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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 Structure of the Iliad
Notes taken on July 24, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
Homer's vision of war is idiosyncratic
doesn't dwell upon the causalities
participants either die instantly and painlessly or make spectacular recoveries
they don't get shipped back to Greece crippled, blinded, mutilated or insane as in real wars
reasons for this
his audience was primary aristocratic
he was composing for the officer class
the ancient equivalent of the Pentagon
never indicates who his audience is
those who provided him with board and lodging
many non-aristocrats would have heard the poem as well
poem's action centers around the threat of insurrection
book 1: Achilles is at the point of assassinating Agamemnon
book 2: Calchas [Κάλχας], a soothsayer, denounces Agamemnon for waging war, and tells them men they should all head home
"we have no grudge against the Trojans, what are we doing fighting them"
what is unique about Homer's vision of war
concentrates on only four days of fighting
these are its exclusive focus
in the tenth and final year of the war
at beginning
we learn there was a plague has been raging for nine days
no abduction of Helen at the outset
no Trojan horse at the end
chooses a pivotal moment at the end of the war that will lead to Troy's downfall
sympathetic to Helen
a woman with a conscience
reluctant to go to bed with Paris
only does so when Aphrodite coerces her
a war that had been going on for ten years
war brutalizes
the more it goes on, the more people become dehumanized
tempers fray
people do despicable things
this is built into the poem
240 warriors die
188 Trojan
52 Greek
focuses on death of Achilles' friend Patroclus [Πάτροκλος] by Hector
the killing in turn of Hector
what justifies a military expedition to the other side of the world
how can military leadership be held accountable
what constitutes bravery and cowardice
what does it mean to be in the thick of war and question the reason you are fighting
Greeks are reading to pack it all in
a plague has broken out
this is where the poem opens
the face-off between Agamemnon and his officer Achilles
and it is still over a dispute about a woman
as is the cause of the war
a tale of love and glory
Agamemnon threatens to take away Achilles battle prize, a girl named Briseis [Βρισηΐς]
Achilles interprets this as an insult to his honor
warriors expect to be rewarded with prizes of honor
they are symbolic
Agamemnon is breaking the rules
even though the Iliad is about siege warfare, it hardly features siege warfare at all
siege warfare doesn't make a great narrative
we hear about an endless battle which goes one way one day, and another way the next
Troy is a walled city on a slight hill
Greeks set up their camp in the valley of Scamander which occasionally flooded
plunder is an important part of this war
how Agamemnon recompenses and feeds his army to some extent
how Achilles acquired the captive girl Briseis
how Agamemnon acquired his captive girl Chryseis [Χρυσηΐς]
assumption that Greeks will accept ransom in exchange for their prisoners
it's the fact that Agamemnon has refused to accept ransom from the father of Chryseis
Simone Weil
"brief evocations of the world of peace"
when Simoesios is struck down by Ajax at the end of Book 4
tell to the ground like a black poplar, a poplar that is trimmed smooth at the bottom of its trunk, which a maker of chariots fells with his shining iron
in order to bend it to make a wheel for a chariot
with this beautiful simile, we are transported to the world of craftsmanship and peace
in this way Homer transports us elsewhere for brief moments