“Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilles” The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem attributed to the Greek poet Homer written in Homeric Greek in dactylic hexameter (six feet to a line with one long syllable followed by two short syllables to a foot). Imagine the poem being recited in rhythm accompanied by music to a rapt audience.
The listeners who lived in a world filled with gods and goddesses knew well the danger of attracting the attention or anger of the pantheon. In the worldview of the ancient Greeks, the gods and goddesses lived and walked among them – involving themselves in the affairs of men, punishing and procreating at will.
Written during the 8th century BC, The Iliad and its sequel, The Odyssey, are among the oldest extant works of Western literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by a coalition of Greek states. While relating the tales of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles in the last year of the war, it actually tells the whole story of the ten-year-long conflict.
Loads have been written over the centuries about Homer (see pic), mostly guesses and speculation. Early stories place him coming from various parts of Greece. Tradition has him blind, but that could just be a myth perpetuated by later generations based on a mistranslation of an early author. His own writing tells little about him but his heroes are the rich and famous rather than of the poor.
Over the next few weeks, while I’m immersed in one of my writing marathons, my Monday posts will relate the tragic tales of the ancient Greeks that reflect themes that recur in literature across the ages.
Next week, The Hero of the Iliad Rita Bay