SDMB Seminar™ #1: The Iliad (Spear-Thrustingly Serious Discussion Thread)

See here (Planning and Recruitment)
and here (the first Iliad thread)
for background.

Welcome once again to the SDMB Seminar™! For those who just wandered in to get out of the rain, or thought this was Underwater Basketweaving 101*, we are attempting to read our way through the curriculum of St. John’s College. Won’t you join us?

This is the big, serious discussion thread for our first selection, the Iliad of Homer. We started reading back in February, and have been checking in with each other in the second thread listed above. Some of us are completely new to the material (me) and some are on more familiar ground- like St. John’s alum commasense and classics scholars CJJ*, Maeglin, and Helen’s Eidolon. This variety of backgrounds within a group of literate and often witty people is what led me to think that this project would be a good idea, and so far the other thread has really helped me, and apparently others, to stay motivated.

Well, with those preliminaries out of the way, how about some ground rules? No, you don’t want any rules? Too bad- HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


1. This thread for discussion about the Iliad. Pretty much no more, no less. We are going to try to stay somewhat close to the “great books” model- as I understand it, that means that the text is the text- we are to make points and arguments based on what it says, not what a secondary source claims, or how it is similar to another work. This isn’t all that strict of a rule- obviously you can’t un-learn what you’ve read from other sources, but try to back up what you post with citations from the book itself.

Further, let’s try to stay away from in-depth discussions of history/ historical context. obviously some is unavoidable, but I’m afraid that we may get hopelessly hijacked away from the text if we get into it. Feel free to start related threads, though!

**2. Back up what you post! **Obviously we all care about this in the land of CITE?! but I think it bears repeating. This is pretty dense reading, and if you make a point that is general and not linked to specific instances in the text, it may be hard for other posters to agree or debate.

3. Engage with the other posters. Politely and generously, but with rigor. Don’t be dismissive, but if somebody posts something you think is questionable- call them out! By the same token, try not to take criticism of your arguments personally. Again, this may be an obvious restatement of general SDMB mores (Cafe Society style, at least), but I think it bears repeating.
4. Have your copy of the text in front of you when you post.** Also, make sure to note which edition you are using when you give page or line numbers. If, like me you post from a non-home location, consider writing up your ideas with citations at home, and posting from your notes, or just toss your book in your bag on the way out the door.

5. Related to #4: Did you read the book? This is a thread on a public message board, and as such is non-exclusive. There are in fact several active participants in the other thread who have not been reading along for the past 5 weeks, but have been referring back to previous readings and checking their texts as needed. That’s totally fine by me, but I would greatly prefer it if we don’t get an influx of posters writing things like “well, I read it 20 years ago in High School, and at the time I thought…” That isn’t really conducive to the kind of discussion we’re looking for here.

6. Slow and Steady. I anticipate this thread lasting at least two weeks- there is a lot of material to cover! I’d rather have posters take a day or two to answer questions and come up with well thought out and backed up posts than to have this thread constantly bobbing at the top of the page. Also, if some of you I’m looking at you, Margo haven’t quite finished the reading, a slow and deliberate discussion can help you us catch up- no shame!

**7. Don’t be afraid. **Above I’ve emphasized the need for rigor and well thought our posts, but don’t stay quiet because you think that your input may be “too shallow” or even obvious. I think (and YMMV) that some of the best discussion questions are those asked by someone who truly doesn’t know the answer, rather than ones manufactured by a teacher to draw out a desired train of thought. Isn’t that pretty much the entire spirit of the Dope, anyway?

Lastly, as I have stated in the other threads, I’ve never done anything like this before- reading the classics and online reading groups are equally foreign to me. Feel free to challenge me on the “rules” above- they are roughly gleaned from what participants posted in the other threads.

I’ll start the discussion off in the next post.

*UnBa 101 was moved to the New Building, room 304. If you hurry you can still make roll call, and if Prof. Sampiro asks me I’ll tell him it was an honest mistake and you really were here on time.

Now, to start discussion…

I’ll begin with a question, but don’t feel that you need to stick to it- feel free to start off on another tack or ask a question of your own. As I stated in the last post, I think that slow and steady is the best plan, plus I already spent waaay too much of my workday (well, my breaks, but still) banging out the post above, so I’ll be back with my thoughts tomorrow.

so, my discusssion question is:

Just what is the Iliad, anyway? and further, why are we reading it? Is it a history of a war? “great literature”? “an epic”? a rollicking, gut-spewing adventure tale? a morality play? something else? And what do these terms mean when we employ them to describe such an ancient text?

This question was directly inspired by MichaelQReilly’s post #82 in the reading thread, but I’ll leave you all in suspense as to my feelings on the matter.

Might as well take a stab at it.

The definitions of the categories I use would be identical even if the text were modern. The purpose of these categories is to be able to discuss capital-l Literature in a consistent way and help us locate works in the literary space.

What is the Iliad?

The Iliad is an epic because it was performed orally. In Greek, “ta epe” means spoken things.

The Iliad is a poem because it is composed in dactyllic hexameters and its tropes are self-consciously versified. In other words, it is poetry because it is not like common speech.

The Iliad is a myth because its characters operate on the frontiers of desire; thus they do not suffer the typical constraints that inhibit the desires of ordinary people. They are as gods: the Iliad does not imitate us or life.

The Iliad is tragic because the impossibility of integrating the protagonist and his society is demonstrated very early on, and all attempts to integrate end badly for pretty much all sides.

Why do we read it?

It is a magnificent example of how to use language. Its thought and metaphors are crystal clear and as hard as granite. If language makes up the landscape of your imagination, you might as well decorate it.

It is old. Its archetypes are deep in the bedrock of western literature. To understand this literature, you must understand the archetypes, where they come from, and the web of meaning they create when used together. While it didn’t all start with the Iliad, a hell of a lot of it did.

It is entertaining. This can be for very different reasons for different people. Perhaps some of us enjoy imagining ourselves at the frontiers of desire. Others watch the action remotely, admiring the magnificently inevitable way all of the forces of personality interact. Others appreciate it on the merits of the language alone. Others yet become engrossed in the heroism and villiany of the protagonists and antagonists.

I hope this is at least food for thought!

What is the Iliad?

That’s a question that can be answered on several levels, and I think Maeglin’s answer hits a lot of good points.

One thing that always strikes me in reading the poem is that, to my mind, it was obviously the product of a long and adaptive process. It did not spring fully-formed into the world, but consists in some measure of borrowed pieces from other times and other writers. The Homeric question is the oldest one in scholarship, and even if you argue that a single man named Homer wrote these works, you have to admit there is a lot of patching and sewing evident in the final garment.

IMO then, the Iliad is a patchwork of different poetic ideas–some perhaps borrowed from other bards in the oral epic tradition–strewn together first to make a coherent narrative (here an assumed Homer may have added a lot of his own material), then judiciously edited to emphasize the tragedy of Achilles and overlay the folly of unchecked anger as a binding theme. That’s what makes it artistic, and if you want a specific definition of what “Greek oral tradition” actually means, that is as good as any.

Why do we read it?

Well, the Greek is absolutely beautiful, even in the conjectured pronunciation understood only after years of scholarship. But although a skilled translator can get some of this across in translation, I don’t think most folks approach the Iliad for this reason.

Maeglin is right to call elements of the poem archetypal, but that makes it sound more like a classroom chore, and certainly wasn’t the reason the poem was recited in the first place. I’ll grant that it’s impossible for modern readers to approach this work without recognizing its ancient reputation and vast importance to Western Literature, but I hesitate to make reading it a clinical exercise.

Ultimately, for me, it is the timelessness humanity that resonates through the lines. When Priam begs Achilles for Hector’s body, the two men end up weeping together “for all our grief we will hide our sorrows in our hearts, for weeping will not avail us. The immortals know no care, yet the lot they spin for man is full of sorrow.” (Butler translation) Such poignant yet pathetic resignation is the result of a well-constructed story that still touches our heart some 3000 years later. That is powerful.

I’d like this philosophy even if I didn’t agree with the details of the bits which follow it. As it happens, I have no major objections to those bits.

Unfortunately, I think the number one reason that people read the Illiad is because it’s really old, it’s a “Classic” and they don’t realize how boring and repetitive it is. For further development of this train of thought, see the other thread.

That’s probably nasty and unfair of me, but I’m really not sure that I’ve found that the Illiad has much more to offer than that–other than the fact that human nature hasn’t really changed, if hearing about the sex lives of gods, and graphic violence perpetrated on other people used to appeal to people and now it’s higher tech versions of the same which appeal as entertainment.

Actually, I acknowledge that it’s repetitive, but I think that’s one of the most fascinating things about it for me. I have a hard time reading very long before marveling at how much on the one hand it screams its oral culture heritage through repeated epithets and standard phrases and formulae, but at the same time offers these really fantastically colorful metaphors and deep imaginative descriptions.

I have a hard time reading the ‘text’, as it’s been received by us, as some monolithic standardized version, without wondering about the looser oral tradition that we’ve received as written record, but only one version out of a kabillion. Sort of like if we knew all of jazz only through one Miles Davis recording. So when I run into repetitive sections, it’s delightful, because a half page later we run into something like, for example, the description of the decoration on the breastplate that Hephaiestos makes Achilleus: I think, God, what a blast the orator must have had making this imaginative delightful shit up that evening, and the next evening it could have been something that would have been completely different and the audience would have eaten it up, even as they all nodded along with the basic storyline (not a lot of room for suspense in this tradition, so I guess the delight must have been in the recognition colored with variation).

So I guess. . . is the Iliad as we have it a petrified and set “text” or do we need to see what we have as only one version of a very open and malleable basic storyline-- a version that only accidentally and incidentally wound up as canonical not in its own time but in much later reception? Is the “Homer as ‘author’” concept a more recent problem? This story was probably told on 5000 different evenings in 5000 different ways. Who’s this guy, then?

So I guess keeping to rule #1 is for me nearly impossible, philosophically, since I’m not sure I believe that the text here is The Text. This text that we have on paper this century is almost the least interesting thing about this text in a broader sense, from my perspective.

On that note I’ll try to deal with This Text from here on and work with what we have. I had to quickly get my Foucault-y po-mo comparative epistemological ya-yas out, though.

What is the Illiad? To me, the Illiad is the archetypal epic and a hugely valuable insight into history.

Because I don’t have the technological knowledge like some of the above posters or have the ability to read the work in the original Greek, I’ve never analyzed the mechanics of the poem in depth. But in terms of history, the Illiad is so rich. By looking at the themes and characters, for instance, we can glean an understanding of the values of the Ancient Greeks. The first time I read the poem, I found the Greek heroes are all pretty unlikeable. Yet in subsequent readings, I’ve been able to come around and see the things in Achillies, for instance, that they admired.

Another great part of the Illiad is the insight it gives into the oral tradition. Others are probably more qualified than I to speak on this, so I will let them. But, as I said before, the story connected the Greeks to their past. I can imagine listeners waiting for the part of the story where their community’s (supposed?) ancestor played his part in the story.

Even thought the extent of the historicity of the Illiad is still up for debate, the poem also provides an invaluable look back into the Bronze Age. Whether its the one-on-one battles between champions, the focus on the strength of warriors’ battle cries, the importance of capturing bodies and armor, the constant raiding, etc. There is clearly an echo of a older type of warfare in the Illiad. (One that irronically, according to John Keegan in A History of Warfare, the Classical Greeks themselves replaced.)

There are two strains here worth exploring.

  1. People read the Iliad because it is old and is a classic.

Well, this is pretty much true. But thankfully (for classics scholars), there is a large volume of old classic literature to choose from. Reasonably cultured people today are supposed to know something about the Iliad but not, say, the Phainomena of Aratus. This text is old, classic, and was well-loved by ancients with intelligence and taste. No one except hardcore hellenists read it today because it is quite awful. Yet people still read the Iliad. Heck, they read it even in the presence of other strong ancient poetry. Does anyone aside from literature students read the Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes? It’s a cracking good poem, and is plenty “boring and repetitive”. So why is the Iliad more classic and widely read than the Phainomena or the Argonautica?

  1. The Iliad has nothing more to offer than standard fare entertainment.

The Iliad and standard issue entertainment belong in the same literary universe. So yes, I gladly agree that the Iliad provides a very similar sort of entertainment as modern pulp. It is a book: it is not going to do your taxes and give you a massage with a happy ending afterwards.

People approach the “classics” with all sorts of curious expectations about the kind of reading experiences they are going to have, and it is a shame when they are disappointed. But really, it is after all a book.

However, there are key differences between the Iliad and derivative pulp that arise when the reader allows himself to be receptive to them. A sensitive reader with some critical facility can swiftly break down a less interesting work into its component parts, reveal its underlying assumptions, and be done with it. This is why there is not a great deal of scholarship on authors in the bestseller genre. There simply isn’t very much to say about them. The Iliad, on the other hand, has given humanity thousands of years of spilled ink, and we show no signs of running out of interesting things to say about it. That is why the Iliad offers so much more than most entertainment that plays with the same archetypes. For a sensitive reader, there is a maelstrom of thought and ideas underneath the Iliad’s marble surface. Break through the surface of most mass entertainment, old or contemporary, and you find only empty space.

I can certainly respect your viewpoint and your fascination with the oral history beginnings of what we now have. And there is something neat about reading something really old–even if it’s a modern translation of something really old. It’s just, for the purpose of this Seminar, the Text is the important thing, and I don’t find the Text very interesting and I seriously do think that many people read it for the cultural baggage it has collected along the way from that ancient storytelling to today’s libraries.

I mean, reading it (at times) struck me like reading the Begats in the Bible–but the Begats are meaningful to me because sometimes I see a name I recognize, and because as a Christian, everything in the Bible has Meaning and Significance.

That’s probably more than a little true of the Illiad, as well, but reading it has failed to inspire me with any desire to figure out just what that Meaning and Significance is.

This is not really what I meant, though perhaps this reflects my taste more than anything else. Understanding the archetypes for me is not a dry, clinical exercise anymore than is uncovering the building blocks of the universe via physics. If you believe as I do that these archetypes are hardwired into our brains, then taking them apart is a fascinating exercise in self-examination and a search for meaning in a life full of noise.

Good point. Though for me, this is more of a fringe benefit of reading :wink:

I think the lacrimae rerum speech (these are the tears of the world, etc) in the Aeneid, when Aeneas and co. gaze on the carved images of the fall of Troy, resonates even more strongly with me.

I don’t know. And frankly, while it might be interesting to look at the history of how the Illiad got the place in the Pantheon of Great Literature that it has, I’m not sure that the answer is all that germane to this Seminar.

Maybe I’m just not a sensitive reader, or maybe I’m coming at the Illiad as too much of a blank slate, but I’ve seen very little in the Illiad to inspire me to dig into that supposed maelstrom of thoughts and ideas.

Seriously, don’t tell me that there is a wonderful depth of meaning that I’m missing, tell me why you love reading Book 12 or whatever.

I’m sure familiarity does bring comfort and enjoyment to a certain degree–certainly I’ve found that to be true of the Bible. And I’m not saying I regret reading the Illiad–though I’ve got a few Books left to go. But I’m not impressed with the Illiad.

It was a rhetorical question to answer your observation that people just read it because it is old. Lots of stuff is old and does not get read. So why thus and not so? That is my point.

To each his own. This is why people tend to read this stuff in school and with the assistance of a teacher. If you’re lucky, you can get inspired for life. If only that happened more often.

When that’s the question that’s being asked, I’d be happy to. But right now, we are considering why read this text at all, and I’m just giving you my opinion. The enormity of the criticism of the Iliad testifies to the fact that it is very rewarding to discuss and think about. I respect your skepticism, and I hope that once we dive into the text, you will be pleasantly surprised. But I am not a teacher, so I hope you don’t expect any miracles from me. :slight_smile:

I don’t like rhetorical questions–says the whiny person.

More seriously, I don’t think that the question of why people read the Illiad is a particularily useful way to start off discussion on the Illiad. I’m not interested enough in the Classics to take a class on them, but if there are ordinary people who get more interesting stuff out of the Illiad than I have so far, I want them to be specific, but if you’d rather let more people weigh in on the first question Margo has posed first, that’s ok with me.

I think Eureka has a point. The Iliad is a large-enough work that its tempting to discuss it in generalities, but given its presumed composition and the obvious structure, its greatness can only be appreciated by marshalling a vast host of details about the work. So I’m with Eureka when he says “don’t tell me that there is a wonderful depth of meaning that I’m missing, tell me why you love reading Book 12 or whatever.”

If I may, I think we can move this forward by selecting a passage and commenting on it. For no other reason than I think someone mentioned it, what do folks think about the description of the shield of Achilles in book XVIII (search on “When he had so said” to find the beginning; it runs thru the end of the book. I’d post it here but it’s quite lengthy.)?

Have you read the Phainomena? It’s not a connected story, but a lot of disjointed little snippets about the constellations. Of course, it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. You can’t compare that to a full, sweeping, well-told story with its attendant digressions.

The Argonautica itself IS such an epic, and it deserves to be much better known. I’ve got two copies at home, along with a copy on tape.

But I’ve read the Iliad a LOT more often than the Argonautica, and I’ve listened to it much more often as well. It’s a far superior story, and told better. I am awed by the artistry of The Iliad and the Odyssey. If you strip away all the extraneous material, the side-stories and digressions, there’s a relatively simple core story there. It’s NOT the story of the Trojan War – it’s a single event near the end of that contest – the Wrath and Temper of Achilles and what it lead to. And the story could have been told in a very short and sparse poem. But Homer , even if you ignore the other material, fills the story with characterizatioon and detail. His is not the work of a good storyteller with a new myth – the myth is old, and has had time to acquire details, and it has been around so long and is so familiar that the teller can assume his audience’s familiarity with it, and can comment on it and envision how it must have happened in great detail. And a great storyteller can make that detail fascinating instead of tedious. It’s a very mature story, that has passed through many hands and has been well-thought-out.
Why don’t people read Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica? That’s more to the point. It’s a poem about the rest of the Trojan War, after the Iliad. It’s mature, and well-developed, and involves the same setting and many of the same characters. But it’s not as good as the Iliad. I had to force my way through it.

I really don’t want this to be a huge hijack. I am trying to figure out whether I made myself clear enough. For what it’s worth, both the Iliad and the Phainomena are epic poems, though the Phainomena is didactic.

My question was purely rhetorical. Eureka’s proposition was that people read the Iliad because it is old and that people do not realize that it is repetitive and boring. I objected to this: there are plenty of old, repetitive, and boring texts to choose from, many of which were very popular in their times. I did not choose the Phainomena as an example because it is anything like the Iliad, but because it is old, rather boring, but was extremely beloved for centuries. The point was that great antiquity alone is not the reason people still read the Iliad. On that, I am sure we agree.

I’m still grappling with how to answer my own question- and I do agree with Eureka and CJJ* that perhaps it is too much of a generality… but I do have some thoughts.

As I said upthread, MichaelQReilly’s comments about the Iliad as history struck a chord with me. Before I started reading, I was more inclined to look at it (and this goes back to my experience with the Odyssey in High School) as myth, pure and simple. Not that I didn’t believe that the Trojan War happened, or anything like that, I just couldn’t see how something that wasn’t even written down until generations after the events in question could be considered more accurate than a campfire ghost story. Plus the whole Gods and Goddesses thing. I’ve grown somewhat in my understanding of what ‘oral tradition’ means since High School, of course, but I still went into this thinking of it as a story first and foremost.

I wasn’t disappointed- it is a really exciting story! The battles are terribly violent and dramatic, with unexpected twists and turns and disembowelings- I got so excited (disturbed?) about the image evoked by the phrase “the corpse-fires burned on, night and day, no end in sight.”* that I had to share it with the friends I was sitting around reading with, which led to my retelling the story up to that point to them**. But what came through more and more to me is that the book isn’t just about the seige of Troy,
or Achilles’ fate, or the soap opera of the gods, (it is all that) - it’s also about the telling of that story. I think that that is what the repetition is doing- within the first five books there are enough descriptions of sacrifice (or rather, enough repetitions of the description of a sacrifice) that I feel like I could fake it if I was airdropped into Bronze-age greece just in time for a ceremonial slaughter.

I’m sure the actual ceremonies were more complex/nuanced, or perhaps entirely different from what is in the text, but the consistent phrasing “prayed and flung the barley… lifted back the heads of the victims, slit their throats, skinned them and carved away the meat from the thighbones and wrapped them in fat…” and so forth. These quotes came from around line 450 in book 1, but they are repeated almost word-for word in book 2, lines 495-515, and the terms “thighbone”, “wrapped in fat” and others come back again and again as reminders of just how the sacrifice must be done when these men are trying to appease or to appeal to a god. Other things are repeated word-for word as well- Achilles tells his immortal Ma the same stuff I told my friends above and more, but he uses the same exact words that the ‘narrator’ uses in the earlier part of Book 1- a bit of abridgement, but no paraphrases or change in voice to indicate that this is a man speaking of his personal grievances to his mother.

I think that a lot of this insight (for me) comes not necessarily from the characterizations or the drama, but from the boring stuff. In the reading thread it was pointed out that some of the passages that are a bit confusing become more clear when read aloud. I think that this is key- the repetition and what might be considered ‘oral rhythms’ (is this the right term?) of the text make it easy to remrmber and, more importantly, to pass on. In a work more concerned with moving the narrative forward, the word-for-word repetition is dry and unnecessary. In a work that needs to be retold and passed down, it is essential. If you hear about how the sacrifice is done once, you understand it and a simple or oblique reference later will suffice. However, if you need to be able to tell somebody else not just the basic outline of the story but the vitally important instructions for a proper sacrifice, hearing the same exact phrasing will sear it into your brain for future use.

It seems like embedded within the text are clues and blatant instructions for how to tell the story. All the repeated phrases, the way that the names of the soldiers are brought in not as simple lists, but with their own little memorable backstories, and even the gory action are all ways of ensuring that the story gets retold to the next generation with all the pertinent information intact. Maybe what makes it more than just a really super campfire story that evolved into a perfect self-replicator is all that meta-data- it becomes a model for how to pass information along - how to create history?

I’m really interested in Eureka’s comparison to the Bible. I’m breaking my own rules, I guess, but I feel like the Bible maybe has some of the same self-replicating tendencies?

Also, thank you
*book 1, line 60 in Fagles.
**in hurried, simple form: Well, the Greeks won this battle before the book started, and took this girl away from her father, who was a priest. He chased after them and tried to pay them to let her go. The rank-and-file guys wanted to do it to honor Apollo through his priest, but the King, Agamemnon was a total dick about it and, not only did he say no, I don’t care whose priest you are, but then he says all this crap about how he was going to take her home and fuck her and then she’d grow old in his house, never seeing her loved ones again. to her DAD. What a dick. So they leave, and the priest tells Apollo, who is obviously pretty pissed, so he comes down and kills off a bunch of animals and men with his arrows (meaning he gave them the plague), so they had to burn all the bodies…

Indeed- those shining moments almost seem like prizes for swallowing the medicine- all the more exciting for what we had to get though to find them.

I was also thinking about the lack of suspense angle, and comparing the way the Iliad is structured to, for example, a whodunit. In a text where some surprise or deduction is involved, clues are sprinkled in, interwoven to be invisible with the storyline- frex, if in the end, the butler did it, we’ll probably meet the butler early on. Or, in another sense, Chekhov’s gun. But in the Iliad, when the butler shows up, he does it, and we know immediately, and then we get told about it again later, and the gun doesn’t come on stage until it needs to be fired, but boy howdy is it fired! The ‘craft’ of the Iliad is superb, but it is hanging out there for all to see- if you can read it, you can find the important bits and pass them along to someone else, unlike a finely crafted mystery, where the complex laying of the plot keeps the writer’s hand invisible.

I don’t know that I really think the Bible has a lot in common with the Illiad, especially structure wise. I mean, I didn’t realize until the discussion (in the other thread) that the Illiad only covered one episode from a war–I expected it to be more like the Odyssey, which I read a version of back in high school.

Really, the only reason I mentioned the Bible is because it is something long and old which I have read, despite finding chunks of it incredibly dull. But the Bible doesn’t repeat itself in the way that the Illiad does.

On the other hand, there are sections of the Bible where basically it says stuff like “Adam begat Enoch begat Methusaleh (who lived 564 years) begat Noah. Noah begat Japeth who begat What’s his name who begat that other guy” ad nauseum.

(any accuracy in the above quotes is accidental).

Then in a later book, it may repeat that list or a similar one. In particular, Matthew and Luke both begin with something that appears to be the ancestry of Jesus, but there are a few differences in the lists, the details of which I don’t remember, and really feel to be off-topic.

But the Bible wasn’t written by a single author, and covers a much larger span of time. If you just read the synoptic Gospels–that’s Matthew, Mark and Luke, there is a fair bit of overlap in the stories of Jesus’s ministry, though many details are arranged in differing orders, just to give the anti-literal interpretation of the Bible people something to chew on. (Er, sort of, please take these comments with a grain of salt. I am no more a Biblical Scholar than I am a scholar of the Classics, but I am a Christian, and somewhat on the literal interpretation side. So I can tolerate a little irreverence, but not anti-Christian bigots).

To my mind, the most interesting aspect of the Iliad is that it is a mythologizing of what may have been some actual historical episode - but the mythologizing was done during the Greek “dark ages” following the fall of the Mycenaen civilization that the Iliad itself was set in.

The importance of this is that the characters of the Iliad are portrayed as “dark ages” warriors, rather than Mycenaen soldiers. Keegan remarks on this in his History of Warfare. For example: the action is focussed on battle by individual champions supported by their posse, not as in clashes of armies. Technology used during the Mycenaen period is described but its use is misunderstood - for example, the use of chariots (almost certainly originally used by composite bowmen to make enveloping and hit and run attacks, not to transport champions about on the battlefield and then dismount to fight); the Trojan horse (not mentioned in the Iliad itself but part of the same myth-cycle - probably a memory of actual siege engines), etc.

It is much like medieval romances which depict Julius Caesar as a medieval knight jousting away in armour.