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How does Homer portray war in the Iliad?

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Introduction

How does Homer portray war in the Iliad? (Based on the books read so far) Homer starts the Iliad by describing the result of Achilles' anger; 'the anger of Peleus' son Achilles and its devastation, which puts pains thousandfold upon the Achaians, hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades'. Homer is describing all the pain felt by the Achaians and the deaths, of thousands of men in the war. Homer appears to be portraying the war negatively (even if it is a result of Achilles' anger), mentioning the 'pain' and men going to the 'house of Hades' in their thousands, which is all negative imagery. Homer then goes on to mention that these men 'gave their bodies to the delicate feasting of dogs, of all birds'. This is a very negative portrayal of war, as Homer is saying in layman's terms, that when these men were killed, dogs and birds ate their corpses. ...read more.

Middle

Throughout the Iliad we see how the Gods influence the war: For example in book one, we hear Zeus agree to Thetis's request that the Greeks should suffer in the absence of Achilles. So the gods control the war, not the men, which, although Homer doesn't explicitly allude to, is a negative portrayal of the war, as the men are fighting, and the gods are just playing with the men like toys to get back at one another, as if the war was just a game. So the outcome of the war is at the discretion of the gods, whether men live or die. For example during the aristeia of Diomedes (book 5 of the Iliad), when Diomedes encounters Ares, Pallas Athene rides beside Diomedes on a chariot she seized from Sthenelos. Ares hurls his bronze spear towards Diomedes, but Athene interferes, catches the spear and pushes it away from the car. ...read more.

Conclusion

He explicitly describes the deaths of people; 'the bronze spearpoint fixed in his forehead and drove inward through the bone; and a mist of darkness clouded both his eyes and he fell.' (as people die darkness clouds their vision-darkness being negative) and injuries of people (Ares, book five) to achieve the same affect. There are a lot of positive things that Homer alludes to, such as the glory of an aristeia (Diomedes and Agamemnons), defeating a prestigious opponent and the prizes for succeeding at war (be it at the discretion of the Gods). But interspersed into the glorified battle are reminders of the true horrors war brings upon people: bodies being eaten by dogs, leaving families behind when killed and the brutal nature in which people were killed. Overall I feel that Homer portrays war in both a positive and negative fashion, highlighting the glories of battle, but also presenting the morbidity of war. Joe Dickinson L6MD ...read more.

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