What: An ancient Greek epic poem written by Homer.
Written: 8th Century BC
Takes Place: 1194-1184 BC
Length:15,000 lines of dactylic hexameter
The Iliad is an epic poem written in the 8th century BC by Homer. It takes place during the Trojan war, a ten-year siege of Troy by the Greeks led by Agamemnon. It is among the oldest pieces of work in Western literature. The war began for the love of one woman, Helen of Sparta, the wife of King Menelaus. Paris of Troy had sailed to Sparta on a diplomatic mission and falls in love with Helen and together they sail back to troy the next day. When King Menelaus finds out he gathers up the Greek troops and they set sail for Troy to retrieve his wife Helen back. Thus, the expression, “the face that launched a thousand ships”is attributed to Helen.
For the next ten years the Greeks are at war with Troy. Then a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles breaks out. Achilles threatens to leave the war only until his friend Patroclus is killed by Hector. Achilles then re-enters the war and revenges his friend by killing Hector. The Greeks meanwhile are at a stalemate with the Trojans and need to figure out a way to defeat them. Eventually,Odysseus comes up with an idea to offer the Trojans a giant wooden horse as a “peace offering” and the Greeks will pretend to leave the war. Hidden inside the wooden horse are Greek soldiers and as soon as the Trojans bring the Horse inside the city walls of Troy the soldiers exit the horse and raid Troy, effectively ending the Trojan war with the Greeks as the victors. This is also where the saying “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”is attributed to.
The Iliad has had a big influence on the arts and literature. It was one of the most popular books during Classical Greece and would remain that way through the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. It played an important role during the Renaissance period as European culture began to take interest in Greek antiquity. William Shakespeare even used the plot of the Iliad in his play Troilus and Cressida. More recently the Hollywood movie Troy was released in 2004. For years the story of Troy was thought to be a myth until in 1868 Heinrich Schliemann, a wealthy German businessman and archaeologist, discovered Troy in what is now modern Turkey.
The true story of Troy by the History Channel:
Trailer for the movie Troy: