Analysis Of Troy In Homer’s Poem

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“War will be every man’s concern, especially mine, of all those who live in Troy. (Iliad 6, lines 604-5)”. Hector thinks that above all others, he is the most important to Troy’s fate in war. I will demonstrate how we look at this without involving the authority of the gods, immortals and muses, by using the epigraph above.

Looking at the short epigraph we must research the context of the wider conversation that is going on between Hector and Andromache his wife. The discussion is giving us clues about their relationship. He has been entreating her to go home and get on with some proper work around the house, he has more important things to attend to. He uses an argument that says whilst war concerns all Trojans, it is chiefly my role to go and fight. This context is showing us that even at a family level Hector is using his familial authority to support his responsibility to Troy. In this relationship Hector is putting the importance of his role in Troy’s affairs before his family.

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Using this familial authority as a dramatic lever, Homer uses his skills in setting up the discourse between Hector and Andromache. Hector, as a high placed hero in the hierarchy of Troy must now act with responsibility, “especially mine”, on behalf of the all the concerned men of Troy (Iliad 6, lines 604-5). This demonstrates Homer is adding complexity and authority within his character. As the man of the house, he confidently expresses he is the only leader capable of saving the city, so he has political authority as well. Following this line of thinking and accepting that Hector’s character and the author Homer are both adept at using authority, they seem to handle situations to their own benefit. We can begin to see this in the many layers of authority already brought to bear in the Iliad. Hector has clearly seen himself as the champion of Troy and seems confident he not going to hades for his inaction, his responsibility is to Troy. As a leading Trojan, politically or as a soldier and a champion he feels this imbues him with an overarching moral authority, this authority, to him, stands over and above his direct authority as a Husband and a Father.

This moral authority is driven by his confidence in himself and his position in Trojan society. He prays directly to Zeus and the other immortals on behalf of his son to make him in his image and be “pre-eminent among the Trojans, as strong and brave as me. Grant that he may rule Troy with strength”. (Iliad 6, lines 584-6). The self-assurance of his own moral authority ultimately leads Hector to take the responsibility to fight Achilles by himself. Homer has used his knowledge here to promote the drama in the Poem. In terms of Hector’s epigraph that “War should be every man’s concern, especially mine, of all those who live in Troy” is putting his nobility, determination and skill as an impressive warrior at centre stage. While he is also showing himself as a man of the people. The focus of Hector being uncompromising and concerned with his sense of honour, makes the defeat of Hector by Achilles an even more heroic feat. The Greek sense of duty and honour delivers a martial authority based on arête the pursuit of excellence, nobility where men treat each other well in society, valour that warriors get through battle and achieving a sense of authority for everlasting fame and glory in their accomplishments in a man’s life. (Robson, J. 2014, p.249)

This is very dismissive of the effects of warfare on the women of Troy. Andromache’s concerns bring emotional authority to the poem, described earlier in the Iliad as weeping and berating her husband Hector for his warlike spirit. She is concerned over the fate of her husband Hector, her son Astyanax and lastly herself, should Troy fall. Little wonder she is emotional during this part of the drama. However, Homer and therefore Hector put this aside and ask Andromache to “go into the house, to keep busy with your proper work, your loom and wool” (Iliad 6, lines 602-3) she is also then to direct the servants to their tasks. Andromache is supposed to do housework as Hector prepares for battle. The Iliad is of course a poem of it’s time. Homer delivers what the audience wants in his dramatisation in the lead up to the combat between Hector and Achilles. This reflects how old Homer’s Iliad is and that gives it a literary authority as the oldest work of western literature that has survived, it is also the first recognised written work in the western literary canon. This position also does a lot to protect its place in that canon of work (Robson, J. 2014, p.255).

The quality and status of Homer’s work has led to his work being respected down the ages, as important poems and written works. And as poems originated as an oral tradition, they can be defined as being composed and not written as in the case of the Iliad and the odyssey (Robson, J. 2014, p.238). The similes that Homer uses to create images is a powerful tool to the poetic orator. To the modern reader, who is used to shorter and more concise similes, they can seem overlong. Even Homer must add a reminder the “that’s what happed to” clause at the end of them (Robson, J. 2014, p.269-272). These are very powerful images of bravery, courage and motion. By using these verbal tools poets can translate them onto the written page, then use them to engage and the reader or listener can transport them into the stories, performances or poems themselves gives them an artistic authority of their own.

These stories were written down versions of a long oral tradition, using similes is eye opening and they are generally based on comparing characters actions to the natural world which gives us a picture of the past. They are based in an oral tradition delivered by people through verbal performances in front of audiences. In western culture we had travelling bards, while in other cultures there are references to minstrels, singers and storytellers. The use of similes and metaphors in their performances would have engaged and enthralled their audiences, in a similar way to how Homer’s written poems have come down through down the ages. Folklore is full of images of people around a log fire, faces full of wonder at the tales of heroes, the performance of the poem in any format is all to them. Homer delivers this in the Iliad which has stood the test of time, his attention to detail gives him an authorial authority. Also, his meticulous knowledge of the words and actions of the Greeks, Trojans, gods, war and death is magical. He shows he is more than knowledgeable about the past, the possible future and the present. All this alongside his power of description. (Robson, J. 2014, p.256).

In conclusion I have deliberately kept away from the obvious authorities in Homer’s work particularly the gods, other immortals and muses. However, I do think they add a wonderful mysticism to the poem, and they help Homer to guide, manage and continue the story as they weave in and out of the Iliad. I have shown here that there are already enough layers of authority within the human interactions in Iliad without the addition of gods, immortals and muses. The interplay of these many and varied human authorities, gives the Iliad its drama and deserved place in the western literary canon.


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