The Shield of Achilles: Symbol in Iliad You are here:
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. Characters emerge as worthy or despicable based on their degree of competence and bravery in battle.
Achilles, on the other hand, wins eternal glory by explicitly rejecting the option of a long, comfortable, uneventful life at home. The text itself seems to support this means of judging character and extends it even to the gods.
Men die gruesome deaths; women become slaves and concubines, estranged from their tearful fathers and mothers; a plague breaks out in the Achaean camp and decimates the army. In the face of these horrors, even the mightiest warriors occasionally experience fear, and the poet tells us that both armies regret that the war ever began.
Though Achilles points out that all men, whether brave or cowardly, meet the same death in the end, the poem never asks the reader to question the legitimacy of the ongoing struggle. Homer never implies that the fight constitutes a waste of time or human life.
Rather, he portrays each side as having a justifiable reason to fight and depicts warfare as a respectable and even glorious manner of settling the dispute.
Military Glory over Family Life A theme in The Iliad closely related to the glory of war is the predominance of military glory over family. Homer constantly forces his characters to choose between their loved ones and the quest for kleos, and the most heroic characters invariably choose the latter.
Achilles debates returning home to live in ease with his aging father, but he remains at Troy to win glory by killing Hector and avenging Patroclus.
The gravity of the decisions that Hector and Achilles make is emphasized by the fact that each knows his fate ahead of time. The characters prize so highly the martial values of honor, noble bravery, and glory that they willingly sacrifice the chance to live a long life with those they love.
The Impermanence of Human Life and Its Creations Although The Iliad chronicles a very brief period in a very long war, it remains acutely conscious of the specific ends awaiting each of the people involved.
Troy is destined to fall, as Hector explains to his wife in Book 6. The text announces that Priam and all of his children will die—Hector dies even before the close of the poem.
Achilles will meet an early end as well, although not within the pages of The Iliad. Homer constantly alludes to this event, especially toward the end of the epic, making clear that even the greatest of men cannot escape death.
Indeed, he suggests that the very greatest—the noblest and bravest—may yield to death sooner than others.
Similarly, The Iliad recognizes, and repeatedly reminds its readers, that the creations of mortals have a mortality of their own. The glory of men does not live on in their constructions, institutions, or cities.
But the Greek fortifications will not last much longer. Though the Greeks erect their bulwarks only partway into the epic, Apollo and Poseidon plan their destruction as early as Book The poem thus emphasizes the ephemeral nature of human beings and their world, suggesting that mortals should try to live their lives as honorably as possible, so that they will be remembered well.The main theme of the Iliad is stated in the first line, as Homer asks the Muse to sing of the "wrath of Achilles." This wrath, all its permutations, transformations, influences, and consequences, makes up the themes of the Iliad.
Identify basic facts about The Iliad regarding its length, composition, and likely age Recognize the two main focuses of the epic Understand the roles of Thetis, Hector, and Patroclus.
A summary of Themes in Homer's The Iliad. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Iliad and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and .
Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs. This study guide and infographic for Homer's The Iliad offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text.
The Iliad Setting Troy (present day Hisarlik, Turkey) during the Bronze Age Plot Summary The novel is about the two parties, the Achaeans and the Trojans and the struggles they faced and the advantages they gained from the gods.
it's also the story of the tragic hero, Achilles, who helps the Achaeans take down Troy. Themes Glory of war. Overview of the Iliad (discussion of themes/motifs/symbols) Epic Poetry and the notions of the Greek hero Elements of Greek tragedy How the story of the Trojan War is important to understanding Agamemnon and Electra The Connection Between Homer’s Iliad and Greek Tragedy.