Homer’s Iliad is the defining epic of Western literature. Its heroes live on in lure and our collective and individual consciousness. Most of Greek—and Roman literature—is indebted to the epic and its characters. Even modern English literature owes much to Homer’s monumental and heroic poem. Indeed, all Western literature owes to the wellspring of Homer. Even literary criticism, if it begins with Alexander Pope, is rooted in Homer’s genius and splendor. But what is the moving force of the drama, which sees men and their entrails spilling out, throats slit, as dark crimson blood bathes the sand of Troy?
The defining images of Homer’s Iliad are the images of strife and love. In this essay of mine, I compare Homer’s Iliad to Hesiod’s Theogony, examine the images on Achilles’ shield in comparison to the wedding banquet of Peleus and Thetis, and combine them with understanding the individual characters of the epic. From this, I argue that Homer revolutionizes the Greek cosmos to include love alongside strife, giving us hope in a world formerly dominated by rage and despair.
Read it at TIC, as part of my regular literary column: “Homer’s Iliad and the Shield of Love and Strife.”