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Literature was central to the educational-cultural function of the itinerant rhapsode , who composed consistent epic poems from memory and improvisation, and disseminated them, via song and chant, in his travels and at the Panathenaic Festival of athletics, music, poetics, and sacrifice, celebrating Athena 's birthday. Originally, Classical scholars treated the Iliad and the Odyssey as written poetry, and Homer as a writer. Yet, by the s, Milman Parry — had launched a movement claiming otherwise.
His investigation of the oral Homeric style—"stock epithets" and "reiteration" words, phrases, stanzas —established that these formulae were artifacts of oral tradition easily applied to a hexametric line. A two-word stock epithet e. In The Singer of Tales , Lord presents likenesses between the tragedies of the Greek Patroclus, in the Iliad , and of the Sumerian Enkidu , in the Epic of Gilgamesh , and claims to refute, with "careful analysis of the repetition of thematic patterns", that the Patroclus storyline upsets Homer's established compositional formulae of "wrath, bride-stealing, and rescue"; thus, stock-phrase reiteration does not restrict his originality in fitting story to rhyme.
James Armstrong reports that the poem's formulae yield richer meaning because the "arming motif" diction —describing Achilles, Agamemnon, Paris, and Patroclus—serves to "heighten the importance of In the Iliad , occasional syntactic inconsistency may be an oral tradition effect—for example, Aphrodite is "laughter-loving", despite being painfully wounded by Diomedes Book V, ; and the divine representations may mix Mycenaean and Greek Dark Age c.
Despite Mycenae and Troy being maritime powers, the Iliad features no sea battles.
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They enter battle in chariots , launching javelins into the enemy formations, then dismount—for hand-to-hand combat with yet more javelin throwing, rock throwing, and if necessary hand to hand sword and a shoulder-borne hoplon shield fighting. Ajax's cumbersome shield is more suitable for defence than for offence, while his cousin, Achilles, sports a large, rounded, octagonal shield that he successfully deploys along with his spear against the Trojans:.
In describing infantry combat, Homer names the phalanx formation ,  but most scholars do not believe the historical Trojan War was so fought. The available evidence, from the Dendra armour and the Pylos Palace paintings, indicate the Mycenaeans used two-man chariots, with a long-spear-armed principal rider, unlike the three-man Hittite chariots with short-spear-armed riders, and unlike the arrow-armed Egyptian and Assyrian two-man chariots. Nestor spearheads his troops with chariots; he advises them:. Although Homer's depictions are graphic, it can be seen in the very end that victory in war is a far more somber occasion, where all that is lost becomes apparent.
On the other hand, the funeral games are lively, for the dead man's life is celebrated.
This overall depiction of war runs contrary to many other [ citation needed ] ancient Greek depictions, where war is an aspiration for greater glory. While the Homeric poems the Iliad in particular were not necessarily revered scripture of the ancient Greeks, they were most certainly seen as guides that were important to the intellectual understanding of any educated Greek citizen.
This is evidenced by the fact that in the late fifth century BC, "it was the sign of a man of standing to be able to recite the Iliad and Odyssey by heart. In particular, the effect of epic literature can be broken down into three categories: tactics , ideology , and the mindset of commanders. In order to discern these effects, it is necessary to take a look at a few examples from each of these categories. Much of the detailed fighting in the Iliad is done by the heroes in an orderly, one-on-one fashion. Much like the Odyssey , there is even a set ritual which must be observed in each of these conflicts.
For example, a major hero may encounter a lesser hero from the opposing side, in which case the minor hero is introduced, threats may be exchanged, and then the minor hero is slain. The victor often strips the body of its armor and military accoutrements.
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There Telamonian Ajax struck down the son of Anthemion, Simoeisios in his stripling's beauty, whom once his mother descending from Ida bore beside the banks of Simoeis when she had followed her father and mother to tend the sheepflocks. Therefore they called him Simoeisios; but he could not render again the care of his dear parents; he was short-lived, beaten down beneath the spear of high-hearted Ajax, who struck him as he first came forward beside the nipple of the right breast, and the bronze spearhead drove clean through the shoulder.
The biggest issue in reconciling the connection between the epic fighting of the Iliad and later Greek warfare is the phalanx, or hoplite, warfare seen in Greek history well after Homer's Iliad. While there are discussions of soldiers arrayed in semblances of the phalanx throughout the Iliad , the focus of the poem on the heroic fighting, as mentioned above, would seem to contradict the tactics of the phalanx.
However, the phalanx did have its heroic aspects. The masculine one-on-one fighting of epic is manifested in phalanx fighting on the emphasis of holding one's position in formation. This replaces the singular heroic competition found in the Iliad. One example of this is the Spartan tale of picked men fighting against picked Argives.
In this battle of champions, only two men are left standing for the Argives and one for the Spartans. Othryades, the remaining Spartan, goes back to stand in his formation with mortal wounds while the remaining two Argives go back to Argos to report their victory. Thus, the Spartans claimed this as a victory, as their last man displayed the ultimate feat of bravery by maintaining his position in the phalanx. In terms of the ideology of commanders in later Greek history, the Iliad has an interesting effect.
The Iliad expresses a definite disdain for tactical trickery, when Hector says, before he challenges the great Ajax:. I know how to storm my way into the struggle of flying horses; I know how to tread the measures on the grim floor of the war god. Yet great as you are I would not strike you by stealth, watching for my chance, but openly, so, if perhaps I might hit you.
However, despite examples of disdain for this tactical trickery, there is reason to believe that the Iliad , as well as later Greek warfare, endorsed tactical genius on the part of their commanders. For example, there are multiple passages in the Iliad with commanders such as Agamemnon or Nestor discussing the arraying of troops so as to gain an advantage.
This is even later referred to by Homer in the Odyssey. The connection, in this case, between guileful tactics of the Greeks in the Iliad and those of the later Greeks is not a difficult one to find. Spartan commanders, often seen as the pinnacle of Greek military prowess, were known for their tactical trickery, and, for them, this was a feat to be desired in a commander. Indeed, this type of leadership was the standard advice of Greek tactical writers. Ultimately, while Homeric or epic fighting is certainly not completely replicated in later Greek warfare, many of its ideals, tactics, and instruction are.
Hans van Wees argues that the period that the descriptions of warfare relate can be pinned down fairly specifically—to the first half of the 7th century BC. The Iliad was a standard work of great importance already in Classical Greece and remained so throughout the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. Subjects from the Trojan War were a favourite among ancient Greek dramatists.
Aeschylus ' trilogy, the Oresteia , comprising Agamemnon , The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides , follows the story of Agamemnon after his return from the war.
Homer also came to be of great influence in European culture with the resurgence of interest in Greek antiquity during the Renaissance , and it remains the first and most influential work of the Western canon. In its full form the text made its return to Italy and Western Europe beginning in the 15th century, primarily through translations into Latin and the vernacular languages.
Prior to this reintroduction, however, a shortened Latin version of the poem, known as the Ilias Latina , was very widely studied and read as a basic school text. The West tended to view Homer as unreliable as they believed they possessed much more down to earth and realistic eyewitness accounts of the Trojan War written by Dares and Dictys Cretensis , who were supposedly present at the events. These in turn spawned many others in various European languages, such as the first printed English book, the Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye.
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Other accounts read in the Middle Ages were antique Latin retellings such as the Excidium Troiae and works in the vernaculars such as the Icelandic Troy Saga. Even without Homer, the Trojan War story had remained central to Western European medieval literary culture and its sense of identity. Most nations and several royal houses traced their origins to heroes at the Trojan War.
Britain was supposedly settled by the Trojan Brutus , for instance. William Shakespeare used the plot of the Iliad as source material for his play Troilus and Cressida , but focused on a medieval legend, the love story of Troilus , son of King Priam of Troy, and Cressida , daughter of the Trojan soothsayer Calchas. The play, often considered to be a comedy, reverses traditional views on events of the Trojan War and depicts Achilles as a coward, Ajax as a dull, unthinking mercenary, etc. William Theed the elder made an impressive bronze statue of Thetis as she brought Achilles his new armor forged by Hephaesthus.
Robert Browning 's poem Development discusses his childhood introduction to the matter of the Iliad and his delight in the epic, as well as contemporary debates about its authorship. According to Suleyman al-Boustani , a 19th century poet who made the first Arabic translation of the Iliad to Arabic, the epic may have been widely circulated in Syriac and Pahlavi translations during the early Middle Ages.
Al-Boustani credits Theophilus of Edessa with the Syriac translation, which was supposedly along with the Greek original widely read or heard by the scholars of Baghdad in the prime of the Abbasid Caliphate , although those scholars never took the effort to translate it to the official language of the empire; Arabic. The Iliad was also the first full epic poem to be translated to Arabic from a foreign language, upon the publication of Al-Boustani's complete work in George Chapman published his translation of the Iliad , in installments, beginning in , published in "fourteeners", a long-line ballad metre that "has room for all of Homer's figures of speech and plenty of new ones, as well as explanations in parentheses.
At its best, as in Achilles' rejection of the embassy in Iliad Nine; it has great rhetorical power". In the preface to his own translation, Pope praises "the daring fiery spirit" of Chapman's rendering, which is "something like what one might imagine Homer, himself, would have writ before he arrived at years of discretion". John Ogilby 's mid-seventeenth-century translation is among the early annotated editions; Alexander Pope 's translation, in heroic couplet, is "The classic translation that was built on all the preceding versions",  and, like Chapman's, it is a major poetic work in its own right.
William Cowper 's Miltonic , blank verse edition is highly regarded for its greater fidelity to the Greek than either the Chapman or the Pope versions: "I have omitted nothing; I have invented nothing", Cowper says in prefacing his translation. In the lectures On Translating Homer , Matthew Arnold addresses the matters of translation and interpretation in rendering the Iliad to English; commenting upon the versions contemporarily available in , he identifies the four essential poetic qualities of Homer to which the translator must do justice:.
After a discussion of the metres employed by previous translators, Arnold argues for a poetical dialect hexameter translation of the Iliad , like the original. Perhaps the most fluent of them was by J. Henry Dart  in response to Arnold". An translation by Samuel Butler was published by Longmans.
Butler had read Classics at Cambridge University, graduating during Since , there have been several English translations. Richmond Lattimore 's version is "a free six-beat" line-for-line rendering that explicitly eschews "poetical dialect" for "the plain English of today". It is literal, unlike older verse renderings. Robert Fitzgerald 's version Oxford World's Classics , strives to situate the Iliad in the musical forms of English poetry.
- The Project Gutenberg eBook of A Book of Prefaces, by H. L. Mencken.
- The Geometry of Supermanifolds (Mathematics and Its Applications);
- Iliad - Wikipedia;
His forceful version is freer, with shorter lines that increase the sense of swiftness and energy. Robert Fagles Penguin Classics , and Stanley Lombardo are bolder than Lattimore in adding dramatic significance to Homer's conventional and formulaic language. Rodney Merrill 's translation University of Michigan Press , not only renders the work in English verse like the dactylic hexameter of the original, but also conveys the oral-formulaic nature of the epic song, to which that musical meter gives full value. Barry B. Powell 's translation Oxford University Press , renders the Homeric Greek with a simplicity and dignity reminiscent of the original.
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