racehorses who have won him a small fortune — and seven women who do impeccable work, surpassingly beautiful women from Lesbos he chose for himself when you captured the town” (9.58-9. 267-273). Even though one would expect the riches, fame, and women to satisfy most Greek men, Achilles does not seem content with the goods offered to him in proportion to the sacrifices and efforts he endured. He asserts that “In the end, everybody comes out the same. Coward and hero get the same reward: You die whether you slack off or work” (9.60.325-327). His metaphysical musings change the way I view Greek heroes and what it truly means to have the fame, glory, and status associated with being a hero. Is it enough to receive recognition, or is there truly nothing that delineates one man from the other as everyone is destined to the same ultimate fate of death?

      7. Something I found disturbing in the reading was the way Chryseis and Briseis were treated in Book 1. Throughout the Book the girls are sexualized, objectified, and treated as if their lives have no other value than to act as a bargaining chip for the men who hold them captive. Chryseis and Briseis are almost always referred to as “the girl” or “my prize” instead of their real names, which I think is indicative of the way these men view women. I was surprised to read that Thetis, a woman and Goddess, also addressed Briseis as a “prize” when pleading to Zeus to intervene in her capture. Book 1 demonstrated the value, or lack thereof, given to young women lives and how they were only worth saving to satisfy a man’s desire for a prize.

      8. The interactions about women, specifically between women, stuck out to me. I went to an all-girls’ school growing up, and I felt like even if we all didn’t get along all the time, we could all bond by just having a “female experience” — standing up for each other and bonding over injustice. However, I was really not expecting the Iliad to go against my notion of female relationships so strongly. The goddesses, for example, had no problem completely objectifying women (different times, I get it). This makes me wonder how a Greek audience would react to Briseis. Achilles literally says that he “won her”. The language that other women would use when referring to her was incredibly objectifying and demeaning, as she was called “girl” and “prize”, but hardly ever by her actual name. I truly wonder how women in the audience would interpret this epic, especially when they had husbands themselves. Did they feel like prizes to be won?

      9. Something that stood out to me a lot within the text were moments where the immortal gods assert the idea that the fate of mortals, is something that should not be interfered with. The gods often express an apprehension towards saving a man who is destined or fated to die, as if this interferes with the natural order in some way. On page 54, Hector mentions that “no man has ever escaped his fate, rich or poor, Coward or hero, once born into this world”. Hera expresses her deep disapproval of Zeus mentioning that he may save Sarpedon from being killed by Patroclus–Hera mentions that Sarpedon is a mortal man, whose “fate has long been fixed”(p. 90), and that Zeus he does so, he would have to expect that the other gods do the same and save their sons from fated death as well. I thought it was interesting how death and fate are being portrayed here, and how it seems that a death that is fated, even if it is the death of a god’s own son, is something that must happen at the destined time, and is not something to be interfered with–the gods are expected to withhold from saving anyone from a fated death even if it is their own son or their own family. To me, this seemed to emphasize a belief that mortal death is something that is set in stone and unchangeable–mortal death is natural and inevitable in the Greek world, something that the gods need not worry themselves with or intervene in.

      10. I think I found this translation of the Iliad entertaining. I say entertaining because some of the translations connected as pop culture references or references to memes in my head. For example, even though it’s a serious scene between Zeus and Hera, when he says “you see this hands?” Makes me think of the meme “you wanna catch these hands?”. It’s a very serious scene which talks about domestic violence, but the phrasing of the scene reminded me of that meme. I found the translation to be pretty good overall because of how easy it was to digest and imagine. I think it was descriptive enough for my brain to imagine what was happening, but not too descriptive to then the message be lost.

      11. One thing I found surprising about the Iliad, even though I have read it before, is that Helen is a daughter of Zeus. I always figured that children of gods would receive some special preference or strength, and yet, even though Helen is a daughter of Zeus, she receives none of that beyond beauty. Either this is because Helen is a women (and women are not treated well in this), or my assumption of the strength of the children of the gods was wrong.

        1. I was also very surprised by this. Especially after reading Percy Jackson, since the children of the gods, not to mention the big three, all had some sort of special power. I also find it interesting how Helen character is almost just a “pretty face” and how her beauty is made to be the main aspect of her life. Even the whole point in going to troy was to see which girl was the prettiest.

      12. I found Hector’s funeral rites deeply affecting, particularly the speeches of his wife, Andromache, and his mother, Hecuba. Most striking to me, however, was the figurative language within the scene. The quality of light is remarked upon a few times near the beginning and the end of the section: “Dawn spread her saffron light over earth”(24.745) and “light blossomed like roses in the eastern sky” (24.845). These images seemed to conjure the same luminous quality that Hector possessed in life; the shine of his helmet that represented both his valor and his sense of duty in a sense reborn with the rising light of the day. The funeral at dawn suggests both the continuation of time and life without Hector, a reminder of his absence, as much as it suggests, with its light, the longevity of his memory on earth.

      13. One moment that particularly stuck out to me was towards the end of Book 24, when Priam grieves with Achilles. This moment was honestly heartbreaking. Each man had lost so much and arguably at the other’s hands. And yet the men are somehow able to set aside their differences and grieve together for the men they loved and lost. The thing that holds us all in common, at least according to this text, is not love or hatred or rage but grief.

      14. To add to this conversation about women in the Iliad, I too was struck by the idea of using women and their sexuality as a prize or strategical tool. For example, in book fourteen, Hera uses both her own sexuality and auctions off her daughters as prizes as a strategy to trick Zeus. In order to convince Sleep to put Zeus asleep, she promises her daughter’s hand in marriage. Because the task is so risky, Sleep bargains with Hera to ensure that he truly will be entitled to her daughter. Once Sleep is on her side, Hera seduces Zeus, with the aid of Aphrodite’s belt. This depicts Hera’s sexuality and beauty as her skill, something to be desired and giving her power over the all-mighty Zeus. It almost makes the male characters in this seem weak as they so easily succumb to their desires for women.

      15. I found it interesting how even though the gods often preached the fate of the men were already determined and out of the gods control and part of fate, many gods, especially Aphrodite, directly step into the fray and change the course of the war. I am also confused why Aphrodite is so determined to keep Paris alive after she already won the contest between the goddesses, because the sheer amount of casualties and all the love lost because of them surely outweighs a love that she forced (in this translation).

      1. In book 9 Achilles answers Phoenix by saying “Don’t try to confuse me with your pleading on Agamemnon’s behalf. If you’re his friend you’re no longer mine, although I love you. Hate him because I hate him. It’s as simple as that” (lines 629-632). I was moved by this quote as Achilles clearly laid out the expectations he had of his friends and asked them to stand by his side or to leave. He didn’t demand Phoenix’s support or guilt him with their past history but instead just stated his love for Phoenix and gave him a clear choice.

        1. I also thought this was a weird and interesting comment. He starts off by saying ” Now listen to this. You’re listening? Good “( line 628) and ends with “It’s as simple as that”. This shows how strongly Achilles feels that Phoenix must hate Agamemnon. He stated his expectations with absolute certainty, making it feel like a demand.

      2. One moment early on in Book 1 that I enjoyed reading was the initial argument between Achilles and Agamemnon in which the topic of what Agamemnon should do with the girl is debated. I think the language is particularly interesting and also entertaining because it evokes a lot of emotion that creates a relatability factor between the reader and the two characters. In their argument, as the reader, you can hear Achilles sarcasm when he asks Agamemnon if he thinks that there is a stockpile of reserve prizes for him. Similarly, Agamemnon’s frustration over not getting his way makes him seem almost like a child who isn’t getting what he wants. I think these two aspects of the dialogue between the two characters makes this argument particularly fun to read.

      3. Even just beginning the reading, I found some of the descriptions alienating. I wonder whether it is a symptom of the translation or an artifact of the text itself and the Greeks visualizing things in a different way. The first one I can place that made me pause and consider the feeling that Homer was trying to evoke was “the dancing-eyed girl” (line 104). In the sense of translation, I wonder whether I prefer a direct translation or one that is modified for a modern audience’s accessibility. Because a direct translation still loses a kind of idiom nature, but a modernized translation loses the relic of the language? I think for casual reading I would prefer a translation like Emily Wilson’s Odyssey because of its ease of reading and unique perspective.

      4. While reading Homer’s Iliad, I kept noticing the differences in power dynamics between characters, specifically in the intersection of gender and mortality. For example, Zeus tells Hera “…don’t hope to know all my secret thoughts. It would strain your mind” (18). This type of condescension is prevalent in the interactions of these two figures, and implies the presence of a patriarchal, misogynistic society. However, Hera, by virtue of being an immortal goddess, holds power over the Greeks and Trojans, continually intervening in their war. While she is an independent character, her freedom is qualified.

      5. Something that I found interesting in this reading is in book 1, very early on the story (line 15) Apollo had already become enraged and cast a plague upon the Greek camp after Chryse’s daughter had been taken. I found it very interesting that Apollo acted so quickly for Chryse, however it did not surprise me that he acted in a such an extreme way. Slightly later in book 1, Athena utilizes her power to convince Achilles to use his words to insult Agamemnon instead of killing him. The gods clearly are very powerful beings, and are able to exhibit power both internally and externally. This makes me wonder then, if the gods get so angry so easily and exhibit so much power, why wouldn’t they always just destroy the problem at hand? Apollo could so easily wipe out an entire population, and Athena could manipulate someone’s mind with no problem. Why do they keep humans around? Do they not completely wipe them because they enjoy toying with them?

        1. I think you brought up a great point regarding Book 1, and you raised very interesting questions at the end. I think that the gods choose to keep humans around because it gives them a sense of power. I feel that the gods “toy” with the humans because it re-ensures that they have power over “inferior” beings like humans. Without humans, then there would basically only be gods who all have such magnificent powers. However, at that point, none of them would be “superior” or “powerful” because there would only be gods.

      6. In Book 3 when Paris and Menelaus fight each other for Helen while the Trojan and Greek armies watch on, I found the description of the area that they fight in. This translator calls it “no-man’s-land” which I think is such an eerie yet fitting term for the fighting circle. This word invokes a sort of doom about the place, and given that many people hearing the story of the Trojan War already know that this is not going to be the easy ending it at first appears to be, it holds important dramatic irony. Further, the heavy influence of the gods in this scene is reflected in this description, since it is mostly a gods’ fight rather than a fight that humans are in full control of.

      7. One point in book one that did not surprise me but really made me stop an think about the overall message was the gender roles that appear, which we have seen again and again. Specifically, when Athena appears in order to check the anger of Achilles. It is interesting that it is such a masculine stereotype for a man to be so completely overtaken with anger only to be calmed down by a woman. What I find particularly interesting though is that it is logic and reason which are used to calm him down as opposed to the typical feminine trope of the woman being a reminder of gentler things and to turn away from violence.

      8. While reading book 1, a particular quote that stood out to me was the inhumane way Zeus speaks to his wife Hera, which shines a light on gender roles within marriage in Ancient Greece: “‘If it’s as you think it is, it’s my business, not yours. So sit down and shut up and do as I say. You see these hands? All the gods on Olympus won’t be able to help you if I ever lay them on you’. Hera lost her nerve when she heard this. She sat down in silence, fear cramping her heart” (18).

        For context, Hera noticed that Zeus was speaking to Thetis, and questioned him about making secret plots behind her back. What surprised me the most was the abusive way in which Zeus responded to Hera and her concerns. He threatens her with violence and says that no one would ever be able to help her if he decided to lay his hands on her. Within the quote, we can see the fear that consumes Hera. I wasn’t shocked by his response as I knew the gods, especially Zeus, were sexually violent and abusive, but it surprised me how he spoke to his wife, whom he is supposed to love. It revealed that fear and power are at the forefront of relationships between the gods rather than love and compassion.

        1. I think this is a great quote that shows the relationship dynamics of all of the Gods. Just as we see Zeus being abusive here, all of the other Gods are guilty of this as well. Hera and Zeus are regularly abusive towards one another. It makes me think of the Greek definition of “hero” as well. We have come to think of heroes as being virtuous individuals, whereas the Greeks did not see it that way. Similarly, in modern society most theistic religions seem to adopt the idea that God (or the Gods) are good. The Greeks clearly do not believe this about their own Gods.

          1. I found the interactions between Zeus and Hera to be quite funny. They honestly seem like regular humans with simply a lot more power at their disposal. Zeus only seeks to help the Trojans because of a favor he owes to Thetis. However, he fears his wife’s wrath like any other husband, which causes him to pause and contemplate his decision. Zeus and Hera’s interactions, although literally quite vicious and abusive as you say, were honestly quite harmless when comparing the struggles occurring between the mortals that they were bickering about and fighting over. Agamemnon and Achilles broke out into an argument in the beginning that was very heated and tense. The argument between the godly husband and wife seemed much smaller when compared to the argument between the former pair and the intense gravity the scene conveyed.

        2. This quote was incredibly surprising to me as well, and showed the abusive qualities that that the greek gods display in relationships. It was very troubling to read that scene and wonder how some of these gods have been celebrated before. I was also shocked to see some of the other negative qualities displayed by the greek gods throughout book 1. Another one of these negative qualities is displayed by Agamemnon and Achilles when their argument comes at the expense of the Archean army. Both of them act selfish with little regard for other life. This results in a power hungry argument, thinking they both deserve more and will take out nearly anything in their way to do so. The greek gods display of abusive qualities and acting without morals also makes me question the idea of a “hero”, as Owen mentions as well. Because gods are typically associated with the idea of a hero in many modern cultures, it makes me question the clear negative qualities that were associated with the greek gods throughout the story.

      9. I’m still recovering from the scene between Hector and Andromache. I didn’t expect this epic to be so “human”. The myths in the tragedies and the Metamorphoses are much less relatable, perhaps because of the style and insufficient space. So I just watched from afar that “oh he killed his mom” “okay she killed her kids” without thinking about the emotional effects on the characters. But in the Iliad, I can tell from the tender details that the author really sees the characters as humans and actually cares.
        At 2.22 there’s Agamemnon “wrapped in deep, starlit slumber”, which reminds me of a saying that “if you want to stop hating someone, just watch them sleep”. With all the terrible things he has done (and will keep doing), Agamemnon still has this fragile and innocent side in sleep.
        The description of the soldiers standing in the field is especially touching in 2.504: “And they stood in the flowering meadow there,/ Countless as leaves, or as flowers in their season.” An ancient Chinese poem compares the enemy troop to “dark clouds bearing down on the city”, which is a stark contrast. The author chooses to compare these soldiers to something very alive and beautiful. I really appreciate the author for acknowledging the individual life of each man on the battlefield, instead of dismissing them as a number.
        And finally there’s Andromache “laughing through her tears” (6.509), which is a very human and intimate detail that the author must have fully loved and cared in their life to capture it (like the texture of hair conditioner or the taste of rust after running in cold wind). Again, it shows how much tenderness the author carries for each character, who are already people.
        I also really like the image of the shimmering helmet. There’s a sense of fate and cosmic indifference in it. Long after Hector is gone, will someone pick up his helmet and examine it in the sun, remembering that he loved and others loved him too? The sunlight doesn’t know, and doesn’t care. I think of the final line from a play called Sunrise by Cao Yu: “The sun is up. Darkness is left behind. But the sun is not ours. We are going to bed.” But of course, one could argue that the sunlight signifies the loving gaze of gods over all humans.

        1. I was also moved by the scene with Hector and Andromache. Before I read Book 6, if I thought of Hector at all, I viewed him as a generic enemy, a villain for killing Patroclus. However, as he interacted with his mother, then Helen, and then Andromache, he became more human in my eyes. I remembered that, when he killed him, Hector thought Patroclus was Achilles, who had killed Andromache’s entire family. “Achilles killed my father… I had seven brothers… cut down by Achilles in one blinding sprint.” (6.436) Not only did Hector probably want Achilles to die instead of himself so Andromache wouldn’t be all alone, but he probably viewed his murder of “Achilles” as revenge on Andromache’s behalf. I find this ironic because it’s nearly the same exact reason for which Achilles kills Hector: vengeance for a loved one. Feeling intense pain when our loved ones are in pain or die is a universal human experience, so it helps the reader feel emotionally connected to these characters. It also shows how fundamentally similar Hector and Achilles are, reminding the reader that the war is arbitrary because they are both fighting for the same thing.

      10. One aspect in all of the books that I particularly enjoy is the humanity that we see in all of the different characters, including the gods. It makes the books much easier to relate to, engage with, and believe. For example, we see Zeus and Athena arguing in book 1, the bickering/brotherly relationship between Paris and Hector, and the romantic relationship between Hector and Andromache.

      11. I thought a thought-provoking quote was from book 9 when Achilles says “It doesn’t matter if you stay in the camp or fight – in the end, everybody comes out the same. Coward and hero get the same reward: you did whether you slack off or work. And what do I have for all my suffering, constantly putting my life on the line” (lines 324-329). This quote stuck out to me because of our discussions of the afterlife in Greek mythology and culture and how everyone goes to the fields of Asphodel so the best thing heroes can do is try to be remembered and have stories told about them. However, in this quote Achilles is questioning whether it is worth it for him to continue fighting if in the end it doesn’t make a difference. But despite this reasoning, heroes continue to fight to try to be remembered because of the social pressure and norms of the culture making them feel like they do not have a choice.

      1. While reading Book 9, a passage that stuck out to me was Achilles, speaking to Odysseus, states:
        “I have no choice but to speak my mind and tell you exactly how things are going to be. Either that or sit through endless sessions of people whining at me. I hate it like I hate hell, the man who says one thing and thinks another. So this is how I see it. I cannot imagine Agamemnon, or any other Greek, persuading me, not after the thanks I got for fighting this war, going up against the enemy day after day. It doesn’t matter if you stay in camp or fight- In the end, everybody comes out the same. Coward and hero get the same reward: You die whether you slack off or work” (325).
        This passage evoked a level of understanding and sympathizing with me. I enjoyed this because the first part resonated with me as he expresses his distain towards people who are two-faced. Achilles, worn down from sacking 12+ cities and fighting nonstop is sick of superfluous conversation and not being real. This is a great element of Achilles as a character as he is always seen as this “unkillable” hero who is nothing more than a machine of war. But, in this passage Achilles sort of cuts the BS and has a moment where a real truth is told about the nature of war being that regardless of if you are a hero or coward during it, death is ultimately the gift you are all eventually given.

        1. Book 9 also had a passage that stood out to me, and it is on 58 through 59 when Agamemnon bribes Achilles to keep fighting in the war against the Trojans. Agamemnon’s bribe included “ten gold bars, twenty burnished cauldrons, a dozen horses… and seven women who do impeccable work”. The first few items on this list did not surprise me as gold and horses, for example, are typical gifts given in these types of stories. Even in more modern context and literature do we see gold and horses used as bribes and gift. The last item on the list, however, definitely surprised me in a negative way. If I interpreted the text correctly, it seems Achilles is bribed with seven women if he remains in the war against the Trojans. I am definitely off-put with the idea that women were used as bribes in the past and this is a theme of greek mythology that I am now getting exposed to for the first time.

      2. I was surprised by the passage on page 47 in Book 6, which focused on Hector’s mother. I agree with what other people have been saying that women are mostly treated as possessions in the story, so I did not expect them to take part in trying to prevent the war by praying to Athena. Even when Hecuba reminded Athena that the war would harm the wives and children of Troy, Athena did not respond to her prayer. I wonder if Hecuba chose to pray to a female goddess because she thought that one would be more inclined to help women. Athena’s refusal to answer the prayer emphasizes how the gods are motivated by their own self interest even at the cost of others.

        1. I also thought this part was very interesting. It is clear that misogyny is a theme throughout the Illiad, but this part seems to provide a rare instance of counteracting that theme by praying to Athena. This reminded me of Andromache’s speech in Book 6, where she discussses her sadness as a mother thinking about the impact on her life if her son dies in the battle. She says, “Hector, you are my father, you are my mother,/You are my brother and my blossoming husband” (6.451-52). I liked how this part displayed female emotion. It also showed how the war has deep effects on the families of those fighting, and not just the fighters themselves.

      3. A moment that stood out to me was at the end of book 1, where Zeus and Hera are arguing. I was a bit surprised by how aggressive Zeus was towards Hera, and how little he thought of her. Zeus states “Hera, don’t hope to know all my secret thoughts. It would strain your mind even though you are my wife” (Iliad, 1.578-579). It is evident the power dynamic between Zeus and Hera and the role that gender plays. Zeus continues, “You witch! … So sit down and shut up and do as I say” (Iliad, 1.594, 1.598). While Hera attempts to stand up for herself, Zeus makes it clear that he doesn’t respect her and is quite rude to her. I think that this disagreement shines light on the day to day lives of the Gods, especially with how the first book ends with Zeus and Hera enjoying the night.

        1. I completely agree as I was also surprised with Zeus and Hera’s interaction. The moment that stood out to me was when their son Hephaestus said, “I know it’s hard, Mother, but you have to endure it. I don’t want to see you getting beat up, and men Unable to help you. The Olympian can be rough. Once before when I tried to rescue you He flipped me by my foot off our balcony” (1.619-623). Zeus is not only abusive towards Hera, but also towards his son. The fact that Hephaestus tried to intervene but was also hurt in the process shows how the Greek gods are not morally upstanding, they are just very powerful and use this power for their own benefits. It seems that it is a regular thing for Zeus to disrespect Hera.

      4. It was rather interesting in book 1 that Achilles had an emotional response. Achilles is usually portrayed as a hero and yet “in tears, withdrew from his friends and sat down far away” (page 7, 362-363) after Briseis was taken away from him. However, a few lines later he says “Agamemnon Has taken away my prize and dishonoured me.” (page7-8, 369-370) which almost instantly took away from the experience of Achilles emotions. It is jarring because even in a time of emotional vulnerability Achilles justifies his reaction for completely the wrong reason. It suggests that Achilles viewed Briseis as an object that complimented his own ego.

        1. I agree that Achilles viewed Briseis as an object but I think her being taken away from him revealed deeper emotion turmoil within Achilles. His ultimate goal at this point seems to be glory, something that was promised to him by Zeus. So in this scene, while he is complaining about the loss of Briseis, he might also be lamenting the lack of control he feels he has in his own life. He says to his mother, “since you bore me for a short life only, Olympian Zeus was supposed to grant me honor”. This sentence implies that his entire life has been decided for him. So him having no control over Briseis might have just been a reminder of how he feels he has no control over anything.

          1. This is a really interesting point when thinking about heroes and how they are depicted. I think Achilles’ role as a hero, and his ideas of what a hero is supposed to do and be, factors into this emotional response he has.

      5. I found it particularly funny when Agamemnon said that he gave up in order to motivate his army, but the reverse psychology actually worked against him and the soldiers ended up running away as well. We can see this when he yells “cut and run!” (2.164). I liked this moment because Agamemnon is quite a hateable character, so seeing his strategy backfire was very enjoyable.

      6. A moment in the text that stuck out to me was in book 16: “While they fought for this ship, Patroclus came to Achilles and stood by him weeping, his face like a sheer rock where the goat trails end and dark springwater washes down the stone” (Lines 1-4). One reason why this part was striking to me was because of the emotions that Patroclus shows. As we talked about in class on Tuesday, while it was fairly common for men characters to show emotion and openly weep in Ancient Greek works, I feel like today in our society, this is way less accepted. It’s rare (although it’s becoming more common as time goes by and we transition to becoming a more accepting society) that I read anything where a man is shown with any emotions aside from anger or neutrality. For me, this was refreshing to see, and the idea of it being “refreshing” in itself is kind of interesting because the Iliad was written so long ago. Another part of this passage that I enjoyed was the rich language that Homer used to describe Patroclus’ face as he weeped, as the contrast between the images of stone (something hardened and hard to break) and water (something that is soft but is still capable of eroding rock) is quite striking.

      7. I was caught a little bit off guard while reading the description of Thersites in book two while the soldiers assembled on the beach. Usually when an individual soldier is singled out in a story with heroes, they’re portrayed as brave, strong, or heroic – or in the case that they’re villainous, cunning and powerful. Which is why I was surprised to see Thersites described purely by his appearance, which is apparently less than desirable. He’s illustrated as being the “ugliest soldier”, who is “bowlegged”, has a “caved-in chest”, and “walk[s] with a limp” (2.236-2.238). It sounds like Thersites has some form of physical disability (whether it was from birth, or something that came as a result of fighting in various battles), and the description makes a direct connection between his disability and ugliness – something that would certainly be a source of outrage (rightfully so) today.

      8. There were several moments that stuck with me as I was reading the last few books of the reading, but the one that first comes to mind is during Andromache’s scene with Hector [and Scamandrius] at the end of Book 6. Honestly Hector’s scenes with his mom and his wife & son are both so heart-wrenching, even if you go in to this reading without knowing their fates ahead of time, but his moments with Andromache and Scamandrius made me pretty emotional. Like when Andromache cries as she pleads for Hector to not leave her a widow and their son an orphan, telling her husband that when she loses him “there will be nothing left, no one to turn to, only pain” (433-435) and that he is her everything (451-452), and in response Hector confides in her that he is just as worried as she is but willing and ready to die to try and protect her and their son. The pre-emptive, anticipatory grief, the bittersweet combination of deep love and devotion with fear and heartbreak, the desperation to keep the people you love safe while you fear/know, deep down, that your best efforts won’t be enough…. That definitely caught me by surprise and kind of cut me to the core. I hadn’t really been expecting such an emotionally vulnerable and soft scene when I started book one of the reading, and I can’t help but wonder at what it must be like to hear a scene like this performed orally by a storyteller instead of reading it on a page.

    1. Something that surprised me about the Iliad was Achilles refusal to fight the Trojans after being wronged by Agamemnon. Everything leading up to this point, Achilles was looked at as the greatest fighter the world had ever seen, and he was proving this on the battlefield. However, his own needs were placed above those around him immediately, a comparison that can be seen in other heroes in Greek myths. His own pride is worth more to him than the lives of those fighting around him, and while he does take a step back to determine what they are truly fighting for, he only does this because he has personally been wronged.

      1. I was also surprised by this moment and the way in which Achilles, throughout the story, acts very selfishly and perhaps with twisted motives. Specifically also thinking about his relationship to Petracles and the reaction invoked by his death. This reminds me of the discussion we had about what a greek hero is compared to our traditional values of a hero. I wonder if people looked up to this type of hero and tried to model it in their own lives? What impact does this have on greek society and social norms?

    2. In an almost opposing vein to your comment about Achilles’ refusal to put others before himself-I was especially struck by the moments of familial tenderness shown by Hector when he is about to go into battle. This particular moment is when Hector’s son is scared of his fathers rather imposing plumed war helmet and “shrinks back into his nurses bosom” ; seeing his sons discomfort, Hector removes his war helmet to give his son a hug instead of keeping the scary helmet on and hugging his son anyway. In an epic about godly rage and battle where heroes are almost encouraged to think of themselves and their legacies ahead of ‘common decency’ (as defined from my decidedly flawed modern perspective), this universal moment of heart really touched me in a way that I was not expecting an epic battle narrative to.

    3. One moment I found to be enlightening, and a little bit funny, was on page 6. Achilles comments that “When you two speak, Goddess, a man has to listen, No matter how angry. It’s better that way. Obey the gods and they hear you when you pray.” This line felt like a good signal of sentiment towards the gods, in that people should fear them and obey them no matter what. I also found this to be funny because of the gender implications; Achilles is saying this to Athena in reference to men, even though in ancient Greece, any woman who isn’t a goddess wouldn’t be given close to this much respect.

      1. Building off your comment about the role of women in the text, I found the scene where Helen attempts to refuse Aphrodite’s summons to Paris’ bedroom to be particularly poignant. In this passage and in others, Helen insults herself and blames herself for the war despite her lack of control over her own fate. Here she calls herself Menaleus’ “hateful wife” (432) and talks about how “it would be treason to share [Paris’] bed” (438-439).
        Two things really stuck out to me in this passage. The first was Aphrodite threatening and insulting Helen, calling her a “bitch” (442) and saying that she could “make [Helen] repulsive to both sides” (444) with no where to go if she doesn’t do what Aphrodite asks. The second was when Helen talks about “hav[ing] enough pain as it is” (440) and indirectly alludes to herself as Paris’ “wife […] or […] his slave” (437). It really shows Helen’s self-blames and her lack of freedom and choice about being taken by Paris and Aphrodite. Still, she is held at fault by herself and by “the Trojan women” (439).

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