graphic of a soldier TROY
Activities for Homer's Iliad



NOTE the chili peppers!!! One means a pretty easy Activity, two means a harder one, and three means a challenging Activity. It is up to you.

1. Read The Trojan War, Chapter 2: "Oral Poetry and the Troy Cycle," and Chapter 3: "Homer's Iliad: The War at Troy."

2. Explore the links on the Homer and the Troy Cycle page.

3. Read through all the Activity questions on this page before selecting Activities to work with. Some of the Activities are quite easy and may only require reading part of the Iliad, while others are far more difficult, and may require reading more than one text or doing online research plus reading texts.

Select Activities that interest you and are appropriate to the time you have to spend on them. You will not get a higher grade because you select a more difficult Activity. Some Activities that are especially complex will offer double credit; if so, that will be stated in the Activity question.

If you select the double credit option, you must write "double credit" on your Activity AND you must develop your Activity in substantial depth, in order to qualify for the double credit.

Select two of these Activities for Unit 1 (one for Activity 1 and one for Activity 2); make a copy of the Activity question to begin your response. Post your response to the Homer Forum in Blackboard.


Achilles bandages Patrocles' wound

Achilles bandages Patroclus

While Zeus watches over the war

Bust of Zeus

graphic of one chili pepper1. In Book 1 of the Iliad, who do you think is most to blame for the rage of Achilles, Achilles or Agamemnon? Explain in detail why you take this position, supporting your ideas with specific examples from Book 1.
2. graphic of one chili pepperCompare Agamemnon's explanation of his quarrel with Achilles in Books 1 and 9 of the Iliad (Agamemnon was blinded and made mad by the gods) and in Book 1 (Achilles was arrogant and insubordinate). Which one do you think is true? Or are they both true? Support your response with plenty of specific examples from both books.
graphic of one chili pepper3. List at least six of the women, mortal and divine in the Iliad and write a brief description of each one, explaining her role in the Iliad. (Warning: many of these women are in other myths and stories too, so if you use a handbook of mythology, double check your facts about each woman with the Iliad itself). Be sure to include Helen and Andromache. Finally, write a paragraph or two summing up Homer's ideas about women in the Iliad--what they are like and how they are treated.
graphic of one chili pepper4. Achilles and Agamemnon are the two most outstanding men in the Iliad, yet they behave in ways that are destructive to their men. It is easy to see their negative qualities. However, this question asks you to look for the excellence in each man. List several qualities and/or examples and explain why they contribute to his excellence. Support your response with several specific examples. You will need to find and review sections of the Iliad where Agamemnon actually is fighting against the Trojans to judge his bravery.
5. Review books 1 and 23 of the Iliad.graphic of one chili pepper Book 1 is about the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles that sets off the rage and deaths in the story. Book 23 is about the funeral games for Patroclus, Achilles' dearest friend. Achilles hosts the contests and there are many examples of anger averted, wise judgments, and good will. Can you tell from this what could have avoided the terrible rage that Agamemnon set off in Achilles? Explain in some detail, using examples from both books 1 and 23.
graphic of one chili pepper6. Compare a Homeric hero to a modern hero. In Homer's culture a hero was a mortal man (yep, no women) who risked his life to battle against great odds to gain his goals (e.g. Achilles wanted fame; Odysseus wanted to get home to Ithaka). The modern hero may be a fighter, a ruler, a leader, or an athlete; he may be real or fictional.  He may be a she. But remember...a hero risks and often loses his life for his cause. Write a  biography of each hero, looking at the specifics of their family lives, beliefs, friendships, activities, heroic behaviors, etc. You will probably want to go to Bulfinch's Mythology for information about your Iliad hero's family life. Then, explain how each hero affects the society he/she lives in and how people feel about each hero. Finally, what are the most interesting differences between your two heroes and so what?
graphic of one chili pepper7. Go to the Images of Bronze Age Troy and Mycenae. Look through the various images and select at least three that might actually have existed in the world of the Iliad. Describe each image and explain exactly where in the Iliad you would expect to find it, who would use it, own it, live in it, etc., and what you could learn about the Iliad from seeing the image. Don't just say that a jug was used to hold wine. When and where exactly in the Iliad might that jug have been used? Support your ideas with specific examples.
graphic of one chili pepper8. Go to the main page for Homer and look through the section: IMAGES BASED ON HOMER AND THE TROY CYCLE. Select three images which deal with the events of the Iliad. Name and describe each image and compare it to the corresponding scene in the Iliad. How has the artist interpreted the characters, events, etc.? Do you agree with the artist's interpretation? Why or why not? Explain using specific examples from the Iliad to support your points.
graphic of one chili pepper9. Go to Bulfinch's Mythology and look up the stories of two or three major gods and/or heroes from the Iliad. Now select one or more specific scenes in the Iliad that can be better understood after reading about the characters' mythological roles. Explain the way the mythology helps you to understand each scene, using specific details from the Iliad to support your ideas.
graphic of one chili pepper10. Go to Thucydides The History of the Peloponnesian War and read the first half of Book 1, which discusses the Trojan War, its economics and strategies. Compare this analysis to the version you have read in the Iliad. Point out some interesting differences between the two versions and explain why you think they are different. Can you find any interesting similarities? Support your ideas with specific  examples from both Thucydides' History and the Iliad.
graphic of two chili pepper11. Later civilizations disapproved of Homer because "he told lies about the gods." Look in Book 21 for some of these "lies." List and describe several of them in detail as they are presented by Homer. Do you think Homer actually believed in gods such as he sang about? If so, do you think he was being impious to his gods? Why or why not? Support your position with specific examples from the Iliad, especially Book 21.
graphic of two chili pepper12. Review The Trojan War, Chapter 2: "Oral Poetry and the Troy Cycle."  Look at the list of Troy epics and the characters and plot of the overall Troy Cycle to get a feeling for the mythic context of the Iliad. Now think about the relations of gods and humans in the Iliad. Select at least two interesting scenes where gods and humans interact. Describe each scene in some detail and explain its role in the overall story. Do you think these gods were any more or less real to Homer than the heroes? Why or why not? Support your ideas with specific examples from the Iliad.
graphic of three chili pepper13. Option for potential double credit: review book 19 of the Iliad where Achilles ends his rage at Agamemnon and Agamemnon makes amends to Achilles. Pay close attention to what Agamemnon says about how he was deliberately blinded by Atē (a creature of the gods), in order to lead to the terrible quarrel that destroyed so many Greeks. Now, reconsider the character of Agamemnon as you have encountered him throughout the Iliad, paying close attention to books 1 and 9. Also locate sections of the Iliad where Agamemnon is fighting against the Trojans. Is he the coward Achilles accused him of being? Is he being deluded by the gods? (Consider the false dream that Zeus sends to him in book 2, for example.) If you want double credit for this, you MUST deal with many parts of the Iliad, not simply one or two of the books and you will need to write a well developed and supported essay on the topic.
graphic of three chili pepper14. Option for potential double credit: read Barry Strauss, The Trojan War: A New History. Simon & Schuster Paperback, 2007. (Barry Strauss is both a historian and a classicist and he tells a lively story of the war at Troy. He includes much up to date archaeological information to add authenticity to his excellent storytelling abilities. I solidly recommend this to anyone interested in the "war" elements of the Trojan War, from Hittite war politics to Greek body armor to military tactics.) Write a solid, well-developed summary of the book and note at the top that it is for double credit. Remember: to be eligible for double credit, your work must be very well-developed; a thorough summary should include all of the main points and the main supporting examples of the material being summarized. This book is actually great fun to read.
graphic of three chili pepper15. Option for potential double credit: read my essay, "Achilles' Wrath and the Plan of Zeus," and then write an essay on human-god interaction in the Iliad based on your own reading of the Iliad. You will need to develop your ideas fully, using plenty of examples from the Iliad. You are welcome to either agree or disagree with my opinions. You must indicate on the essay that it is for double credit! 
graphic of three chili pepper16. Option for potential double credit: Go to the  Bronze Age page of the TROY site and look carefully through the section on the Hittites. Then consider the Iliad (you need to read most of it to do this one) and think about the foreign elements of Troy from Homer's point of view. You could start with book 2, where the list of Trojan Allies includes peoples from various parts of Anatolia and elsewhere. Do you think that Homer was trying to present the Trojans as meaningfully different from the Greeks? If so how and why? If not, why not? Remember that although Troy was an outlying part of the Hittite Empire in the Bronze Age, by Homer's time five hundred years after the Trojan War the Greeks had moved onto the coast of Anatolia and Homer probably lived not very far from the remains of Troy. You will need plenty of supporting examples for this challenging Activity.

Last Updated:10/14/2013

© Thompson: 9/22/1998