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The Iliad


Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title  · The Iliad

author  · Homer

type of work  · Poem

genre · Epic

language  · Ancient Greek

time and place written  · Unknown, but probably mainland Greece, around 750 b.c.

date of first publication  · Unknown

publisher  · 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

tense  · Past

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

protagonist  · Achilles

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.