full title The Iliad
type of work Poem
language Ancient Greek
time and place written Unknown, but probably mainland Greece, around 750 b.c.
date of first publication Unknown
narrator The poet, who declares himself to be the medium through which one or many of the Muses speak
point of view The narrator speaks in the third person. An omniscient narrator (he has access to every character’s mind), he frequently gives insight into the thoughts and feelings of even minor characters, gods and mortals alike.
tone Awe-inspired, ironic, lamenting, pitying
setting (time) Bronze Age (around the twelfth or thirteenth century b.c.); The Iliad begins nine years after the start of the Trojan War
setting (place) Troy (a city in what is now northwestern Turkey) and its immediate environs
major conflict Agamemnon’s demand for Achilles’ war prize, the maiden Briseis, wounds Achilles’ pride; Achilles’ consequent refusal to fight causes the Achaeans to suffer greatly in their battle against the Trojans.
rising action Hector’s assault on the Achaean ships; the return of Patroclus to combat; the death of Patroclus
climax Achilles’ return to combat turns the tide against the Trojans once and for all and ensures the fated fall of Troy to which the poet has alluded throughout the poem.
falling action The retreat of the Trojan army; Achilles’ revenge on Hector; the Achaeans’ desecration of Hector’s corpse
themes The glory of war; military values over family life; the impermanence of human life and its creations
motifs Armor; burial; fire
symbols The Achaean ships; the shield of Achilles
foreshadowing Foreshadowing is prominent in The Iliad, as the poet constantly refers to events that have yet to occur and to fated outcomes. Patroclus’s return to battle foreshadows Achilles’ return to battle, for example, and Hector’s taunting of the dead Patroclus foreshadows the desecration of his own corpse by Achilles. Also, Achilles and Hector themselves make references to their own fates—about which they have been informed; technically, only Hector’s references foreshadow any event in the poem itself, however, as Achilles dies after the close of the epic.