Fallen Warrior, Temple of Aphaia, Aegina (Image from ANU).
The Iliad is a great poem, but also one which presents a
number of difficulties for the first-time reader. This page is
designed to be a jumping-off point to help you overcome some of the
common difficulties readers have with Homer's Iliad, and also
to provide tools to enhance and deepen your reading of the poem.
Click on any of the following topics to explore them further.
1. Homeric Geography
3. Outline of the Iliad
4. English and Greek texts of the Iliad for word searching.
5. Homer and Art
6. Archaeological Sites of interest to the Iliad.
7. Some commonly asked questions when reading the Iliad for the first time.
We are not sure where all of the places mentioned in the
Iliad and Odyssey were located, but later tradition and
modern archaeological excavations have helped us gain knowledge of
the sites. Here is a map listing some of the more important sites and
a few of the heroes and heroines who were associated with them. Names
of Greek sites and people are in purple, Trojan in red.
Map developed by Daphne Kleps.
To look up other sites mentioned in the Iliad, you can try searching the atlas provided by the Perseus Project at Tufts University.
There is also an excellent Glossary in the back of the Lattimore translation of the Iliad which includes place names.
2. Basic Chronology of the Homeric Epics (all dates BC)
BRONZE AGE (3000-1100)
c. 1800-1250 Troy VI
c. 1500-1120 Mycenaean Civilization
c. 1250 possible date of the historical fall of Troy VI
1183 traditional date of the fall of Troy
DARK AGES (1100-800)
c. 1100-750 Stories of the fall of Troy
passed down in oral form
c. 1100 Doric Invasion of Greece
c. 1050-950 Greek colonization of Asia Minor (western coast of Turkey)
c. 900 Beginning of the rise of the polis (city-state)
ARCHAIC PERIOD (800-500)
c. 800-700 Rise of the
776 Olympic Games established
c. 750 Greek colonization of Southern Italy and Sicily begins
c. 750 Introduction of a new alphabet; writing gradually introduced
c. 720 Homer, Iliad
c. 700 Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days
c. 680 Homer, Odyssey; Archilochus (lyric poet)
c. 650 Greek colonization around the Black Sea begins
c. 600 Sappho (lyric poet); Thales (philosopher)
594-593 Archonship of Solon in Athens
545-510 Tyranny of the Peisistratids in Athens
c. 540 Singing of Homeric poems begins at Panathenaic festival
533 Thespis wins first tragedy competition at Athens
508 Cleisthenes reforms the Athenian Constitution
CLASSICAL PERIOD (500-323)
490-479 Persian War
458 Aeschylus, Oresteia
461-429 Pericles dominant in Athenian politics; the "Periclean Age"
c. 450-420 Herodotus composes his Histories about the Persian War.
447 Parthenon begun in Athens
431-404 Peloponnesian War (Athens and allies vs. Sparta and allies)
c. 428 Sophocles, Oedipus the King
c. 424-400 Thucydides composes his History of the Peloponnesian War
404 Athens loses Peloponnesian War to Sparta
399 Trial and death of Socrates
This page allows you to find passages in the Iliad in
either Greek or English. It also allows you to search for words in
the English or Greek text.
A. The English text of the Iliad from the Perseus Project.
B. The Greek text of the Iliad from the Perseus Project.
C. Search for English word in the Iliad.
D. Search for Greek word in the Iliad.
The Iliad and Odyssey were composed in a culture in which art played a central role. The poems themselves refer to artistic productions, most famously the elaborately decorated shield which Hephaistos makes for Achilles in Iliad 18. In addition, many of the heroes and episodes described in the Homeric poems became popular subjects for sculpture and painting. Here is a chart listing the major periods of Greek art, along with examples from two of the periods and descriptions of some of the major features as they relate to the Homeric poems. More examples will be added as they become available.
1. Mycenaean period (1600-1200)
This is the time contemporary to the "historical" events described
in the Iliad and Odyssey.
2. Proto-Geometric and Geometric periods (1050-750)
Dipylon Amphora (Saskia JGCO330.GIF)
This amphora, now in the Athens National Museum, dates to about 760 BC, the time when the Iliad and Odyssey were taking shape. This piece is typical of large (5 foot tall) geometric amphorae which were used as tomb markers in the cemeteries just outside Athens. Most of the vase is decorated with intricate geometric designs, except for two bands of stylized animals on the neck, and the central mourning scene between the two handles. The central scene depicts the part of a Greek funeral known as the prothesis, or laying out of the body. The corpse is shown lying on a funeral bed, surrounded by mourners who are lamenting and tearing out their hair. The scene may depict a contemporary funeral, or that of a hero from the mythic past.
The next two images show details from the amphora.
3. Orientalizing period (720-620)
4. Archaic period (620-480)
Achilles and Ajax Playing a Board Game.
This Attic black figure vase in the Vatican Museum was produced by
Exekias in Athens about 530 BC. It depicts Achilles and Ajax playing
a board game during a lull in the fighting around Troy.
5. Classical period (480-323)
Though they could not agree about the details of his life, ancient Greeks did not doubt that there was a poet named Homer who had written the Iliad, the Odyssey, and possibly a number of other poems. Many modern scholars dispute even this. Scholars in the last two hundred years have established that the Iliad and Odyssey are products of a long oral tradition which became fixed sometime in the eighth century BC. How exactly the poems took their final shape (Was it the work of one person or several? Did the process involve writing?) is still a matter of speculation.
2. Is the Iliad historically accurate?
It depends on what you mean by "historically accurate." Modern historians generally agree that the Iliad reflects a set of historical events, but disagree about the relationship of the Iliad to those events. Most historians accept that at some point around 1250-1200 BC the city of Troy was destroyed by a raiding party from the Greek mainland. Most also believe that the poem, while probably wrong in most of its historical details, reflects some historical realities from the Late Bronze Age and Dark Ages (1200 - 900 BC) which are consistent with the archaeological record.
3. How do you keep all of the names of people, places,
and gods straight?
It is hard at first. There is a good glossary in the back of the Lattimore translation, and is also helpful to keep your own list of people who occur more than once.
This page developed by Walter Englert for Hum110 Tech.