Copyright

Themes in The Iliad

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Role of Women in The Iliad

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Background
  • 0:28 Love and Friendship
  • 1:39 Fate and Free Will
  • 2:46 Honor
  • 4:06 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Dive into several of the most prominent themes in Homer's epic poem 'The Iliad.' This lesson explores the themes of love and friendship, fate and free will, and honor with concrete details so you can explore the subtext of the poem.

Background

Homer's epic poem The Iliad begins in the ninth year of the Trojan War, a conflict between the Achaeans and the city of Troy. The fight begins when Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, returns to Troy with Priam's son Paris. To get her back, Achaean King Menelaus takes an army to Troy. Themes such as love and friendship, fate and free will, and honor surface throughout the epic poem.

Love and Friendship

The power of love and friendship is explored throughout The Iliad and is a main source of many conflicts. Romantic love, parental love, and friendship between warriors are the most common forms of love and friendship shown in the poem.

The kinship between warriors is incredibly powerful, as witnessed between Achilles and Patroclus. The brotherly love between Achilles and Patroclus is more intense than any other warrior relationship exhibited in the poem, as demonstrated by the following quote spoken by Patroclus to Achilles:

'But one thing more. A last request - grant it, please.

Never bury my bones apart from yours, Achilles,

let them lie together …

just as we grew up together in your house.'

The two men are so close that Patroclus wants to be buried along with Achilles in the same way as family would be buried together. Friendship between warriors is necessary to maintain morale during wartime, but it also extends beyond the battlefield. This brotherly friendship is what sparks Achilles' decision to avenge Patroclus's death by killing Hector. After killing Hector, Priam comes to claim his son's body, and it is the understanding of love and friendship that convinces Achilles to let Priam have his son's body.

Fate and Free Will

Greek literature and mythology rely heavily on the theme of fate and free will. Homer's The Iliad is no exception. The fates of Achilles and Hector are brought up throughout the poem. More importantly, the poem seems to rest on the notion that man does not have a choice in how his life will turn out because it has already been chosen for him. For example, in Book 1, Thetis, Achilles' mother, laments the birth of her son, alluding to his coming death during the Trojan War. Thetis behaves as if there is no escaping what has been decided by fate.

Furthermore, in the following quote in Book 9, Hector treats fate and free will in the same manner:

'Why so much grief for me?

No man will hurl me down to Death, against my fate.

And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it,

neither brave man nor coward, I tell you -

it's born with us the day that we are born.'

Hector makes it clear to his wife, Andromache, that there is nothing anybody can do to prevent his death should it be slated to happen. According to this perspective, men have no say in the direction of their lives because fate has already decided the outcome.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com 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 Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
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? Study.com 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
Support