The Iliad Setting

Instructor: Ronald Speener

Ronald, with my Masters in English, has taught composition, literature, humanities, critical thinking and computer classes.

'The Iliad' is a narrative poem by Homer. It was written about 800 BCE, but the story is set several hundred years earlier, around 1250 BCE. The action of the poem is narrowly limited to three locations covering about 50 days. In this lesson we'll examine these three settings.

The Where and When

What are the three most important words in real estate? Location, location, location. And just like it is today, location was important in ancient Greece, particularly in Homer's epic poem The Iliad. The poem was written around 800 BCE, and in it, Homer details the Greek legend of the Trojan war, which supposedly took place centuries before.

So how does location factor into the poem? For the Greeks, location meant having a base of operation from which to conduct their war. The Trojans, in their city, needed a safe haven from attack by the Greeks. In between these two locations were the battlegrounds.


Troy was a real place that faced the Aegean Sea on the west coast of modern Turkey. In the poem, the Greeks gather a fleet and army, land on the beaches very near Troy, and sit there for ten years in their camp unable to defeat Troy with its massive walls and strong army.

Map of Trojan War arena
Map of Trojan War arena

The action inside Troy takes place primarily in the palace of Priam, the king of Troy, and on the walls of Troy. Inside the walls of Troy, battle decisions and domestic scenes play out. Because Troy, unlike the military camp of the Greeks, is home to these characters, wives and children become part of the setting of the story. Book VI, for example, is set inside Troy with the personal story of Hector, son of the king, and his wife Andromache.

Andromache, Hector and son
Andromache, Hector and son

The walls of Troy are described as massive and impregnable. From here, Trojans watch the fighting outside the wall. They watch the great gates open and close to let troops in and out. They watch the battles and cheer and cry from this grandstand. They intently follow the individual duels like spectators at a boxing match, but if their champion loses, it is his life. It is from the walls of Troy that Andromache witnesses the death of her husband, Hector, by Achilles (Book XXII).

Achilles dragging the body of Hector
Achilles dragging the body of Hector

The Battlefield

The battlegrounds outside of Troy were not like the battlefields of the past century, where huge armies faced off against each other. In this story, the battleground is the plains outside of the city, where skirmishes and individual fights occur. The fighting is a bit like the competitions in today's dance-off movies -- individuals fight for honor and glory. Groups have rumbles.

The battlefield in the story is situated between the walls of Troy and the Greek camp. It is where Achilles kills Hector in revenge and then drags his body before the walls of Troy (Book XXII). It is a setting of raw testosterone and hubris (pride). It witnesses acts of compassion and brutality. In this, it is like the battlefields of today.

Achilles and Pethelieas
Achilles and Pethelieas

The Greek Camp

The Greek camp is located by the ocean where the Greeks beached their ships. The camp is defended on one side by the ocean and on the other side by wall and moat.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account