epic poem attributed to Homer

The Iliad [1] is the oldest surviving work of Greek literature. It was an oral epic poem. People spoke it without reading it. It was written down in the 8th century BC. It is an epic (or very long) poem with 24 chapters written in hexameter. The poem includes early Greek myths and legends. It may have been based on a Bronze Age attack on the city Troy. People usually say that Homer wrote the Iliad. However, scholars are not sure if the poem was really written by just one person.

THE ILLIAD OF HOMER (translated by POPE) p1.217 2d Book Page 89
The first verse of the Iliad
Map of Homeric Greece.

The story happens during the Trojan War, some time around 1200 BC. It talks about the confrontations of the warrior Achilles and King Agamemnon. The story is only about a few weeks at the end of the war, but it also talks about many of the Greek myths about the war. It tells the story from the wrath of Achilles, to the death and funeral of Hector and the siege of Troy.

Together with another of Homer's poems, the Odyssey, it is one of the two major Greek epic poems.

Some important characters in the Iliad are Achilles, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Menelaus, Priam, Hector, Paris, and Helen.


The poem starts with the god Apollo sending a plague to the Greeks, because they captured the daughter of one of his Trojan priests. Agamemnon is forced to give the daughter back. So that he has a girl of his own, Agamemnon takes the captured Trojan girl Briseis from her owner Achilles. Achilles is angry and refuses to fight in the war. When Achilles' lover Patroclus is killed by Hector, Achilles starts to fight again and kills Hector in a duel. Later, Hector's father Priam comes in secret to Achilles to take back his favorite son's body to give it a proper funeral, which Achilles allows him to do. The poem ends with the funeral of Hector.

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  1. Greek: Ἰλιάς; spelled in English with a single l, as in Greek. The word comes from Ileum, an alternative name for Troy.


  • Fagles, Robert (transl) 1990. The Iliad. Introduction and notes by Bernard Knox. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-027536-3. Winner of the Academy of American Poets 1991 London translation award.

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