Iliad Book 3.



Artist's reconstruction of the chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue of Zeus in the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. The statue was made by Pheidias in his workshop at Olympia.

Let's start with HEROES

Heroes introduced in Book 3

  • On the TROJAN side, Alexandros and Hektor: What can we learn about heroic ideals from the narrator's description of Alexandros followed by Hektor's rebuke of him?
  • On the ACHAIAN side, Helen describes the Greek heroes for Priam: Agamemnon (good at spear fighting; tall and muscular); Odysseus (good at words and cunning intelligence; short and powerful); Menelaos (laconic); Aias (bulwark of the Achaians).

As Book 3 opens, both armies are marshaled for battle, but the long-awaited event is again delayed; the principles in the cause of the war--Alexandros and Menelaos--prepare for a duel which will decide the outcome of the war.

Menelaos and Paris are the "second string"; the symmetry, however, is off: Hektor leads the Trojan army for Paris as Agamemnon leads the Greeks for Menelaos, BUT the "first string" is Hektor and ACHILLES, not (pointedly not) Hektor and Agamemnon.

Think about: How does the asymmetry relate to the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon?

When Menelaos gets his chance to cast a spear at Alexandros, he prays that Zeus will help him exact justice. Agamemnon and Menelaos are sure of the justice of their position,

Something to ponder: Does the poet let us unambiguously assign the high moral ground to either side?

and now for the LOVERS

Helen the ambiguous: sympathetically drawn in the encounter with Priam and Aphrodite; she weaves like a good wife, but weaving also has the possiblity of being devious; she stands up to Aphrodite, but finally gives in to Alexandros.

Keep track of how Helen is REPRESENTED in the Iliad. [ Remember, she is not a real person, she is a character constructed by the poetic tradition.]

and finally, the GODS

The GODS intervene, for both good and ill, in human affairs: e.g., Athena prevents Achilles from killing Agamemnon; Aphrodite saves Paris and forces Helen to return to him; Hera allegedly wishes she could eat her enemy raw (that is, act like an animal!); Hera (and Zeus!) start the war back up again after a settlement is reached.

What about these gods who cause such tremendous human tragedy over their petty grievances?

Do they experience any of the tragedy that they cause?

What is the problem with which humans now have to deal and HOW can/should they manage it?

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