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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Fate and Free Will

From the very beginning of the Iliad, when the poet asks the Muse to reveal how "the will of Zeus was accomplished," we know that the events we are witnessing have Fate's fingerprints all over them...

Pride

In the warrior society of the Iliad, pride is what makes the world go round. Nearly all of the book's male characters are motivated in some way by considerations of their social standing. (Some pos...

Mortality

The Iliad doesn't pull any punches in its portrayal of mortality. Not only is death in battle depicted as extremely painful and gruesome, there isn't any rosy afterlife to look forward to. In fact,...

Competition

If reputation and pride is what every warrior is after, then competition is the way to get it. People in the Iliad compete in just about everything. Excelling on the battlefield is the most obvious...

Compassion and Forgiveness

For most of the Iliad, we see less compassion and forgiveness than their opposites. For example, when Achilleus rejects the gifts Agamemnon is offering him to come back to the battle, he both refus...

Friendship

Friendship is an important motivation for many characters in the Iliad; at times, it can make them act in ways that you wouldn't expect, given their other loyalties. For example, when the Trojan Gl...

Love

Part of what gives the Iliad its deep humanity is its sensitive portrayal of love in a variety of forms. Some of the most touching moments in the poem come between Hektor and his wife Andromache, w...

Hate

In the world of the Iliad, hate is viewed as such a powerful force that it even gets personified as a divinity. The goddess Hate makes her appearance when Zeus sends her down to the battle at the b...

Warfare

Over the years, some scholars and critics have described the Iliad as the first piece of anti-war literature. This is true in some respects, though ultimately misleading. It is true in that the Ili...

Religion

In the world of the Iliad, gods and goddesses are a daily presence in people's lives. In fact, many of the book's characters are either children of divinities and mortals – like Achilleus, Ai...
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