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Summer Reading

Humanities – Dr. Elb


1. Homer et.al. The Iliad. Harmondsworth Eng.: Penguin, 1998.
You should read books 1 through 3, book 6, book 9, and books 15 through 24.

This translation is by Robert Fagles’ and it is the only version you may use. It is available at local bookstores, and there are lots of inexpensive, used ones at amazon.com



We will be watching a few clips from Troy in class. There are clearly many problems with this film adaptation of the epic (notably that it leaves out the involvement of the gods entirely except for Achilles’ mother) but watching the movie may help you to keep the characters straight and get you more involved with the story. If you think it would help, feel free to watch the movie as an aid to reading the epic. Just keep in mind that the film is a supplement to this assignment.

These questions are divided by book and are meant to be answered as you are reading. Please don’t wait to finish the story before you begin these questions, but answer as you go. Several of the questions are designed so that you can express your opinion before the saga unfolds completely, so please read a book at a time and then answer the questions. It will be much easier than trying to answer them all at once, I promise!

In general, there are three additional things you should take notes on as you read:

1. Homer’s use of extended similies (which are very strong in book 2)

2. Homer’s use of epithets. You might wish to highlight or mark where these appear as we will be discussing them in class.

3. How Homer explains the causes of the war. He tends to refer to these causes in a very subtle way, so if you come across something, make note of it.

Study questions for the Iliad are due at the beginning of class on August 24th. Late assignments will not be accepted. Assessments will be given.

The Questions

Book 1


1. The proem consists of the first 8 lines. What is the epic about? What thematic concerns are introduced here? What does the proem tell you is going to be the dominant theme of this story?

2. Do you get any hints at this point that Briseis an important character? How does the conversation between Agamemnon and Achilles reveal their attitudes towards women?

3. What is Achilles’ fate? How will his meeting with his mother determine his fate? Does Achilles have a choice about his fate? Would his fate change if he hadn’t met with his mother?

Book 2


1. What is the role of the gods so far in The Iliad? What does their role tell us about how they were regarded in ancient Greece?

2. Note the similies that are introduced in this book. You don’t need to write anything about them here, but think about them and be prepared to discuss them in class.

3. Also, you can skim towards the end of book 2 when you notice the catalog of heroes.

Book 3


1. What is Helen like? How is she described? What kinds of things does she say about herself? Is she abducted by Paris or is it a willing departure? Use a quotation from the text to support your argument.

Book 6


1. How does the narrator seem to feel about Hector? Considering the narrator’s point of view, how do you explain his attitude towards Hector?

Book 9


1. Has Achilles changed? Do you get the sense at this point that Achilles needs to change or is going to change? Do you think this epic is really about Achilles?

Book 15


1. Why is Hector now included in Zeus’ prophecies? What’s the deal with Zeus anyway?

Book 16


1. Why does Patroclus go to fight instead of Achilles?

2. What if Hector had bent over the dead Patroclus and said, "It's only Patroclus." How would the saga change?


Book 18


1. Did Apollo or Hector kill Patroclus? Why does Hector try on the armor?

Book 19


1. Why is Achilles talking to his horses at the end of this book? Isn’t Hector the “tamer of horses”?

Book 22


1. Why do you think that Homer generally presents Achilles here through the eyes of others?

2. Achilles’ has avenged his cousin’s death. Why is he still so angry?


Book 23


1. Has Achilles grown? Has he learned?

2. Go back and think about the character of Briseus. How would you assess her character now that you are nearly at the end of the story?


Book 24


1. Some scholars have seen Priam's trip to Achilles' tent as a symbolic journey to Hades. What do you think?

2. Some have argued that Priam and Achilles console one another and bring each other back to humanity. Would you agree or disagree with this idea? Do you think Achilles is the hero of this story?


Thanks to R. Mitchell-Boyask of Temple University for the use of a few of these questions.



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