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Transcript
The Iliad Background
Ἰλιάς
or
“The Tragedy of Achilles”
Who was Achilles?
Achilles was the son of the mortal Peleus and the goddess Thetis (the sea
goddess). He was the mightiest of the Achaeans (a Greek clan) who fought in
the Trojan War. Achilles was very brave and undefeatable in battle – almost
immortal, in fact.
Achilles Childhood
Because Calchas
prophesied that Achilles
would be stronger than
his father, Peleus gives
Achilles to be raised by
the centaur Chiron.
However, before being
sent away, Thetis made
Achilles immune to
death. There are two
stories that explain how:
Achilles Story 1
• Thetis, Achilles’ goddess-mother, wanted to burn away
the human part of her son; so she placed him upon a
fiery altar. Peleus, Achilles’ father, intervened just in
time, but an angry Thetis abandoned her son and
husband.
Achilles Story 2
• Thetis held Achilles by the
heel and dipped him into
the River Styx to make
him immortal. Thus, the
only vulnerable (weak)
spot on Achilles’ body was
his tendon where his
mother held him as she
dipped him into the waters
of death.
Achilles Childhood
In addition, to being sent away by his father, Achilles was
later hidden by his mother.
There was a prophecy given about Achilles’ destiny while
he was still a boy. A prophet named Calchas prophesied
that the city of Troy would not be conquered by any other
Greek state without Achilles’ help.
Thetis knew that if her son went to Troy, Achilles would die
an early death. So she sent him to the court of
Lycomedes where he was hidden and disguised as a
young girl. Achilles' disguise was finally discovered by
Odysseus who took him to war.
Achilles Character
Despite having
the strength of
someone who is
part god,
Achilles central
weakness is his
anger / rage,
which often gets
him into trouble
with other
leaders.
Achilles Rage (as theme):
Achilles anger issues are a central theme in The
Iliad, as is his ability to act with honor.
The first two lines of the Iliad read:
μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί' Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε' ἔθηκεν,
Sing, Goddess, of the rage, of Peleus' son Achilles
the accursed rage, which brought pain to thousands of
the Achaeans.
Trojan War Background
The Trojan War
began as a result of
events that took
place at the wedding
of King Peleus and
Thetis (Achilles
parents) many years
earlier……
Judgement of Paris
• The wedding took
place in Troy in the
presence of King
Priam and his sons
Hector and Paris.
While Hector was the
best warrior in Troy,
Paris was known as
the handsomest man
in all the known world.
Judgement of Paris
• This pretty boy was asked by Zeus to
judge a divine “beauty contest” of sorts. A
golden apple would be given to the most
beautiful goddess present – Hera, Athena,
or Aphrodite.
Judgement of Paris
• Hera offered Paris ultimate power if
he picked her; Athena promised to
make him the wealthiest man alive,
and Aphrodite promised to give
Paris Helen – the most beautiful
woman alive. {Nevermind that she
was already married to King
Menelaus of Sparta……}
• Paris, of course, picked Aphrodite,
and she helped him to steal Helen
from her husband’s home and
whisk her away to Troy, his
boyhood home.
A War Begins
This decision had many dire consequences. First, it
turned the goddesses Athena and Hera against the
Trojans. Second, it caused King Menelaus to enlists the
help of his brother Agamemnon (King of Mycenae) and
declare war against Troy.
The Greek state of Mycenae and their allies already had control of almost all the
city-states in the Aegean Sea – except Troy. So Agamemnon saw it as a perfect
opportunity to expand his empire and for his brother to avenge his loss.
A War Begins
Menelaus, and Agamemnon also enlist the help of two other Greek
kings – Odysseus and Achilles. Achilles was somewhat reluctant to
join in the fight. He had no interest in politics, but he was interested
in making a name for himself as a great warrior.
Achilles and Agamemnon
• While at war, Achilles
became very angry at
Agamemnon. Achilles
refused to fight, and
returned home in a pout.
The Greeks needed his
strength to win battles, but
all of the rewards they had
to offer could not entice him
to return. However, he
allowed his best friend –
Patroclus – to fight in his
place.
Achilles and Agamemnon
The Greeks
Hector and Paris – The Trojans
Hollywood’s Iliad
Greek Culture – see notes!
• Be sure to review your notes on Greek
culture before reading!!