WARNING: This reading guide is for students using the 7th edition of the Northon Anthology of World Literature. If you have the 5th edition, download the other version of the study guide.
How to Use this Guide This guide includes some background information on Troy and the Trojan War as well as a chart of all the main characters in The Iliad. Then, there is a list of questions for each book (chapter) of The Iliad that we read for class. When you read in the Norton, use post-it notes to mark important passages or places where you have questions. Also, you should know that a “book” is a just a chapter of The Iliad (like in the Bible).
We suggest you set aside two to four hours to read Book I of The Iliad. You need to go slowly and take your time. Reading this text is enjoyable – the story is compelling, emotional, and exciting – but it is like working on a puzzle. You need to be alert and settle in for a few focused hours. The succeeding books (VI, XXII, and XXIV) are easier and faster to read once you’ve completed Book I.
When you read, we recommend you use the study guide right along side your book. Don’t answer the questions after you read; instead, answer them as you read. The questions are in chronological order, so you can use the study guide on a “treasure hunt” as you search for the answer to each question while you read. There is a lot of extraneous information in The Iliad that would have been obvious and helpful to a Greek reader, but might be distracting for you. This guide will help you find the information that really matters in the story.
For your teachers, and for students every year, this is a favorite time in Humanities. We love The Iliad! Enjoy!
Background of the Trojan War
Troy Troy is located at Hissarlik in Asian Turkey, 4 miles from the mouth of the Dardanelles. Troy is northeast of Greece, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Nine layers of villages are located on the site – Troy is 2nd, 3rd and 7th! The Romans are allegedly descendants of Aeneas and the Trojans.
The story of the Trojan War (in brief) • Paris (a Trojan) steals Helen, wife of Menelaos of Sparta (a Greek).
• Menelaos asks for her back. Trojans refuse.
• Menelaos tells Agamemnon (his brother and the king of all the Greek kings) to take an army to Troy.
• The best warriors are Achilles, Patroklos, Nestor, Diomedes, Odysseus, and Ajax.
• For LUCK, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to Artemis.
• The war is fought for 9 years but they never got into the city of Troy.
• The Greeks build a horse and pretend to sail home.
• Trojans accept the horse into the city against the gods’ warnings.
• The Greeks return and slaughter the Trojans.
What events are covered in the Iliad? The Iliad takes place during the events of the final year of the ten-year Trojan War, probably around 2300 B.C.. Because the Greeks and Trojans fought over the mouth of the Dardanelles, it is suggested that there were economic and trade reasons for the war, if it ever actually occurred in real life. In The Iliad, the story of the Trojan War, is told from the Greek point of view. The Trojan War as told from the Trojan point of view is shown in The Aeneid (Books I-II), a Roman text we will also study in Humanities.
Characters in the Iliad
(a.k.a the people of
Troy, Ilios, Ilium)
(a.k.a. the Achaians,
Chryses, priest of Apollo
Chryseis, daughter of Chryses
Briselis, prize taken by Achilleus
Hektor, son of Priam, breaker of horses
Priam, King of Troy
Paris, Alexandros, son of Priam, abductor of Helen
Zeus, Kronian, son of Kronos, father of gods and mortals
The Iliad, Book I:
READING GUIDE, 7th Edition 1. FREE / FYI: Something to be looking for throughout: Identify as many epic characteristics and conventions as you can in this book (Not Just in Book I) and list the lines where you found them.
* setting is vast in scope
* episodes important to history of culture
* hero is imposing, important and/or legendary
* plot contains deeds of great valor
* supernatural forces (gods)
* intervene in human events
* writing style is grand and simple
* theme is stated in opening
2. Who is Agamemnon? (footnote; p. 110 / Spark Notes)
3. Why is Agamemnon angry at Achilles? (p. 106-108)
4. Why did Apollo get angry at the Greeks? How did he show his anger? (page 105-106) (Line 111-112)
5. What does the prophet, Calchas Thestorides, tell the Achaeans/Greeks? (p. 106; Line 108-118)
6. If Agamemnon obeys Calchas, what does Agamemnon want in return? (p. 106-7; Line
7. What's Achilles' beef with Agamemnon? (p. 107-8; Lines 179-92)
8. In his anger, what does Agamemnon say he will take from Achilles? (p. 107; Lines 161-63)
9. Why does Athena stop Achilles from killing Agamemnon? What does she say will be his
reward? (p. 109; Lines 229-251)
10. What insults does Achilles, son of Peleus, hurl at Agamemnon, son of Atreus (Atrides)?
(p. 107-8; Lines 173-189) (2nd part: p. 109; Lines 262-270)
11. What does Achilles threaten to do? (p. 108; Lines 198-202)
12. Nestor is a peacemaker. What advice does he have for Agamemnon? (p. 110-11; Lines
297-323; Lines 320-23 specifically)
13. In one word, what "sin" does Agamemnon accuse Achilles of? (p. 111; Lines 334-39)
14. Agamemnon doesn't take Nestor's advice, and Agamemnon sends his henchmen to Achilles. What do the henchmen (Talthybius and Eurybates) take from Achilles for Agamemnon? (p. 112; Lines 375-82)
15. (a) At this point, Achilles summarizes for his mother all that has happened so far. List
the events mentioned in order. (b) Then, out of the list, highlight the reasons Achilles gives his mother, the goddess Thetis, for why he is so angry and unhappy with Agamemnon.
(p. 113-14; Lines 430-69)
16. FREE/FYI: (p. 113-14; Lines 430-69) ??
17. What dastardly request does Achilles ask his mother to make of Zeus? (p. 114; Line
18. Does Thetis agree to do this? (p. 114; Lines 500-02)
19. FREE/FYI: Odysseus delivers Chryseis back to her father, Chryses (and
they live in Chryse!!). Chryses then prays to Apollo, asking him to stop punishing the Danaans/Greeks. (p. 115; Lines 514-44)
20. The Achaeans/Greeks rejoice now that Apollo will no longer decimate them, but how
does Achilles feel and why? (p. 116; Lines 581-85)
21. The scene changes. Thetis, Achilles mother, is now up on Mount Olympus asking that
the Gods help the Trojans to defeat the Greeks/Achaeans. (p. 116-17; Lines 596-608) What is Zeus's reply? (p. 117; Lines 610-11)
22. Zeus and his wife Hera then argue. She loves the Greeks and is angry at Zeus's
promise to Thetis. She nags him about all of this. (p. 118; Lines 647-53; Lines 665-72). What does Zeus threaten to do if she's not quiet? (Lines 673-83; specifically line 677 and 683) (p. 119; Lines 708-9)
23. FREE: FYI: Hephaestus, Hera's loving son, asks his mother for the sake of peace on
Mt. Olympus, to leave Zeus alone. She agrees—for the moment! (p. 119; Lines 690-703)
24. How do the Greeks do in battle against the Trojans without Achilles? (p. 120;
The Iliad, Book VI: READING GUIDE 24. In what city does Book VI take place? (Title)
25. Who is the King of Troy? (242) What is his wife’s name? (155, footnote page 123)
26. What does Hector, the greatest of the Trojan warriors and one of the few remaining sons of Priam, want his mother to do? (269-279) What is Athena's response to Hekabe? (185-194, 232)
27. How does Hector feel about his brother, Paris (also called Alexandros)? (197-199)
28. Where is Paris/Alexandros, what is he doing, and who is with him when Hector finds him? (243-247)
29. FREE! Helen of Argos = Helen of Troy: “the face that launched a thousand ships.” (246)
30. Hector scolds Paris. Why is Hector so angry at Paris? (249-258)
31. How does Paris explain himself? (259-264)
32. How does Helen speak to Hector? (273-292)
33. What does Helen say she thinks about herself? (275-288)
34. How does Helen feel about her husband, Paris? (283-285)
35. What does Helen want Hector to do? (286)
36. What does Hector want Helen to do? (298-300)
37. Were does the next scene take place? (305-308)
38. What is Hector’s wife’s name? (307) Where has she gone and why? (323-326)
39. What is Hector’s child’s name? Age? Sex? (339-342)
40. What does Andromache (pronounced “ann-DRAH-mah-key”) want Hector to do? What persuasive techniques and arguments does she use? (349-357, 375-387)
41. Why won’t Hector do as Andromache asks? (388-392) Remember, the Achaeans are fighting for the Greeks.
42. Why does Hector’s son, Astyanax, shrink away from him? (432-428)
43. What simile is used to describe Paris? (470-478) How does his mood contrast with the mood of the scene between Hector and Andromache?
44. What did Paris SAY he would do and Achilles asked him to do? (269-270) What does he ACTUALLY do? (479)
45. What good quality and bad quality in Paris does Hector point out to him? (488-489)
The Iliad, Book IX: READING GUIDE 46. What is the jist of Agamemnon’s speech to his army, the Argives/Greeks? (19-32)
47. What is the jist of Diomedes’ (pronounced die-AH-muh-deez), the son of Tydeus, response to Agamemnon? Do the other Achaeans/Greeks agree with Diomedes? (36-58)
48. FREE! Nestor, a wise old man who senses that the previous speeches may cause the Greeks to fight among themselves, advises Agamemnon to hold a feast and listen to the advice of all his leaders. (61-92)
49. At dinner, what course of action does Nestor suggest to Agamemnon? (122-135)
50. What is Agamemnon’s response? (137-144) What are some of the gifts that
Agamemnon offers? (147-182) To whom does he promise to offer these gifts? (197)
51. What three men will deliver the gifts? (201-203)
52. FREE! Patroklos (pronounced puh-TROH-klus) is Achilles’ dearest friend. (245)
53. How does Achilles greet the three “ambassadors” bearing the gifts? (244-250)
54. Find four persuasive techniques and arguments that Odysseus uses on Achilles. (269-371)
55. Why won’t Achilles give in? (373-460)
56. Find four persuasive techniques and/or arguments that Phoenix uses on Achilles. (527-642)
57. How does Achilles respond? (739-756)
58. Aias (pronounced I-uhss) speaks to Odysseus (son of Laertes), but what is the persuasive techniques he is actually using on Achilles? (762-785)
59. FREE! The Myrmidons are the army that Achilles brought with him from Greece to fight in Troy. (797)
60. What is Achilles’ response to Aias (Son of Telamon)? (787-801)
61. How did Achilles sleep? (810-812)
62. What is Diomedes’ reaction when he learns that Achilles will not rejoin the Greeks? (850-865)
62. FREE! Atreides is Agamemnon. (850)
63. Read the summary after line 869.
The Iliad, Book XXII: READING GUIDE For class, be ready to quote your favorite heart-rending passage.
64. READ the summary in the middle of page 176.
65. Why is Achilles angry at Apollo? (16-23)
66. Why doesn’t King Priam, Hector’s father, want Hector to meet Achilles and fight with him alone? (44-47)
67. What evils does King Priam think will soon befall him? (73-83)
68. How does King Priam try to persuade Hector not to fight Achilles – in one word! (68-70)
69. What action does his mother, Hekabe, take to try to persuade Hector not to fight Achilles? (94-99)
70. What does Hekabe warn Hector will happen if he dies outside the walls of Troy fighting Achilles? (103-105)
71. Were King Priam and his wife Hekabe successful in persuading their son, Hector, not to fight Achilles? (108-110)
72. Why does Hector run from Achilles when he sees him? (157-164)
73. Zeus, father of the gods, calls a council of the gods. What must they decide? (207-209)
74. What does Athena say the destiny of Hector, the mortal one, is? (213-214)
75. Who is helping Hector run away from Achilles? (243)
76. Why won’t Achilles, who is chasing Hector down, but is yet unable to catch him, let the other Greeks shoot Hector with arrows? (245-247)
77. The fourth time they have chased each other around the city, what does Father Zeus do? (248-253)
78. Who has a plan to help Achilles kill Hector? (213) What is her plan? (255-267)
79. What trick does Athena play on Hector? Who does she pretend to be? (270-275)
80. What does Athena / Deiphobos (pronounced dee-IF-uh-buhs) tell Hector to do? (289-290)
81. Does Hector fall for Athena’s / Deiphobos’ trick? (293-295)
82. Hector, thinking his brother Deiphobos is supporting him, stops running from Achilles and turns to face him and fight to the death. What request, however, does he make of Achilles before they begin the final fight? (301-307)
83. What does Achilles say to Hector’s request? (308-309)
84. Why does Achilles hate Hector so much? (320-321)
85. How does Athena help Achilles? (325-327)
86. How does Hector realize he’s been fooled? (346-349)
87. What does Hector want to do before he dies? (359-362)
88. FREE! Epic simile comparing Hector to an eagle and Achilles to a lamb or hare. (365-367)
89. Where does Achilles strike Hector? (383-386)
90. After this hit, miraculously, what could Hector still do? (387-388)
91. What is the main reason why Achilles wants to kill Hector? (394-395)
92. What defilement of Hector’s body does Achilles promise will happen after Hector dies? (396-397)
93. FREE! Hector can’t grab Achilles’ knees, so he says he entreats him by his knees. This is an ultimate form of humility.
94. What line in Achilles’ reply strikes you as a particularly brutal? (407-417)
95. What warning does Hector give Achilles? (422-424)
96. What do the rest of the Greeks do to Hector after he is dead and Achilles has stripped him of his armor? (438-441)
97. After vengeful victory speech, how does Achilles move Hector’s body? (467-472)
98. Who sees the defiling of Hector’s body? (478-482)
99. What does Hector’s father want to do? (485-494)
100. What is Andromache, Hector’s wife, doing when she hears of his death? (517-518)
101. What is the first indication Andromache has that something is wrong? (525-528)
102. When Andromache runs to the top of the city wall, what is the first thing she sees? (544-546)
103. In her grief, Andromache first wishes she had never been born. Then what does she worry about? (569-594)
The Iliad, Book XXIV: READING GUIDE You do not need to read this entire book. Just concentrate on the lines emphasized by the following questions.
105. Why is Achilles so unhappy? (4-8)
106. The gods have a meeting and send Thetis, Achilles’ mother, to Achilles to give him a message. What is the message? What is Achilles’ response? (161-170)
107. Zeus wants to make sure that Priam gets through the Greek lines safely, so that he can see Achilles and ransom Hector’s body. What order does Zeus give his son, Hermes, to make sure that no Greek attacks Priam while on his mission? (396-402)
108. FREE! Hermes is also known as Argeiphontes.
109. What shape is Hector’s body in? Why is it in this shape? (484-499)
110. When Priam first sees Achilles, what does he do? (559-561)
111. How many sons did Priam have? (580) How many are left? (584-586)
112. What unbelievable thing does Priam do and say to get Hector’s body back? (586-591)
113. Are Priam’s words successful in breaking down Achilles? (592-594)
114. What do Priam and Achilles do together? (595-598)
115. Does Achilles obey the gods and return Hector to his father, Priam? (667)
116. Why is Achilles still unhappy about releasing Hector’s body? (694-697)
117. What does Priam ask of Achilles? Does Achilles agree? (747-760)
118. When Priam arrives back in Troy with Hector’s body, all the people morn, but especially his wife, Andromache (850-852), his mother, Hekabe (879), and his sister-in-law, Helen (894). Read particularly the hear-rending lines of Andromache (875-877); the footnote at the bottom of page 207 about Hector’s son, Astyanax; and Helen’s kind words about Hector (906-908).
119. What is the last image The Iliad leaves us with? Who is the last character mentioned? (925-944). How does the emotion of the last line of The Iliad contrast with the emotion of the first line of The Iliad? (Page 104) What character is mentioned in the first line? In the last line? Can you see how Achilles’ anger is only and finally stopped by the funeral of Hector? Who do YOU think is the hero of this epic? Why?