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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 
How Was the Iliad Poem Born?
Notes taken on June 10, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
the Iliad
product of an oral tradition, as with the the Odyssey
composed over 500 years after the events they describe
most scholars believe there is some historical kernel that got preserved in the memory of the Greeks
was handed down from one generation to another
maybe the war didn't last 10 years
maybe it didn't involve the entire Greek world
maybe Achilles was just an insubordinate officer who caused a lot of trouble and went on a rampage
in any case, the event was sufficiently momentous and traumatic never to be forgotten
the Greeks who kept the memory of the war alive were very different from the heroes of Homer's poem
Mycenaean sites and palaces began to be destroyed around 1200 BC, about a generation after the fall of Troy
it is unclear way
there was a recovery but it didn't last
it could be that the Mycenaean destruction was done mostly by the Dorians who invaded Greece from the north shortly after the Trojan War
Greeks that composed the poems
when the poems were being composed, Greece had become a cultural backwater
a place of little consequence to other parts of the world
the arts had virtually died out
little evidence of communication with the outside world
Linear B, a script that the Myceneeans used for administrative purposes, was forgotten
these Greeks of the Dark Period, so to say, looked back on a former Greece which could send out a huge force to wage a war
"The Trojan War may have had the appeal of an event in which a people is indeed victorious but so exhausted itself in victory that this was its last achievement."
the story is shaped by this period of decline
had lost all its unity
today we may question the historicity of the Trojan War, but the Ancient Greeks did not
wrote history of Persian wars
wrote at history of the Peloponnesian War
saw the poems at their supreme literary achievement
studied and learned by heart
recited in public and private
we have more scraps of Homer preserved on papyrus than we have from any other Greek writer
provided the Greeks with an image of the gods but were not religious texts as e.g. the Old Testament texts were for other cultures
first written down in Athens around the middle of the sixth century BCE
from then on the texts of both poems were essentially fixed
a number of surviving, and no doubt many lost Greek tragedies, were focused around the theme of the war
Aeschylus [Αἰσχύλος]
Oristia [Ὀρέστεια]
chronicles the fate of the warrior Ajax after the events of the Iliad, but before the end of the Trojan War
Philoctetes [Φιλοκτήτης]
describes the attempt by Neoptolemus and Odysseus to bring the disabled Philoctetes, the master archer, with them to Troy
one of the seven tragedies of Sophocles to have survived in its complete form
takes place after the Trojan War, but before the Greeks have departed Troy (roughly the same time as The Trojan Women, another play by Euripides)
central figure is Hecuba, wife of King Priam, formerly Queen of the now-fallen city
depicts Hecuba's grief over the death of her daughter Polyxena, and the revenge she takes for the murder of her youngest son Polydorus
Andromache [Ἀνδρομάχη]
dramatises Andromache's life as a slave, years after the events of the Trojan War, and her conflict with her master's new wife, Hermione
1. Alexandros
the recognition of the Trojan prince Paris who had been abandoned in infancy by his parents and rediscovered in adulthood
2. Palamedes
Greek mistreatment of their fellow Greek Palamedes
3. Trojan Women
the fates of the women of Troy after their city has been sacked, their husbands killed, and as their remaining families are about to be taken away as slaves
often considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos and the subsequent slaughter and subjugation of its populace by the Athenians earlier that year
the Greeks could never lay the Trojan War to rest, as it raised deeply troubling questions about
warfare in general
the treatment of the defeated
returned to questions Homer raised
how can such a war be justified?
is the cost of military victory worth it to the victors?
as Achilles asks: why do young men sacrifice themselves in war?
it may not be in their mind when they set out for war, but once they see what war really means, that question is going to come up
Trojan War has been an inspiration for modern Greek writers
Constantine P. Cavafy
Nikos Kazantzakis
Giorgos Seferis
poem: The King of Asini
in Book II of the Iliad there is a catalog of ships
contingents of ships that sailed to Troy under Agememnon
1186 ships
50 men per ship
60,000 men in total
shouldn't be taken literally, of course
one contingent came from Asini
Homer said only of it "and Asini" which meant they were part of the war as well
about the search for someone, something long forgotten
"Shieldbearer, the sun climbed warring, and from the depths of the cave a startled bat hit the light as an arrow hits a shield: ‘’Ασíνην τε. . .’Ασíνην τε. . .’. If only that could be the king of Asini we've been searching for so carefully on this acropolis sometimes touching with our fingers his touch upon the stones.
extends out from the Trojan War conquest
to all those who have laid down their lives and are unremembered