The Iliad is the first book in Western literature, told c.720BC, it is set during the Trojan War c.1200BC. The noble Achilles, most powerful of the Greeks, has been serving in the war against the Trojans for nearly ten years. Originally it may have been about rescuing the beautiful queen Helen who was stolen away, but now it is about the wounded pride and hot rage of Achilles. After being publicly insulted by his leader King Agamemnon, in fury he refuses to fight any further and withdraws his troops. He demands compensation for the insult or, unless the battle goes so badly against the Greeks that all their ships are in danger of being burnt, he will not lead his elite troops into battle.
The war does start to go against the Greeks. Although the cunning Odysseus leads a daring night-time commando raid into the heart of the enemy camp, the tide is turning and King Agamemnon sees that he must make amends with Achilles. But Achilles is now hardened in his anger and will not take the compensation. He calls the whole war a pointless sham and accuses the king of speaking with forked tongue. Unwisely he allows his best friend Patroclus to wear his magical armor and lead his troops into battle. Tragically, the Trojan hero Hector kills him and the armor is captured. Only now Achilles swings into action, not for the glory of the Greeks, but to avenge his friend's death. Inside the Trojan city we see scenes of family life and feel pity for the wives and children as they helplessly watch the men don armor and go out to battle for the last time. Outside is the mighty Achilles, for though it cost him everything, he will have his vengeance and win the undying glory of a hero of battle. And he is still remembered even to this day.
This is a long and complex book but the key chapters for the action are 1, 6, 9, 16, 18, 22, and 24. Good translations abound but Robert Fitzgerald's in the Oxford World Classics series is a good read with handy notes and maps. If you need to get serious Robert M. Willcock's, 'A companion to the Iliad' is the way to go.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose
Helen, the wife of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, has been kidnapped by Paris, the evil prince of Troy. In anger, Helen's son the almost invulnerable hero Achilles wages war on King Priam, Paris' father, and the city of Troy. All of Greece is swept into war with Troy, including some of the world's greatest warriors, kings, and holy men. Achilles and his friends fight to rescue Helen and destroy the Trojans, and after ten years, they succeed, but not without disaster.
This report prepared by Daniel