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Questions

The Iliad Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. The famous Shield of Achilleus passage has been interpreted as providing an image of the world. How would you characterize the worldview presented on the shield? Why do you think Hephaistos wanted to give Achilleus a picture of the world anyway?
  2. What does the Iliad portray as the good life? In answering this question, you might want to consider the possibility that it offers several answers, instead of just one.
  3. In her famous essay, The Iliad, or the Poem of Force, the French philosopher Simone Weil treated Homer's poem as an exploration of how human beings can be subjugated to brute force. She also saw the recognition of this fact as a necessary step toward compassion – something that, as a Christian theologian, was deeply important to her. And yet, the fact remains that the Iliad takes place in a pre-Christian world. How does the value system of the Iliad parallel or differ from that of Christianity, or another belief system with which you are familiar?
  4. Although the Iliad tells a profound and dramatic story, it is also a poem. What does the Iliad gain as a result of being told in poetic form? How would it be different if it were recast in prose?
  5. In Book 9, Achilleus first threatens to sail home the next day, but then changes his mind. At the same time, he has revealed another change of mind: although he initially refused to fight until the Trojans set fire to the Achaian ships, now he says he won't fight until they set fire to the ships of the Myrmidons. As it turns out, he lets Patroklos lead the Myrmidons into battle when only one ship of the Achaians has been torched. How do you account for his first two changes of mind, and why did he let Patroklos fight?

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