As it is a literal epic, I’m splitting my review of The Iliad into four parts. Mostly because I’m summing up each chapter (called books in The Iliad) as I go through it, and because there’s 24 of them, it would be a bit much to put in one review! Plus I get to see I’m making progress!! So each part of the review deals with 6 of The Iliad’s 24 books.
Before I got started with this, I took some time to try and carefully choose which version of The Iliad I would read. There are many different translations, and you too can go online and read the pros and cons of each one. I can’t now remember why I decided to go with the Richard Lattimore translation, because it’s over a year ago that I bought it, but I’m happy with it. It doesn’t rhyme but it is actually really easy to read. This was a surprise! There is now a translation by Caroline Alexander, and articles about it tell me she is the first female translator of The Iliad. I’d definitely be interested in reading this version at some point.
I’ve been wanging on about wanting to read more really classic books for years, and finally, realised I could just actually do it. I worked out that, as part of my 20 Books of Summer challenge, I could get through it by reading 6 pages a day. This includes a really lengthy introduction. I was really encouraged by reading Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, as this is set amongst the events around the Iliad, so I felt like I was going into it with a clear idea of the story. I am also partly motivated by wanting to know more about it so I am better at answering quiz questions on the topic. I’ll let you know if this works. 😀
If you are in any way an academic, or learned person, you should probably not read my summary of the story. Leave now.
We join the battle at Troy after it’s been going on for 10 years. The reason there’s a battle at all is because Trojan Paris went and stole Helen away from her husband, Menelaos. King of Sparta. The Greeks all join forces to go and get her back.
Agamemnon has a war prize lady called Chryseis. Her Father is a priest of Apollo, Chryses. He brings ransom to Agamemnon and asks for his daughter back. Agamemnon tells him to do one. Chryses asks Apollo to step in and sort it out for him. Apollo begins to reign death and destruction on to the Greeks.
Achilleus asks Agamemnon to change his mind and give the daughter back, you know, to stop all the death and destruction. Agamemnon tells him to do one. But eventually is persuaded by all the death and destruction to give Chryseis back. He’s feeling all wounded though, and to save face he demands Achilles war bride, Briseis in return. Achilleus says if he takes Briseis he will be mega offended and won’t fight anymore. Agamemnon takes Briseis. Achilleus has a cry.
Achilleus cries to his mum about it (scary sea nymph, Thetis, a goddess of water). She goes and persuades Zeus to intervene on her son’s behalf by letting the Trojans win for a bit. Hera, Zeus’ sister-wife (wtf?) is well pissed off that Zeus has agreed to help Thetis and Achilleus, but she’s persuaded to let him get on with it. She’s fuming though, you can tell.
Zeus is going to appear to Agamemnon in a dream and trick him into thinking the he’s on his side. He says he’s going to help make the Trojans weak
But then they all get on their ships to go home, so I think I might have misunderstood Zeus and his dream thing.
Odysseus nicks Agamemnon’s special sceptre and goes about trying to persuade everyone to stay and fight. He’s been persuaded to do this by Athene, who in turn was encouraged by Hera (Zeus’s sister-wife who was pissed off in book 1, remember).
Some banter happens, then they are all staying to fight.
Then about 100000 pages of listing everyone involved and how many ships they’ve got. OMG please stop.
They start to go back to fighting. On the way Paris goes ahead of the Trojans to offer himself to a Greek for a one on one fight. Menelaos steps forward and Paris shits himself and tries to go back into the main crowd of Trojans. Hektor shames him, and Paris then says, ‘yeh, well I would totally just fight Menelaos if everyone else would just sit down!’
Hektor gets them all to sit down and arranges the one on one fight. Obviously there’s sacrifices that must be made first, and important people brought to watch (Priam, Paris’s father, and Helen). The winner gets Helen, and everyone will then go home.
They fight, but gods intervene (Aphrodite for Paris). Aphrodite just whisks him away to his bed, and then makes Helen go to him. Helen is well pissed off.
Agamemnon rages outside and declare Menelaos has won. And all the Greeks cheer. End of Book 3.
The Gods are sat around like they are spectating the battle at a stadium. Zeus needs to decide if he should make the battle continue, or make them all friends. It’s decided there should be more battle, with the Trojans breaking the oath made previously.
Athene goes and persuades a Trojan archer to try and kill Menelaos. He tries, but she goes and makes sure it’s only a bad scratch.
More fighting happens.
Diomedes, the greatest Greek fighting, while Achilleus is not participating, is in a proper battle fury and kills loads of people.
What happens next is the pesky gods start to intervene. Athene helps out, Aphrodite gets involved. Ares goes battle crazy and ends up on a super murderous spree for the Trojans. Then Athene gets permission from Zeus to sort him out.
It ends with a petulant Ares going whinging to his Dad, and his Dad (Zeus) gives him a ticking off. It is not OK to go on a mad killing spree for the Trojans, son.
Some fighting happens without any Gods intervening. Hektor gets sent back to Troy to tell the ladies to make an offering of a robe to Athene to see if she’ll help them again. She ignores them. While he’s there he tells Paris to stop sitting about and actually do some fighting. He visits his wife. Then Hektor and Paris set off back to the fighting. That took 15 pages.
Just a quick note: I’ve tried my best to stick to the spellings of names as they appear in my version of The Iliad. Some characters have several names, but I’m sticking to just one in my review, because otherwise it’s super confusing. Paris is also called Alexandros, for example. The Greeks are also referred to as the Danaans, the Argives, and the Achaeans. Quite.
Bet you can’t wait for part 2!!!!!!