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C O U R S E 
Greeks at War: Homer at Troy
Robert Garland, Colgate University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Homeric Question and the Trojan War
Notes taken on June 30, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
nothing is known for certain about Homer
there is a strong tradition that he was blind
this may be based on the idea that his poetic genius compensated for his blindness
19th century: two groups regarding historicity of Homer
the Analysts
dispute Homer's existence altogether
the poems are a patchwork of works stitched by many hands
the Unitarians
believe the poems are a unity or unified composition
their influence lives on today
we call the study of the identity of Homer, "The Homeric Question"
goes back to antiquity
Hellenistic period (following the death of Alexander the Great)
scholars were already asking who was Homer
20th century
we comprehend the Homeric poems as having their roots in the oral tradition
we find whole passages copied in various works
suggests that numerous bards were reciting and writing down these poems
Martin West
Iliad was composed over a long period of time (680-640 BC) by a single poet who he calls P
then there is the question if the Odyssey was composed by the same author as the Iliad
it is clear, however, that some version of the Iliad was being recited by bards traveling from house to house
The Lost Poems
the poems about the Trojan War which have not made it down to us
no other poem has survived
the Iliad and the Odyssey were for a period of at least 150 years were experienced primarily by listening rather than reading
our earliest records of the Greek alphabet date to about 760 BCE
Homer was probably literate but we don't know this
The Recension
it wasn't until the 6th century BC that the texts of the two poems became standardized
took place under Peisistratus
introduced recitals of Homer into the Pan-Hellenic games
the division of the books into 24 books each was made a some time, we don't know exactly when
Homer the person
probably came from:
1. Smyrna, a Greek city on the Turkish coast
not far from Troy
2. Chios
island just off the coast
almost certainly had visited Troy
had first-hand knowledge of local topography
in book 6 he paints a very vivid picture of Troy the city
in book 12 he lists all the eight rivers which empty into the sea south of Troy
we shouldn't automatically expect that Homer choose the Trojan War to write about
there were other events
the story of the Minotaur
when singing of Troy, he is on home ground, it is local history
there were certainly some ruins of Troy in his time, even if most of the site was grassed over
it would be like for us to visit the battle field of Gettysburg or those of WWI, of the Normandy beaches from WWII
it would have fired up his imagination
would have certainly encountered non-Greek culture at first hand
perhaps for this reason he might have been sympathetic to the Trojans
one of the great characteristics of the Iliad is that it is at least as sympathetic to the enemy as it is to the home side, it's anything but a nationalistic rant
he knows the battle field intimately
he was the first to lay bare the questionable motives of warmongers, the suffering of noncombatants, the brutalizing affects of war on the soldiery, and the ambiguities of military heroism.
he also understands the psychology of soldiers from the inside
he knows they are given to grumbling and to questioning the justification of war
he knows that they are compelled to fight even though they have no stomach for the encounter
he also knows that things happen on the battlefield that cause rational men to go berserk and become killing machines
he knows that morality and human decency are among the first casualties
but he also does full justice to the courage of the combatants
and he never forgets the plight of the innocent people caught up in war's struggle and are its victims
book 6 of Iliad
Trojan prince Hector and wife Andromache are in conversation
talks about what she will be like after Hector is killed in war, namely, a slave
Homer never lets us forget that our enemy is a human being fully deserving of the respect which we claim for ourselves
not even Agamemnon for all his faults as a leader suggest in trying to whip up his men that the Trojans are mere vermin
no Trojan or Greek ever speaks contemptuously of his opponent because of his ethnicity
although there are plenty of insults thrown back and forth, none of them make reference to the identity of persons as a Greek or a Trojan
and the last great scene of the poem is an acknowledgement of the common bond of humanity between Greeks and Trojans which override ethnic differences
when King Priam begs the body of his dead son from Achilles, who has killed so many of his sons
from poet's perspective, there is no difference between the Greeks and the Trojans
in the poem, the Trojans, of course, speak perfect Greek
the only major difference we see between the Trojans and the Greeks we see in Book 6 where we learn the King Priam has 50 sons and 12 daughters, which means that the Trojans, or at least the Trojan royal house is polygamous
Simon Vile
essay: The Iliad, or the Poem of Force
the Iliad has had no imitators
it's difficult to detect if the poet is Greek or Trojan
this is central to his vision of the experience of war
"This poem is a miraculous thing, it's bitterness rests on the only just cause for bitterness, the subjection of the human spirit to force. The subjection is the same for all mortals, their souls bear it differently according to their goodness. No one in the Iliad is spared just as no one on Earth is spared."
no one who yields to force is regarded as contemptible for this reason
all of those who participate are loved, but loved in grief under the threat of constantly impending destruction
characters of Iliad
Menelaus [Μενέλαος]
king of Mycenaean (pre-Dorian) Sparta
husband of Helen of Troy
central figure in the Trojan War
brother of Agamemnon
leader of the Spartan contingent of the Greek army during the War
prominent in both the Iliad and Odyssey
Paris [Πάρις]
son of Priam and Hecuba, king and queen of Troy
best-known was his elopement with Helen, queen of Sparta, this being one of the immediate causes of the Trojan War
fatally wounds Achilles in the heel with an arrow
Diomedes [Διομήδης]
became King of Argos
alongside Ajax as one of the best warriors of all the Achaeans
later he founded ten or more Italian cities
Odysseus [Ὀδυσσεύς]
legendary Greek king of Ithaca
one of the most influential Greek champions during the Trojan War
when Agamemnon, to test the morale of the Achaeans, announced his intentions to depart Troy, Odysseus restored order to the Greek camp
hero of the Odyssey
Nestor [Νέστωρ]
King of Pylos
too old to engage in combat himself
often gives advice to the younger warriors and advises Agamemnon and Achilles to reconcile
Achilles [Ἀχιλλεύς]
central character and greatest warrior of the Iliad
most notable feat during the Trojan War was the slaying of the Trojan hero Hector outside the gates of Troy
death of Achilles is not presented in the Iliad
other sources concur that he was killed near the end of the Trojan War by Paris, who shot him in the heel with an arrow
Agamemnon [Ἀγαμέμνων]
brother of Menelaus
commanded the united Greek armed forces in the Trojan War
upon return from Troy, he was murdered by Aegisthus, the lover of his wife, Clytemnestra