Description of the Events Surrounding the Epic Poem "The Iliad"

The events surrounding Homer's epic poem "The Iliad" are as complex as the story plot and the characters themselves. This tragic, yet inspirational, Greek poem details the struggles and conflicts between human characters and the gods (and among the gods themselves). Both mortals and immortals react out of selfishness and pride, and during the journey learn to forgive. Events surrounding the poem provide critical information that allows readers to understand just how tumultuous love and revenge can be.

Paris and Helen

The back story to "The Iliad" provides vital information as to why the poem centers on the Trojan War. According to Greek mythology, Zeus received a golden apple addressed to "the fairest" and was forced to choose a goddess as the recipient. He didn't want to face the wrath of the women who were not chosen, so he asked his son Paris to decide. Athena, Hera and Aphrodite each tried to convince Paris to choose them. After a number of contests, he eventually chose Aphrodite because she promised him the love of the beautiful demigod Helen. Paris didn't realize that Aphrodite had ulterior motives. As a result of Paris' decision, Athena and Hera devised the destruction of Troy to get back at Aphrodite.

The Trojan War

According to history and mythology, Troy was a prosperous city in what is now Turkey that was in constant competition with Greece. Both economies were dependent on sea trade, so rivalry between the nations was unavoidable. Somewhere between 1450 and 1250 B.C., war broke out between the Greeks and Trojans, according to David Jordan, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of California at San Diego. With the war that would bring about the destruction of Troy, instigated by the outcome of Paris and Helen's back story, the Greek gods were forced to take sides.

Conflicts Among the Gods

Major events surrounding the plot of "The Iliad" were also influenced by conflict in the heavens and disagreements among the Greek gods. Throughout Greek mythology, they often fought for supremacy and had hidden agendas. For example, the goddess Hera despised the Trojans because they descended from her husband's illegitimate son. Helen's human father Tyndareus was forced to protect his half-god, half-human daughter, knowing that the gods played favorites. Tension between the gods result in emotional decisions within the epic poem that affect specific battles and the eventual outcome of the war.

Achilles' Personal Struggle

Achilles, the main protagonist of "The Iliad," is half-human and half-god, so he has the strength and combat skill of a god but must function on earth as a man. His underlying struggle is the basis for the poem. Achilles wants Zeus to punish Agamemnon for taking his war-purchased lover, Briseis. He asks his mother to persuade Zeus to side with the Trojans against the Greeks out of revenge. "The Iliad" is about Achilles' physical and emotional journey to address his jealousy, subdue his pride and face his opposition. Eventually, he makes peace with himself and returns to fight for the Greeks.

Cite this Article