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1001 iliad
Added on 06th August 2020

Oral tradition Ancient Greek Poem

This epic poem by Homer, set during towards the end of the Trojan war, highlights the heroism, the tragedy and the horrors of the war.


The Iliad tells the story of the final stages of the siege of Troy, starting with the quarrel between Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek alliance, and Achilles, their greatest warrior. When the Trojans start to gain the upper hand Patroclus, one of Achilles' close friends, decides to put on Achilles' armour and go into battle. The Trojans initially think that Achilles has rejoined the fighting and start to retreat but then Hector, one of the Princes of Troy, kills Patroclus. Achilles is so angry at the death of his friend that he goes back into battle and kills Hector, before dragging his body round the city walls behind his chariot. The story ends with Priam, the King of Troy negotiating the return of Hector's body so that he can be given an honourable funeral.

Why we chose it

The Iliad is a central part of the western classical tradition. Teaching of ancient Greek literature was a core part of private education from 18th - mid 20th century and as such has had a long-lasting influence on many different artistic forms.

Where it came from

The Iliad is an epic poem in the oral tradition. At some stage in the 8th century BCE the poem was written down in Homeric Greek. Although the story only covers a short period within the 10-year Trojan War, it expects its audience to be familiar with a broad set of mythological stories. The seeds of the conflict begin with the Judgement of Paris when Paris, a prince of Troy, settles an argument between the Goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite about which one of them is the most beautiful. Paris decides in favour of Aphrodite and is rewarded with Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. However as Helen is already married to Agamemnon fighting then breaks out between the Greeks and the Trojans.

Where it went next

The Iliad ends with the funeral of Hector but the story continues with the Greek allies finally entering the city of Troy using Odysseus' cunning plan of building a wooden horse in which the soldiers hide. Different elements of the story have inspired artists and authors for centuries from 5th century BCE vase painters to classical painters. In 2004 Brad Pitt starred alongside Orlando Bloom in the film Troy which was loosely based on the Iliad.

Associated stories

The Odyssey follows the story of one of the Greek heroes on his journey home after the fall of Troy. The Aeneid, Virgil's epic poem written in Latin, traces the flight of Aeneas from the defeated city of Troy to establish the city of Rome.

Added on 06th August 2020

Oral tradition Ancient Greek Poem