THE ILIAD

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Use at least three specific quotations from The Iliad —

At least one quotation from “The Shield of Achilles” in Book 18

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The overall approach to this essay is argumentative based on your sense of the treatment of and attitude toward violence, aggression, cruelty within the text of The Iliad.

Of course, this ultimately relates to the way the epic poem deals with war (celebrates, justifies, romanticizes, aestheticizes, questions, exposes, defamiliarizes, skeptically analyzes, criticizes, protests?)

The tools of reading toward such an interpretation are the ancient Greek concepts we have been working with:

First, the two larger themes that interlock in the Greek epics: “NOSTOS” & “KLEOS”.

Both are valued as part of the structure of cultural patterns & values; yet, they conflict and are in tension with each other. You should name these concepts and bring an understanding of them to your interpretation.

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ages of Nature [NOSTOS]

The return to home and all the associations that go with that return, including warm baths, feasting, and the symbolism of the woven robes and other fabrics that represent bonding of individuals in families and communities and across generations;

Gifts making bonds, settling quarrels (DORA) , including gifts of friendship to bond individuals and families; marriage and the concept the “giving of a bride” and the giving of gifts with the bride or to the bride’s family;

The fertile earth and richness & nurturing qualities supporting life– wine, honey, water, milk—;

features of landscape that connect, too, with birth, sustenance, flow, life-force—rivers, streams, ocean;

Pastoral Images–images of peaceful farm life and the agricultural cycle in the world of peace, including the sharing of food and wine in feasts, sacrifices, and shared meals of bounty– cycles of planting seeds, harvesting grain, tending domestic animals: sheep, goats, cows, dogs. These domestic animals can also be seen as prey animals –to be contrasted with prey animals.

Images of Power & Immortality [KLEOS]

Metal Objects of Bronze & Iron that will not decay, rot, or wear away the way that things of the earth –including the human body will: Bronze or Iron armor, helmets, shields;

Sun, stars, constellations that are above and beyond the visible change and decay of earthly objects and creatures;

Prizes won in war “GERAS” / Trophies that act as symbols of Honor and that have a second life in rumor, reputation and stories, especially in epic poems passed on from generation to generation. Prizes usually include large metal objects: tripods, the stolen armor, helmets, shields of death warriors.

Predatory animals who are seen as symbols of successful hunt and struggle, symbols of power and dominance in the hierarchy of nature: wolves, snakes, hawks/eagles, lions, panthers, wild boars.

We will be exploring the interplay of these images and their implications next week when we examine “The Shield of Achilles” at the end of Book 18.

We will mark out two opposing viewpoints on The Iliad from two writers: Robert Knox vs Simone Weil below. You may use these as compass points to help measure where you fall on the spectrum of reactions/ judgments of The Iliad & its use and attitude toward violence:

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