The Iliad ~ Book I & Book II

The Iliad Read-along

Normally with my read-alongs, I post my summaries and comments at the end of the week of the scheduled read to allow people to absorb the work before they read what I have to say.  But this poem can be a little overwhelming on a first read with all its different names and unfamiliar customs, so I’m going to TRY and post as the beginning or middle of the scheduled section.  Hopefully my posts can help you navigate through it and perhaps add some understanding to assist you on your way.

Homer Mattia Preti

Homer (1635) Mattia Preti
~ source Wikimedia Commons

And so our read begins.  As a heads up, not only are there many characters in this book, there can be many names for the same character or group (eg. Achaians / Argives / Danaans).  Much of the time, this is due to the fact the poet/translator is attempting to keep the meter of the poem and needs certain syllables or stresses. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to place them in the comments below.  I will do my best to answer!

Although The Iliad (and The Odyssey) comes out of an oral Greek tradition, when these works finally were written down (scholars think this was around the 8th century B.C., but they are not certain), they became primary cultural texts with which every educated Greek was familiar.

The extraordinary influence of these poems on not only literary history, but art, music, drama, etc. in Western culture should not be underestimated.  They are the foundation of much of the literary works in our culture; only the Bible has had more influence in Western culture’s development.

As we read, you may notice that there are parts of the story that we know are missing: Achilles does not die in The Iliad, nor do we have the story of the Trojan horse, nor is Troy sacked.  There are other epics that told these stories which are unfortunately lost, although we have summarizes of them in other works. However it’s important to know that the Greeks of Homer’s time would have been intimately familiar with these epics.

The Anger of Achilles Jacques Louis David

The Anger of Achilles (1819) Jacques-Louis David
~ source Wikiart

Book I

μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος

οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,

πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν

ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν

οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ᾽ ἐτελείετο βουλή,           

ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε

Ἀτρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.

SING, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus. (Lattimore; lines 1-7)

The poem starts in media res, which means in the middle of the story. Agamemnon has taken hostage, Chryseis, a priestess of the temple of Apollo, and although her father, the priest (Chyrses), arrives at the Achaians’ ships, pleading for her release, Agamemnon flatly refuses to free the girl.  The priest prays to Apollo and the god shoots arrows at the Danaan ships, animals and warriors, causing a plague that kills many.  Achilleus convenes a meeting and there Kalchas, son of Thestor reveals that Apollo is angry that Agamemnon will not release the girl, nor pay a ransom, disrespecting the priest and through him, the god himself.  Angry, Agamemnon agrees to Chryseis’ release. but only if he is given another prize in return.  Trying to placate Agamemnon, Achilles says that during the sack of Troy they will acquire many treasures, and Agamemnon can then have his choice, but the king is not satisfied and threatens to take another warrior’s booty.  His attitude angers Achilles and they exchange words, Agamemnon declaring that he will take Achilles’ woman-prize, Briseis, and Achilles refusing to fight in the war.

(Achilles) “And this shall be a great oath before you: some day longing for Achilleus will come to the sons of the Achaians, all of them.  Then stricken at heart though you be, you will be able to do nothing, when in their numbers before man-slaughtering Hektor they drop and die.  And then you will eat out the heart within you in sorrow, that you did no honour to the best of the Achaians.” (lines 239-244)

Before Achilles can draw his sword to slay the king, Athena, on orders from Hera, descends and stays his arm, promising him many spoils to come.

Nestor (whom I find very long-winded whenever he speaks, yet he is a favourite of mine) attempts to create a reconciliation between the two warriors but his effort is fruitless.  There are more words between Achilles and Agamemnon; Achilles retires to his ships, and Agamemnon sends back Chryseis by ship under the care of the warrior, Odysseus, and makes hecatombs to Apollo to appease him.  He then dispatches his men to take Briseis from Achilles, complete with more posturing.  After giving up the girl, Achilles petitions his mother the goddess, Thetis, to appeal to Zeus to cause the fighting go against the Greeks and therefore restore some of Achilles’ honour.  While she does as he pleads, Zeus is nervous of Hera’s (his wife) interference, and although he agrees to Thetis’ supplication, he later has words with Hera about their meeting.  The couple part in anger, and Hephaistos appeals to his mother, Hera, not to allow men to set the gods against each other.

La colère d'Achille Michel Martin Drolling

La colère d’Achille (1810) Michel Martin Drolling
~ source Wikipedia

Achilles and Agamemnon

The two exchange words. and Agamemnon takes Achilles’ prize, the girl, Briseis.  Achilles then refuses to fight.  Who is right?  Does Agamemnon, given his position, have the right to take what he wants?  Is Achilles acting like a baby because he refuses to fight?  He is actually assisting in the defeat of those he is supposed to be fighting with.

I also noted that the men Agamemnon sent to take Briseis did so “against their will.”

What is apparent here is that Agamemnon is required to give up his prize by the will of a god.  Achilles is required to give up his prize under the compulsion of a man.  Let’s see what happens ….

Oh, and a curious parallel: Agamemnon and Achilles are bickering and set against each other when they should be allies, and Zeus and Hera are at odds when they should be working together as husband and wife.


While Zeus hesitantly agrees to Thetis’ request, the end of the story is already known.  Yet while the end is know, there is a certain amount of play or malleability (from the gods) with what happens in between.

The Feast of the Gods Giovanni Bellini

The Feast of the Gods (1514-16) Giovanni Bellini
~ source Wikiart

Book II

Zeus sends an “evil Dream” to Agamemnon which appears in the form of Nestor, Neleus’ son, a trusted advisor.  It instructs Agamemnon to arm his warriors as they will take king Priam’s city of Troy.  As Agamemnon assembles his forces, Nestor, king of Pylos, confirms the dream, saying it could be a lie if it came from anyone else but Agamemnon, and Rumor hastens to spread the deception of Zeus.

Yet curiously, Agamemnon decides to test his troops.  He delivers a speech, saying that it has been nine long years of war, that the Achaians outnumber the Trojans by more than 10 to 1, and that they should leave Troy and flee back to their homelands.  Surprisingly, the warriors rush to break camp, preparing their ships for departure, and it’s only by the intervention of Athene, under Hera’s orders, that the flight is prevented, as she counsels a disgruntled Odysseus to use his famous rhetoric in persuasion.  Grabbing Agamemnon’s sceptre, he quickly convinces the leaders to abandon their retreat and brings them back to assembly, in order and contriteness, all except Thersites, who scolds and complains.  He accuses Agamemnon of greed, ever-wanting more gold and women, but Odysseus adeptly silences his tirade, ending with:

“If once more I find you playing the fool, as you are now,

nevermore let the head of Odysseus sit on his shoulders,

let me nevermore be called Telmachos’ father,

if I do not take you and strip away your personal clothing,

your mantle and your tunic that cover over your nakedness,

and send you thus bare and howling back to the fast ships,

shipping you out of the assembly place with the strokes of indignity.”

He brings the sceptre crashing down on the shoulders of Thersites, and the Argives laugh, having nothing but scorn for the proud, annoying Thersites.

Odysseus then orates an effective speech rebuking the Argives to keep their oaths to sack Troy and interprets the prophecy of Kalchas that they will take Troy in the tenth year.  The warriors applaud Odysseus, and Nestor adds to the upbraiding, urging them to uphold their oaths.  He counsels that warriors should be sent in clans; with friends and family members they will fight more effectively and it would allow the cowards to be weeded from the courageous.  Agamemnon then responds, blaming Zeus for his quarrel with Achilles and their situation (was Zeus mentioned in the quarrel?), gives a stirring speech for war, makes a sacrifice of a 5-year-old ox, and summons his nobles who are:

  1. Nestor
  2. Idomeneus
  3. Aiantes (Ajax the Greater)
  4. Aiantes (Ajax the Lesser)
  5. Diomedes, son of Tydeus
  6. Odysseus
  7. Menelaus

After they have a mighty feast, Nestor advises speed to war and, with the help of Athene, the troops are marshalled.  Then comes a long list of leaders of the Argives who are to participate in the fighting. And so they go to battle, while at his ships, Achilles rages against Agamemnon.

But now the goddess, Iris, appears to the Trojans and, pretending that she is Polites, the son of king Priam, announces war is upon them with a force larger than they can imagine. Brave Hector, son of Priam, immediately marshals his troops and allies, gathering them on The Hill of the Thicket.  We then get a catalogue of Trojan leaders including Sarpedon (an ally), one of my favourites!

The Iliad Pope

Historic reconstruction of the landscape of Troy
~ source Wikipedia Commons

The Leadership of Agamemnon

One wonders at the strength of Agamemnon’s command and if he has the total respect of his troops, given that they are so eager to forsake their oaths and run for home.  Yet he obviously has won great fame (at least at some point) to be head of the expedition.  Is his fame great yet his character is questionable, and the two come into conflict?  I’ll pay more attention to this subject as I read along.

The Brilliance of Odysseus

The renown of Odysseus becomes apparent in the leadership he trusted with and how he employs his rhetoric and skills.  He is also presented as being honourable and trustworthy, as he is one leader who does not run for his ship to sail home after Agamemnon’s speech and, in fact, is indignant at those who do.  In the catalogue of leaders and ships, he only commands twelve, while other leaders have many more (sometimes 40 or 50), yet he is respected because of his bravery, craftiness and good sense.  It’s curious though because if his ships constitute his timê (honour/goods), he should be respected less than those who have more, yet it seems his character is above that.  Interesting ….

Shame Culture

The Greek’s culture is a shame culture.  An individual’s image and self worth is dependent on what those around him think of him, and therefore the behaviour of a person is dependent on not being shamed. Agamemnon, by taking Briseis, has not only shamed Achilles but by doing so, has damaged his very identity.

So how are you doing with the read so far?  What are you finding enjoyable and then perhaps difficult about this work?


⇐ A Schedule and a Note on Translation                  The Iliad – Book III & Book IV ⇒

40 thoughts on “The Iliad ~ Book I & Book II

  1. First of all, thanks for this. I had started to read and had to go to some articles to gain clarity, but none compare to this your post. Although one had a great point. As you explain, The Illiad starts in the middle of the Trojan war. They have been fighting for 9 years already.

    The article said that The Illiad is the conflict between Aquilles and Agamemnon, and the war is the background.

    I also remembered that, as you remark, there’s going to be lots of names. Same names, (and I didn’t know it was to keep the poetic rules), and genealogies. And the audience, as you and the article point, would have been very familiar with the background, the warriors names, and they would have enjoyed the lists very much. As the genealogies in the Bible or the presentations in The Hunger Games.

    The parallels between Zeus/Hera and Aquilles and Agamemnon are clever and thought provoking. True, Agamemnon mentioned Zeus? Is he trying to elevate his conflict to the status of the gods? Or di the gods stoop down to childish quarrels the type humans have?

    Having watched A Thin Red Line for a second time, and being watching a Spanish series called El ministerio del tiempo, where war, honor, values, are contemplated in depth, I have many thoughts in my head at the moment. But I must soak in the story to find more on all this.

    Lastly, Odysseus. Why would he be more important with lesser ships? Quality over quantity? I need to research why his fame is already notable.


    Can’t believe I have lost the other half of this long comment. It may be a sign that I have to write a post on this.

    • I agree with you Silvia that Cleo’s post here is awesome! Silvia, you shared: “The article said that The Illiad is the conflict between Aquilles and Agamemnon, and the war is the background.” Thanks for sharing this. I’ll be back in just a bit to share some things from my reading about The Iliad.

    • All the genealogies stress just how important ancestry was to the Greeks, especially the paternal aspects of it. Many of these warriors die and, as a reader, I read all the lists as I feel it’s having the proper respect for them. They were most likely real people and I think it’s easy to forget that when we read this as a “story”.

      I don’t think Agamemnon is trying to elevate the conflict. At this point, most of the fighters just want to go home, yet honour deems that they have to fulfil their obligations. I do, however, believe the gods stoop to childish conflicts. They are worse than humans at times.

      The Odysseus of The Iliad has always seemed different than the Odysseus of The Odyssey. I’m paying careful attention this time to try to discern why.

      Don’t you hate when comments disappear?!! When my comment gets long, I usually save it in my buffer (is that the right word?) just in case!

      • Exactly. The list is a way to pay respect. This time the book is coming through as more real.

        On second thought I subscribe to your best explanation. Yes, they are tired and want to go home.

        I hadn’t thought about Odysseus, but I’m also checking his appearance closer, specially after your comment.

        I must remember to save the comments, because it’s maddening, LOL.

  2. The shame culture point helps a lot.

    There won’t be an Iliad if these two men egos had not been fed by them. After saying something, they won’t go back. There’s no easy way out for these man once that certain public declarations have been made. For Agamemnon, an apology would have been seen as weakness, however, this bad decision and wanting to exert power into Aquilles by force, will backfire.

    • “There won’t be an Iliad if these two men egos had not been fed by them.”

      Yet we already know that the gods have deemed that Troy will be sacked. What is so interesting is that even though we know the outcome, we get caught up in the story. I was actually wondering if all the Greeks were going to sail for home when Agamemnon employed his “test”. Even after reading this for a third time, lol! 😂

      I think that’s the difference between Agamemnon and Achilles. Achilles decision is directly related to honour and doesn’t really affect what we think of his character. He has been dishonoured and his decision not to fight makes a type of sense. However, Agamemnon, could have given up Chryseis, not because Achilles told him to, but to appease the god Apollo. He would not have lost honour and he had been promised future spoils for this consideration. I believe his decision to take Briseis from Achilles is a reflection of a weakness of character. We’ll see how it plays out.

  3. And for Aquilles, not having an attitude of full submission but of making Agamemnon pay for his actions, will be something that he and others will pay a price for. At the same time, is Homer telling us that the fate of nations moves through the fate of men? (Gods in Homer and the Greeks seem to be men conscience, or a reflection of man’s world)

    • When we think of war, we think of death as being the worst thing. For the Greeks, the lost of kleos appears to be worse than death. Notice that so far none of the other warriors have said “boo” about Achilles’ decision. We’ll get further insight into how they view his actions.

      You’ve mentioned a key word here … “fate”. It’s worth thinking about. It’s obvious that Troy’s fate is its destruction. So is everything else pointless? Or are there important things people can accomplish within that “fate” that can have a positive effect?

      • So Kleos. Yes, in the series I am watching, the guy from the XVI hundreds talks about honor, and king, God and nation, but as he and his colleagues travel in time and get to see things, those values are questioned.

        You are right, the other warriors don’t necessarily disagree with Achilles.

  4. I made it through Book I and after reading your notes on Book I here, I did pretty good in catching the storyline!! Yay!! 🙂 When I sat down to read this morning, I sat with my Lattimore translation which I’m reading and then with my hardback Butler edition opened to the character list so I could reference names easily. I didn’t know that the Achaians / Argives / Danaans were the same. This is so helpful to know! Reminds me of how in Russian literature characters can have several different names.

    I only read your post up through Book I but wow – this is great Cleo! You pointed out: “Oh, and a curious parallel: Agamemnon and Achilles are bickering and set against each other when they should be allies, and Zeus and Hera are at odds when they should be working together as husband and wife.” It did occur to me when I was cross referencing the names at how Agamemnon and Achilles should be on the same side. But I didn’t put together that parallel between them and Zeus and Hera.

    Cleo, I can already tell this read-along is going to be extremely helpful for me! Dare I say I’m actually getting a wee bit excited to continue reading…… 🙂

    • That’s wonderful that it’s coming more alive for you this time! Ah yes! The names! They can be confusing. I remember my first read … it was a little like reading Dante … the first read allowed me to get my bearings, and the second read allowed me to enjoy!

      I’m glad that my posts are helping. In a general, modern sense the conflict between those who should be allies shows the weakness and capriciousness (and perhaps senselessness) of both humans and Greek gods.

      I’m so excited that you’re excited about The Iliad!!

  5. Pingback: The Iliad, post 1 | Silvia Cachia

  6. In the edition of The Iliad that I have, translated by Richmond Lattimore, there is an introduction written by Richard Martin. Since I had already read The Iliad last year, I went ahead and read some of this introductory material. Martin says the following:

    “The Iliad is about heroes as humans, and what constitutes humanity. Its enduring value lies in the poem’s recognition that even the worst enemies are deeply, fundamentally the same – desirous of glory and immortality, while subject to pain and death. Its power – like that of so much Greek literature – comes from the realistic depiction of mortals as they gradually learn that they can never be gods.” (p. 2)

    “In the universe painted by the Iliad, humans are at the blazing center. Their motivations and concerns generate the action in the poem, while the gods are often reduced to the role of enablers or spectators. The passionate decisions of heroes like Achilleus and Hektor – to avenge a companion’s death, to take a stand outside the Trojan walls – are what determine the arc of the Iliad’s plot.” (p. 18)

    He also brings out that “While the Iliad yields center stage to humans, much of the power of its vision in fact comes from its depiction of the gods as beings that feel, and act, like humans.” (p. 22)

    He also points out that companionship is another aspect of the Iliad.

    • That’s very interesting. I have always wanted to understand the gods in the book better. I never get if they are the cause or the explanation of what the men choose to do.
      I don’t know if when they say “the gods disguised, or in the shape of such and such”, I don’t know if that’s an after the fact second layer explanation, or if the Greeks thought that, once the gods decide on something, they can’t change that fate.

      • “I never get if they are the cause or the explanation of what the men choose to do.”

        That’s a great question. I think often the outcome is decided by FATE. The gods’ actions bring about the fate. So in that case, I would think/guess the gods would be the CAUSE. However, as we’ve seen, there can be temporary diversions, such as Zeus listening to Thetis’ plea to make the war go against the Greeks; as we know, this is only temporary.

        It’s interesting when a god is disguised, to note if the hero recognizes him/her as a god, or not.

        • The outcome is decided by FATE. Yes. We read knowing what will happen, but they don’t know it. That’s what makes me wonder what will happen if they knew the outcome, if they will decide differently. It’s always so strange, as I am trying to think what other books holds this non christian frame that makes it so strange and yet so human, with gods plotting and humans “interacting” with them.

    • Hmmm …. Most classics tell us something about humanity …. and “the realistic depiction of mortals as they gradually learn that they can never be gods,” well yes, the humans cannot practically be gods but seen from an analytic standpoint, the gods often act like humans. I think that’s one of the problems with the Greek gods; they don’t act like we think gods should act, with wisdom and intelligence and values. In fact, they don’t even seem to have an ethical code such as the Greeks have.

      And the second quote: While humans are at the centre of the conflict, the gods certainly play a very present role in manipulating their actions (I’m thinking, in particular, of Pandaros and his arrows in Book IV and, I believe,V)

      While Martin brings a compelling emotional component to the narrative that appeals to modern readers, I’m not sure if the ancient Greeks would feel the same or perhaps completely agree with his assessment of their motivations. But I do like to disagree with introductions, lol! 😂 One of the reasons that I read the introductions after the book, is that they can colour the past with modern viewpoints. However, I do agree with you that they certainly can be helpful when reading difficult works as they at least give you a base and some grounding in what you’re going to be experiencing.

      • It’s true. Some information can color the past with modern view points.

        I believe that the gods, how they are and how they interact, and the Greeks and their motivations, it’s no easy matter one can settle once and for all. It’s something I am going to keep trying to see for myself in the book, because it is very difficult to know for sure. You, Cleo, may know more since you have read the poem several times and know about the Greek culture. Your “intro” at the end of the read along will be welcome by us.

        It’s helpful to know that in this gods/men interaction lies a lot of what The Iliad is about, and it helps me to know that some points are opinions. You said it perfectly. Read with caution, and take that which may help. It reminds me of when we talk about animals with human traits. As moderns, it’s always hard to see the Greeks for what they were. Our best shot is what you do, Cleo, read the poem, learn about them, find text evidence to support what we think.

        • Yes, I’ve read Homer, Aeschylus, Herodotus, some of Sophocles, some of Euripides some of Plato, Thucydides and Ovid’s Metamorphoses so I’ve been reasonably steeped in Greek lit and I love it. It was a little hard getting my brain around their outlook at first but now it’s much easier.

          • That’s why your read along is priceless and top quality. And I second your spirit of going to the original sources first and foremost.

            I kept thinking that after The Iliad and The Odyssey, last thing you need is Homer by Nicolson, hahaha.

            I listened to it and while I got some from it, it’s dispensable.

            At this point, I am truly interested in your conclusions and thoughts during this read along, and in the end.

            I love your questions.

      • And it does seem like the gods can be pretty petty at times. My daughter is reading The Age of Fable right now and we comment how they are forever changing others into trees or animals. LOL

      • Also, I hadn’t thought about how the introductory comments might give a more modern spin on it. Thanks for pointing that out. I didn’t read the whole thing, just bits and pieces here and there. 🙂 And I second Silvia’s comment that your read-along is top quality!!

        I decided to keep a small notebook and do with The Iliad what I’m doing with War and Peace – and that is that I’m trying to find at least one quote/passage to jot down in each chapter (Nick suggested this for the War and Peace read-along). I’m finding that with War and Peace, I think this is adding to my reading experience. So I thought I should try it with The Iliad. 🙂 So when we went to the store today, I bought two really inexpensive smallish notebooks. When I got home, I labeled each one for each book (one per book) and transferred any passages that I’d already written down into those notebooks. I will also put any notes for each book in these notebooks as well. I feel like a student! 🙂

  7. I have decided to follow the conversation here instead of goodreads. The print is bigger on my phone and I am enjoying the illustrations.
    This a first reading for me with very rudimentary knowledge of Greek mythology. Read The Oresteian Trilogy last year, which I thoroughly enjoyed so decided to continue the journey.
    Like Karen I read first – with my phone nearby to help with who people were and look at maps. Will now reread with your great insights and questions in mind.
    Thanks so much for your posts, I may or may not have continued on my own but it would not be nearly as enjoyable. Looking forward to the months to come.

    • Hey Connie! Great to “see” you here and you are certainly welcome to join in! I’m excited to hear that you’re doing some work to get everything straight …. I always find that the more I put into a work, the more I get out of it.

      I’ll be so interested to hear who everyone’s favourite character is at the end of the read!

      • The Goodreads conversation is in the group Classical Journey buddy reads. The conversation has been more vibrant here though. I’m basically copying my posts from here to there, but no one is really responding yet. There is one member who has a wealth of literary information who is posting (Ian). He’s pretty much talking to himself at this point but he doesn’t seem to mind, and his information is great for those who want to dig further. However for first-timers, it’s pretty overwhelming.

        You have two accounts on Goodreads, one reading Katy, TX and one says the United States. Which one should I friend?

        • I didn’t know I have two accounts? Which has my books? I live in Katy, Tx.

          I will check. But if the conversation is more vibrant here, I will stay here 🙂

          I confused Gaskell with yet another Elizabeth. I have read Wives and Daughters and loved it. Ruth is high there.

          I also found in my shelves The Glorious Adventure, by Halliburton, his travels in the footsteps of Odysseus, and that one I am reading. I love Halliburton.

          • I checked. The Katy,Tx has your books and is a personal account. The other one lists you as an author. I friended the Katy,Tx Silvia! 🙂

            Yikes, I haven’t read Wives and Daughters yet in spite of reading most other large Gaskell works. I MUST get to it!

            The Glorious Adventure sounds …. glorious! My library doesn’t have it but I’ll keep a lookout. It would be fascinating!

  8. I’m surprised at how much I actually remember, considering I read this almost exactly one year ago. But I wish I would have known about kleos and timê when I read it, as I think they would have been helpful in understanding the character motivations. Especially Achilles. Although, knowing a bit about these concepts, Agamemnon still seems to come across to me as a bit of a spoiled brat. (Nothing like judging by 21st century standards!) I did get the impression, early on at least, (I don’t recall noticing this so much later in the poem) that it seems like Homer didn’t think much of Agamemnon. Though maybe that’s what’s needed to move the story forward.

    I remember all those names in Book 2! That was perhaps the hardest slog to get through of the entire poem. It reminded me a bit of reading the lists of names in Chronicles. We just have to remember that they’re there for a reason, even if we don’t understand it.

    • Knowing the motivations is huge in understanding the poem and helps you enjoy it more. I question Agamemnon’s leadership qualities and I’m looking for evidence in the text to support my suppositions. You’re right in that you really have to be careful not to judge these characters by 21st century standards so I do the best I can to get into the ancient Greek mindset. I don’t think Homer’s judgement comes into play in these poems but I could be wrong. There’s so much speculation about Homer in any case, right down to if he composed the poems or not. I tend to think he was a bard who sung/spoke them with his own rhetorical flourishes and they existed as tales before him. But I know little to support that theory, except that The Iliad and The Odyssey sound so different to me.

  9. I’ve just finished Book II. As I started Book II, I read the rest of your post here for Book II then continued reading Book II itself. I must admit, I got lost again in this Book. But then reading your commentary helped clarify what was going on. Then I read your post again after I finished. Ha! The big list of all the participants and their names, etc. was a bit tedious to read honestly. Probably largely due to all the names that I had to figure out how to pronounce (I probably did not pronounce many of them correctly! LOL). Anyway, I am plugging along! 😉

    The point about it being a shame culture does shed light on Achilles and how he is reacting. I hadn’t thought about his very identity being damaged because Briseis was taken from him.

    So let me just sum up very simply. Agamemnon and Achilles are at odds. Agamemnon gives Chriseis back but takes Briseis from Achilles. Zeus sends dream to Agamemnon as a trick and now Agamemnon is rallying his forces to attack Troy because of the dream. Iris warns the Trojans and now they are preparing themselves for the attack. And in the meantime, Achilles is sitting and brooding? I know this is brief but do I have the gist of it correct?

    • My comment here is going to be shorter than normal; I dropped my computer today and broke the online port so I’m on another computer that is having issues (the cursor is only working sometimes, Argh!). Not a great time to break my computer …. I hope I have time to take it in tomorrow so they can fix it and hopefully get it back by the end of the week.

      Your summary is exactly right ….. on to Books III & IV!

      • Oh no! So sorry about your computer! I’m sure that had to be very frustrating!

        I am glad to know I’ve got the gist of the story right so far. Yay! Moving on to Book III tomorrow.

  10. I’ve just finished Book I and am about to start Book II and from what I gather I’ve chosen the most difficult translator…. classic. But I’m loving his translation so far. It’s like reading two classics in one since Chapman was alive during the Elizabethan period.

    • I’m glad you’re reading with us. Please feel free to leave comments to enlighten us! I know that you’re well-versed with the Greeks.

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