Skip to content

The Iliad- Greek Mythology and Prophylactics Meet for the First Time

April 30, 2011


The Iliad is like the Super Bowl (or maybe the Pro Bowl) of Greek mythology, with the greatest of the gods and goddesses getting involved somehow, but unlike the Super Bowl, we don’t know who has won at the end of the epic.  Some might say, “What a rip-off!”  But no, no, it isn’t 

The story was supposedly told by a blind poet named Homer, and his epic poem starts in the tenth year of a ten-year war between Troy and Greece.  Tenth year?  Why does the epic begin in the tenth year?  Because The Iliad  already has enough of “Who slew whom,” and “Who impaled whom,” and “Who decapitated whom.” “Whom” always gets the worst of it in these exchanges.  Even tired Greek warriors who sat by the campfire at night listening to the achievements of soldiers past could get bored with ten year’s worth “So-and-so slaughtered a bunch of him-and-hims and them-and-thems.” 

So, why does The Iliad end before the Trojan War ends? 


 The Iliad is the story of Achilles and how he learns compassion.  Once he learns compassion and returns the body of Hector to King Priam, that particular story is over.


Achilles died in a stupid way.  Getting killed fighting the kraken would have been a glorious way to die.  Getting shot  in the heel with an arrow delivered by Paris, the least worthy of all the Trojan royalty, is pretty much an insult.   


The Greeks cheated to win.  Yes, using the Trojan horse was clever, and the Trojans should never have fallen for it, and all is fair in war, but employing that kind of tactic takes all the glory out of the victory.  Yes, the Greeks won, and they have scoreboard, but they cheated, so now they can’t brag about it, so Homer was probably wise to leave it out of the epic.  Then again, the Trojans cheated when they killed Achilles, so I guess they’re even, if by even, you mean… just read the next reason. 


The Greeks engaged in a lot of bad behavior when they conquered the city of Troy.  It’s one thing to cheer when the greatest of all Greek warriors slays the greatest of all the Trojans, but it’s not inspiring to hear about how a bunch of drunken, victorious Greek soldiers threw babies off the walls of Troy, or raped Trojan princesses in their own temples.  That’s generally not a crowd pleaser.


Uh, because the Trojan walls never broke?


If you’re a dysfunctional literate, the prose is much easier to figure out.  If you’re a true literate and want to capture the tone of the masterpiece, then try reading the epic in its intended form.

  1. “The Greeks engaged in a lot of bad behavior…” How dare you say that about the people who started Western civilization. Well Western civilization is a long history of very bad behavior, culminating in those stalwart leaders Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, so I guess your evaluation of the canon [cannon?] is about right.

  2. Read it again. The Iliad is THE classic. And, according to scholars, it is just one book of perhaps 20, the Oysseus being the other surviveor – which explains some of your questions. The question of the name Trojans for condoms always confused me too. And why would the USC football team take their nickname and logo from a condom anyway?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: