Welcome to the Hum 110 Iliad Homepage

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

2. Timeline

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.

1. Homeric Geography.

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)


c. 800-700     Rise of the aristocracies
  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


  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

3. Outline of the Iliad

The Iliad is a very long poem, and it is hard to keep all of the people, places, and events straight. This outline provides a summary of the action in each of the 24 Books. Use it to review what happens in each book, or to locate a particular scene.Outline

4. English and Greek texts of the Iliad for word searching.

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.

5. Homer and Art

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)

6. Archaeological Sites of interest to the Iliad.

Archaeologists have done much in the last century to increase our knowledge about a number of sites mentioned in the Iliad and Odyssey. Useful accounts of what we know about some of these sites are provided by the Perseus Project. Perseus provides brief geographical and physical descriptions, lists modern archaeological excavations done at the sites, notes the architectural remains, and gives (for some sites) a site plan with arrows that you can "click" on to see views from specific locations at the sites. It is thus possible to "walk around" the remains of Agamemnon's Mycenae or Nestor's Pylos on your own! Here is a list of the sites from Perseus which are of most interest to reader's of Homer.

Mycenae (Agamemnon)
Pylos (Nestor)
Troy (Priam)

7. Some commonly asked "factual" questions when reading the Iliad for the first time.

1.  Who was Homer?

No one knows. Even the ancient Greeks were not able to agree about when and where Homer lived. One popular account was that he was born some time in the 8th century BC in Smyrna in Asia Minor, lived on the island of Chios, and died on the small island of Ios. Greek writers also claimed that he was blind, that his real name was Melesigines, and that his father was the river Meles and his mother a nymph named Kretheis.

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.

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