Iliad

Influence on the arts and literature

The Iliad was a standard work of great importance already in Classical Greece and remained so throughout the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. It made its return to Italy and Western Europe beginning in the 15th century, primarily through translations into Latin and the vernacular languages. Prior to this reintroduction, a shortened Latin version of the poem, known as the Ilias Latina, was very widely studied and read as a basic school text. The West, however, had tended to look at Homer as a liar as they believed they possessed much more down to earth and realistic eyewitness accounts of the Trojan War written by Dares and Dictys Cretensis who were supposedly present at the events.

These late antique forged accounts formed the basis of several eminently popular medieval chivalric romances, most notably those of Benoit de Sainte-Maure and Guido delle Colonne. These in turn spawned many others in various European languages, such as the first printed English book, the 1473 Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. Other accounts read in the Middle Ages were antique Latin retellings such as the Excidium Troiae and works in the vernaculars such as the Icelandic Troy Saga. Even without Homer, the Trojan War story had remained central to Western European medieval literary culture and its sense of identity. Most nations and several royal houses traced their origins to heroes at the Trojan War. Britain was supposedly settled by the Trojan Brutus, for instance.

Subjects from the Trojan War were a favourite among ancient Greek dramatists. Aeschylus' trilogy, the Oresteia, comprising Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides, follows the story of Agamemnon after his return from the war.

Homer also came to be of great influence in European culture with the resurgence of interest in Greek antiquity during the Renaissance, and it remains the first and most influential work of the Western canon.

William Shakespeare used the plot of the Iliad as source material for his play Troilus and Cressida, but focused on a medieval legend, the love story of Troilus, son of King Priam of Troy, and Cressida, daughter of the Trojan soothsayer Calchas. The play, often considered to be a comedy, reverses traditional views on events of the Trojan War and depicts Achilles as a coward, Ajax as a dull, unthinking mercenary, etc.

William Theed the elder made an impressive bronze statue of Thetis as she brought Achilles his new armor forged by Hephaesthus. It has been on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City since 2013.

Robert Browning's poem Development discusses his childhood introduction to the matter of the Iliad and his delight in the epic, as well as contemporary debates about its authorship.

20th century

Simone Weil wrote the essay The Iliad or the Poem of Force in 1939 shortly after the commencement of World War II. The essay describes how the Iliad demonstrates the way force, exercised to the extreme in war, reduces both victim and aggressor to the level of the slave and the unthinking automaton.[55]

The 1954 Broadway musical The Golden Apple by librettist John Treville Latouche and composer Jerome Moross was freely adapted from the Iliad and the Odyssey, re-setting the action to America's Washington state in the years after the Spanish–American War, with events inspired by the Iliad in Act One and events inspired by the Odyssey in Act Two.

Christa Wolf's 1983 novel Cassandra is a critical engagement with the Iliad. Wolf's narrator is Cassandra, whose thoughts we hear at the moment just before her murder by Clytemnestra in Sparta. Wolf's narrator presents a feminist's view of the war, and of war in general. Cassandra's story is accompanied by four essays which Wolf delivered as the Frankfurter Poetik-Vorlesungen. The essays present Wolf's concerns as a writer and rewriter of this canonical story and show the genesis of the novel through Wolf's own readings and in a trip she took to Greece.

David Melnick's Men in Aida (cf. μῆνιν ἄειδε) (1983) is a postmodern homophonic translation of Book One into a farcical bathhouse scenario, preserving the sounds but not the meaning of the original.

Contemporary popular culture

An epic science fiction adaptation/tribute by acclaimed author Dan Simmons titled Ilium was released in 2003. The novel received a Locus Award for best science fiction novel of 2003.

A loose film adaptation of the Iliad, Troy, was released in 2004. Though the film received mixed reviews, it was a commercial success, particularly in international sales. It grossed $133 million in the United States and $497 million worldwide, placing it in the 88th top-grossing movies of all time.[56]

Age of Bronze is an American comics series by writer/artist Eric Shanower retelling the legend of the Trojan War. It began in 1998 and is published by Image Comics.[57][58][59]

Published October 2011,[60] Alice Oswald's sixth collection, Memorial, is based on the Iliad but departs from the narrative form of the Iliad to focus on, and so commemorate, the individually-named characters whose deaths are mentioned in that poem.[61][62][63] Later in October 2011, Memorial was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize,[64] but in December 2011, Oswald withdrew the book from the shortlist,[65][66] citing concerns about the ethics of the prize's sponsors.[67]


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