20 Jun 2013

Iliad reading helps!

Our decision to study the Fagles edition of The Iliad in AO6 instead of a retelling has proved a good one for us.  It is not an easy read by any means, but it is easy to see why the story has endured for so many hundreds of years, and we will be really glad to be able to say we've read it.  Besides, it's a really, really great story - it's the classic of classics, after all!

Iliad means 'a song about Ileum(Troy)', but the story is about much more than that.  It is an epic war story, and focuses on the revengeful fury of Achilles - who in fact sulks by himself for the first half of the book.  It begins in the final year of the ten year long Greek siege of Troy.  Achilles has been insulted by Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek armies, and refuses to fight for him.  The Iliad is the story  of the few weeks leading up to the devastating clash between the two greatest warriors - Achilles, son of the goddess Thetis, versus Hector, son of King Priam of Troy.

The relationship between the gods and the mortals is a recurring narrative of the story, and has been the basis of many great discussions in the past few weeks. Some years before The Iliad begins, Zeus had been asked to decide which of the three goddesses, his wife, Hera; Athena, Goddess of Wisdom; or Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty was the fairest.  Sensible husband that he was, Zeus was reluctant to decide, and when none of the other gods would either, Paris of Troy was called to Olympus to decide for them.  Paris chose Aphrodite, but only because she bribed him by promising him the most beautiful mortal woman - Helen. Helen was already married to Menelaus, the King of Sparta, but nobody cared about that...except Menelaus...and his brother, Agamemnon. The Greeks' expedition to retrieve Helen from Paris in Troy is the beginning of the Trojan War.  The two offended goddesses, Hera and Athena, are now, of course, bitter enemies of Troy.They help the Greeks.  Aphrodite and her lover, Ares, fight for Troy.  Zeus tries to stay impartial, but most often fights for Troy as well.  It's all very complicated, but terrible exciting!!

Here are are a few notes that have helped us keep everything organised.  We printed this off and stuck a copy in the front of the book.  You may find them useful as well!

Great map of places mentioned in The Iliad from here.
Alternative names for The Greeks

Alternative names for Troy

Alternative names for characters
Paris = Alexander
Diomedes = Son of Tydeus = Tydides
Agamemnon and Menelaus = Sons of Atreus = Atridae (singularly they are sometimes called Atrides)
The two Ajaxes = Aeantes
Patroclus = Son of Menoetius
Nestor = Gerenian horseman
Sparta = Lacedaemon

Gods supporting the Greeks
Thetis - Achilles mother

Gods supporting the Trojans
Zeus (Claims to be neutral)

Agamemnon, Commander of the Greek forces
Menelaus, King of Sparta, Agamemnon's brother, and husband of Helen
Helen, Wife of Menelaus, daughter of Zeus and Leda, sister of Clytemnestra
Clytemnestra, Wife of Agamemnon

Achilles, Leader of the Myrmidons, King of Phthia
Patroclus, Son of Menoetius, Achilles' friend

Nestor, Aged King of Pylos
Odysseus, King of Ithaca
Greater Ajax, Son of Telamon
Lesser Ajax, Son of Oileus
Diomedes, King of Argos, Son of Tydeus
Calchas, Chief seer of the Greeks


Priam, Aged King of Troy
Hecuba, Priam's wife
Hector, Leader of the Trojan forces, favorite son of Priam and Hecuba
Paris Brother of Hector; abductor of Helen.

Sarpedon, King of Lycia, Son of Zeus and Laodameia
Aeneas, Son of Anchises and Aphrodite


  1. Lydia LOVED Fagle's translation of the Iliad. She's going to read The Odyssey and Aeneid this year.

  2. We think we'll move on to The Odyssey as well. I didn't know he'd done The Aeneid as well!

  3. We just got finished our year-long reading of N.B. Taylor's Aeneid retelling--Christine Verspaandonk said that they used that series (two by Picard, one by Taylor) when she went to a PNEU school, so I was really excited to find all three of them a good while back at a library sale.

    We found The Aeneid combined really well with Foster's Augustus Caesar's World, particularly the parts about why Virgil was commissioned to write it; the first half is outlined in ACW anyway.

  4. We just read that story last week, Mama Squirrel. It is one of the reasons that The Aeneid is appealing right now, I think. The Iliad has been excellent. We would like to read more Greek mythology.

  5. What a treat it is to browse through all your home schooling stuff! I'm a former schoolteacher myself, and have seen homeschooling done well and done poorly. You are surely a shining example of the very best. *I* would like to go to your school!

  6. My son read the Iliad and the Odyssey (Fagles for both) this past year and LOVED them, especially the Iliad. I was very surprised that these epics appealed to my math & science geek!

  7. Great, Jeanne. I am looking forward to reading this book with my favorite friends at AO. Your lists and maps are nice.


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