This course will be a book-by-book close reading of books 7 through 12 of the Iliad, the great epic of ancient Greece. The Iliad is the earliest work in ancient Greek, written down sometime around 750–730 BC. Attributed to Homer, the Iliad was constructed by generations of bards orally retelling and commemorating in song a war fought in previous generations over the plains of Troy. The epic tells the tale of the wrath of the Greeks’ greatest warrior, Achilles, whose withdrawal from the conflict changes the course of the war.
In this seminar-style course, we will examine the text, language, narrative, society, and traditions that shaped this epic, as well as the influence it has had in history, literature, archaeology, philology, and art. On our journey, we will encounter the memorable characters of this heroic tale: the commanders of the expedition against Troy; Agamemnon; his cuckolded brother Menelaus; Priam, the doomed king of Troy; Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world and casus belli; Paris, her lover; Hector, the defender of the city; and Achilles, the young hero who knows that his glory is tied to his mortality. The Iliad is the unexcelled tale of life, death, passion, combat, fate, gods, and, above all, what it is to be human.