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Introducing Homer's Iliad
Introducing Homer's Iliad

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In this free course, Introducing Homer’s Iliad, you have begun to get to know the Iliad, the ancient Greek epic poem of the Trojan War attributed to Homer. You have also learned some of the main features of oral poetry that survive in the written text that exists today.

You have looked in some detail at the myth of the Trojan War as it can be compiled from a range of extant sources, including texts and material artefacts. You have then examined more closely the plot of the Iliad, which covers only a short period of 51 days during the 10-year Trojan War and focuses on the anger of Achilles, his quarrel with Agamemnon, and the consequences of their disagreement. Studying the first seven lines of the poem, both in Greek and English, text and audio, allowed you to notice several distinctive features: the hexameter of the poetry in Greek; the fact that the poem would have been sung to music; the use of word order to highlight the theme of anger; and the use of formulaic phrases, particularly epithets. A closer look at later sections of the text also introduced the extensive use of similes in the poem, which often refer to the natural world or domestic life far from the battlefield, in order to minimise the epic distance of the setting of the Iliad’s narrative, as well as to reflect on the major theme of war.

Hopefully this course has given you a greater sense of how the Iliad works, and has prepared you to some extent to read the poem in its entirety, if you want to. The features of oral poetry highlighted in this course also apply to the Odyssey, the other existing example of heroic epic poetry that uses the myth of the Trojan War as source material. Although the plot of the Odyssey wasn’t covered in detail, you can watch our ‘Troy Story II’ animation (included as an optional activity in this course) to get a sense of the narrative. So you might also feel ready to read that poem, too.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course A229 Introducing the Classical World [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

A level Classical Civilisation with the NEC

The ancient Greeks and Romans created a legacy that has shaped the literature, language, arts, politics and philosophy of the western world. NEC's A level Classical Civilisation online course invites you to step back in time to develop a critical approach to literature and culture of this fascinating period in history.

Step back in time to explore the ancient Greco-Roman world through the eyes of Homer, Virgil and Sophocles in this online A level Classical Civilisation course from the National Extension College (NEC).

Enrol from £750.

Find out more about A level Classical Civilisation here.