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The Iliad

by Homer
516 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Jeanne

An interesting read with high violence and the worship of the Greek gods.

Plot

The foundation of this story is laid long before the actual narrative takes place. Paris, a Trojan prince, was offered by the goddess Aphrodite the most beautiful mortal as a bride. Unfortunately for Paris, that woman is already married.

This, however, does not stop Paris from taking Helen, wife of King Menelaus, to be his bride. He takes her to the city of Troy to hide behind the army of his father, Priam, King of Troy.

The tale, however, does not follow Paris. It follows the Achaeans - the army Menelaus raises to take back his wife and to lay waste to the city of Troy. Achilles, champion of this army, rules the text from beginning to end.

Morality

Not a whole lot. The fact that Paris takes Helen, a married woman, is frowned upon. His brother Hector shows high morals in being disgusted with Paris for both his cowardice in battle and his stealing of Helen.

On the Achaeans' side, jealousy and greed are ever-present. Petty grievances arise and are put down by either Achilles or Odysseus (another champion).

On the brighter side, the friendship between Achilles and Patroclus carries a great deal of weight throughout the story and is refreshing to find.

Spiritual Content

Everyone in this story worships the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus. Some of the gods serve on the side of the Trojans (such as Aphrodite) while others fight on the side of the Achaeans (such as Poseidon). Sacrifices are made to these gods, and characters from both armies pray to them.

Violence

Turn just about any page in this story and the reader will find violence. Most of the tale takes place on the battle field, with spear-thrusts, chariots, and sword fights. Despite all this, "The Iliad" is not as gory as it might appear; all the same, the battle scenes are not for the squeamish.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine is drunk; drunkenness is referenced.

Sexual Content

This and violence are the two "biggies" of the bad content. While nothing is graphic in any stretch of the term, sexual content is very present.

Just to start, there is Paris' stealing of Helen and her seeming compliance. As opposed to this, we catch a sweet and refreshing look at Hector and his loving relationship with his wife and son.

Then there is a very brief reference to Achilles sleeping side-by-side with the woman Briseis, whom he has just captured; along with this, readers find Patroclus (Achilles' most trusted friend and spear-bearer) lying side-by-side with another woman. This is all very brief and could be glanced over but for the whole feud that soon arises between Agamemnon and Achilles concerning Briseis. Basically the problem is this: Agamemnon wants her, but so does Achilles.

Later on we find Briseis saying that Patroclus has promised to her that he will make Achilles marry her when they return home.

The chief goddess, Hera, seduces her husband into sleeping with her so that she might go to help the Achaeans while he is sleeping.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

"The Iliad" can be viewed in basically two ways: the first is to say that it is a completely immoral narrative with high violence and in which the author often repeats the same lines over and over to the point of boredom; the second is to say that it is a story written in a flowing, poetic style and in which war is portrayed in its true light - as a gruesome thing usually born out of reasons that are forgotten in the end.

For those who enjoy a hardened battle story and can get past the morals (or lack thereof), "The Iliad" is an adequate classic for their reading. The characters Hector and Achilles are certainly worth reading about, and within the narrative such values as courage and strength are very clear.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 2
Written for Age: adult

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