The Iliad is a collection of poems by Homer describing the 10-year siege on Troy by Greeks in what is now famously referred to as the Trojan War. Several Greek and Trojan characters are worth a special mention in these Homeric poems because of the roles they played in the battles before the war was won, how they conducted themselves to help eventually win the war for their side. This paper specifically investigates the writings in the Homeric poems to look are important in the overall text.
The author, Homer, portrays a society utilizing poetic fiction. He describes how humans directly talked and interacted with divine beings (Raaflaub 469), an act that can be seen in page forty six of the Iliad which starts by describing a dream that Zeus (god) had sent to Agamemnon. In the dream Zeus promises Agamemnon glory in when the war is finished. The interaction with gods can also be seen in page forty seven whereby a speaker asks Zeus, Apollo and Athena to give him 10 more people to help him strategize his battles against the Trojans. The author of the poem also uses items that were common hundreds of years ago including fighting using ships and placing the ships in the historical Trojan War (Raaflaub 471-472). Such uses are common throughout this collection of Homeric poems.
Some of the elements that the author uses to depict the battles are fictional or overly exaggerated events/elements. For instance, Homer's narration of huge weapons and equally huge men in the war is strewn together with individual heroes, soldiers and endless confrontations that last the whole day (Raaflaub 472). One can see this in page ninety-seven in which he portrays Agamemnon describing another man as fighting like wild animal and had a big heart and that he always led his soldiers from the front (vanguard) (Homer 97). Death is also a theme in the Iliad. The theme is evident in the poem as the author narrates on several occasions of terrible deaths on both sides in the war, for instance, in page 103 he narrates how the fighting fields were filled with streams of blood owing to the many deaths (Homer 103).
Apart from hundreds of people being killed in the fields, it is also evident that the armies which fought back then were not disorganized. The advanced battle formations were also evident in the Iliad as Homer depicted infantry formations in some of the battles. Furthermore, the poet writes of how the captains and soldiers fought in formations and how some platoons were specialized each with its own special weapons for different battles. For example, in page ninety-six he says that leader of the platoon reviewed his unit rank by rank. Besides advanced formations the battles were also fought in a cycle. Most of the Battles described by Homer go as follows: the victorious side is often made up of numerous loosely structured groups of soldiers often united by bonds of companionship and subordination. The battles are usually fought on open fields where at any given instance, most the soldiers often remain away from the actual combat while the vanguard (a small troop of soldiers) moves closer so as to engage in physical combat. An exchange then occurs as another troop from one side replaces the small troop that went first (Raaflaub 476).
As noted earlier one of the main themes of the entire Iliad is death. It is depicted in various ways throughout the Iliad. For instance, Amphimakhos (the grandson of Poseidon, a god) dies in the poem. His death is depicted as follows: Hektor threw his spear aiming at a man who, being alert of the danger swerved and instead the spear tore into the lungs of Amphimakhos who was just joining the fight (Homer 305).
A fresh set of characters who take on key roles in the ensuing battles and end up becoming heroes for their valiant acts is introduced to the readership later in the Iliad. One example is Hektor, the lord commander of Greeks. Hektor concentrates more on his tactics instead of physical characteristics of the battles he fought. Through the new set of introduced characters the author depicts the war as becoming progressively less chaotic and the movement between people becoming more controlled. However, according to Wees, the addition of a new group of characters doesn't mean that the rest of the men participating in the...
It was also shown that the helmets of the men were also pressed against each other, showing just how close the poet wanted to described the units (Homer 303). Descriptions of men forming tight impregnable units, indeed sound like the description of a phalanx. Because of that, many academics have regarded the depictions as late interpolations. However, others have claimed that the narratives are part of Homer's typical writing style particularly on how battles took place. According to experts this is how Greek units always fought. They packed together tightly such that all men should had their shoulders touching, a technique that was later referred to as "locking shields." Moreover, this argument is supported by Wees, who expounds on how soldiers could arrange themselves in orderly rows referred to as phalanges, and forming neat little squares referred to as purgoi (3).
The way Homer described battles and army organizations, indeed, makes it near impractical for individuals to fight as masses. In his work, Homer depicts soldiers leaving battlefields when injured or exhausted or when taking away spoils of war. Usually, small troops of soldiers would leave and not individual soldiers. Army groups consisted of numerous units, each with a captain and a unique set of rules, and it was often normal that when leaders left, his platoon left with him. When such platoons returned to the battlefields, it was not a must for them to go back to the exact location where they were fighting instead they could go wherever they wanted. Units going wherever they wanted often destroyed battle formations and any collection/massing of units were often just temporary. Moreover, when breakthroughs occurred, troops could break formations and separate in flight (Wees 3).
Apart from the use of phalanxes, soldiers in the Greek army also engaged in physical (hand-to-hand) combat with the Trojans. Several scenes are documented in the Iliad where only hand weapons were utilized. Two possible ways that masses could fight hand-to-hand and with projectiles at the same time have been postulated. First is that, slingers and archers could shoot at enemy units, by firing above their own soldiers who were fighting enemy soldiers hand to hand. Second, large masses fighting battle fields and the units could be arranged in such a way that there were spaces in between them that allowed their people to throw stones, shoot arrows and use javelins against their opponents as they moved nearer and finished off enemy soldiers using spears or swords. The launching of projectiles over enemy soldiers is depicted in several passages in the Iliad, one such passage is depicted as follows: a group of soldiers who are specifically equipped with arrows and other projectiles are stationed at the rear of the masses for the purposes of launching projectiles over their fellow comrades and to the enemies (Homer 320). Author Wees in his analysis also argues that both hand-to-hand and mass confrontations were utilized in the battles (Wees 4-5).
Besides hand to hand combat, use of chariots was also common in the Homeric battles. According to Homer men fought with their chariots close behind them and it was important for men to have their horses breathing down their necks. However, this kind of proximity to the action also shows that the charioteer would be putting himself in danger and that it would obviously have been better for him to keep a distance, however such was the importance of brotherhood during the war that no one could leave another behind (Homer 310-311). The chariots used in the Trojan wars weren't specifically built for war. Originally, they had been built for peacetime travels and racing and were depicted in the Iliad as a status symbol. The chariots were pulled by at least two expensive horses. Chariots were used in the war as a form of transport to the battle- field it also transport warriors within it. The chariot could serve soldiers in the chaos of combat despite some arguing that it was not practical for it to move around through the chaos of battle. According to Wees, the Homeric chariot ought not to be considered impractical. That it was an added an advantage to the warrior who…
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