Western Literature 101: Winning A Battle& Losing The War At The Phalanx Of Homer's Retention Of West


Western Literature 101 articles serve as one of the academic courses in the field of English Language and Literature. The course which is a fundamental guide within the scope of general knowledge compared to the technical knowledge of English literature also addresses the readership besides students. With this goal in mind, the author has opted to write the article in very plain and basic English to convey just the necessary understanding of Western literature by making the article merely an outline introduction. Western Literature 101 is mainly divided into five chapters including; 1. Introduction to the Western Literature: Gilgamesh The First Epic Poem 2. The Creation of Western Literature: Old Testament & Hebrews 3. Benchmark of Western Literature: Winning A Battle Losing The War At The Phalanx Of Homer's Retention Of West 4. Evaluation of Western Literature: Agony Of Lost Desires Cries Silently On Poseidon's Hammock

5. Western Roots of Comedy : Greek Comedy

6. Western Roots of Tragedy : Greek Tragedy

7. Tragedy of Western Literature: Fall of Troy & Birth of Rome

The subject of " Winning A Battle& Losing The War At The Phalanx Of Homer's Retention Of West ", consists of a subject that has influenced many people's hearts and many more verses of literary works deeply, the famous Iliad itself. This epic is so deeply placed in the culture of modern western civilizations that, even in the 21st-century, people re-write it, add fiction to it, and film it again and again. These many re-writes and filming of the Iliad literary work show how important it is and tremendously it shakes the roots of western from literature to new media's world sphere. This another essential western literature era literary work is crucial in terms of evaluating literary works over the history of Greek politics, social order, and the after-effects of some literary works overworld ground zero policy for future literary works, based on their specific qualities. To access the previous part of the 101 article:

Ingres, Apoth_ of Homer, Homer and Orph_ 1864-5, later repl_, Mantauban, Musee

What made Homer’s Illiad so decisive is that ne'er-do-well in all Greek nations dared to write such a long narrative at a time when most of the stories had been written orally. It was not a secret story that as a result of that, The Illiad was already existed in oral-literary works as such but the way Homer re-wrote and re-established made the story an unforgettable masterpiece that kept its beauty and lasted for millenniums until today. What can be connected between the Illad’s theme and Greek culture is a very excessive topic, which should be taken into special treatment in deep literary and historical works, but what the one can get it back to sunlight is that Greek culture was at dawn fall which is also known as The Last Great Bronze Age or Dark Age in which they lost most of their culture's traditional wisdom. Which many more about their identity when all the philosophers and so-called bourgeoisie class of its era had been lost had disappeared. This leads to a place where a more primitive and warrior society to be established which created a background perfectly for Illiad.

Jules Lefebvre’s “La Mort de Priam”,05.01.2016,rozbevan

The Illiad’s subject is war; its characters are men in battle and women whose fate depends on the outcome of an un-equal bloody war between two sides. The war is fought by the Achaeans against the Trojans for the recovery of Helen, which has been taken by force by Agamemnon. What makes this story very entertaining in its kind between 725-675bc and still in the 21st century is the way that the combatants are heroes, who in their chariots engage in individual duels before the supporting lines of class, such as; infantry and archers. There is no sentimentality in Homer's descriptions of these battles. The bloody and dark realistic way of telling describes the action from medical to war terms. The scene where he explains the action of cutting one's limbs, in very detailed words to head all they are being displayed meticulously accurate, shows that there is no attempt to suppress the ugliness of Thestor's death. The bare, careful description creates the true nightmare quality of battle, in which men perform monstrous actions with the same matter-of-fact efficiency they display in their normal occupations puts all the reality in one book as a realistic way as it can be, while other lines are being flourished by poetic writing. A simile in lines can reproduce the grotesque appearance of violent death - the simple spear thrust takes away Thestor's dignity as a human being even before it takes his life as a mortal being. One of the things not many writers could achieve but Homer’s beauty on lines shined is the comparison of Patroclus to an angler which emphasizes another aspect of the battle, its excitement.

Homer's lines here combine two contrary emotions:
  • The human revulsion from the horror of violent death

  • The human attraction to the excitement of violent action.

This passage is typical of the poem as a whole. Everywhere in it, as individuals who are conscious of these two poles, there is war's ugly brutality and its "terrible beauty." Homer accepts violence as a basic aspect of human life and accepts it not without enquiring it but without melodramatics, but as an equal way to accept the fact that melodramatics pretending balance of power in each other as if war is not ugly nor to pretend that it does not have its beauty.

C.C.-A. (1694–1752). Fury of Achilles [Painting].

Even though many millenniums passed over Homer’s great success over Illiad, he is still one of the war's greatest interpreters. The Iliad’s main character and subject Achilles is being displayed the events of a few weeks in the ten-year siege of Troy. The particular subject of the poem, as its first line Achilles, is a man who comes to live by and for violence as his first look with anger would be his death. His anger cuts him off from his commander and his fellow princes due to the ego that came from his mother’s supernatural effects on him, being a half immortal on the battlefield. But he is brought back into the battlefield by the death of his closest friend, Patroclus; the consequences of his wrath and withdrawal fall heavily on the Achaeans but most heavily on himself. The great dilemma between honour and reward shows its way at the lines by Homer. The great champion of the Trojans, Hector, fights bravely for his people, but unenthusiastically. War, for him, is a necessary evil, and he thinks nostalgically of the peaceful past, though he has little hope of peace to come for all. His pre-eminence in peace is emphasized by the tenderness of his relations with his wife and child and also by his kindness to Helen. The cause of the war that he knows in his heart will bring his city to destruction by Achilles’s wrath. What can be seen in Hector and cannot be seen in Achilles, against the background of the patterns of the civilized life - the rich city with its temples and palaces, the continuity of the family due to Greek civilization fundamentals in that age. The duel between these two men is the inevitable crisis of the poem. Just as inevitable as Hector's defeat and following Hector's death, as everywhere in the poem, Homer's firm control of his material preserves the balance in which our contrary emotions are held. On such examples as; pity for Hector does not entirely rob most of our sympathy for Achilles but also for Achilie’s brutal words to the dying Hector and the insults he inflicts on Hector's corpse are truly disrespectful in an unhuman way. Although brutality of war has been accepted as best described in Homer's works, readers are never allowed to forget that this inflexible hatred is the expression of his love for Patroclus. And the final book of the poem shows us an Achilles whose iron heart is moved at last; he is touched by the sight of Hector's father clasping in Supplication the terrible hands that have killed so many of his sons. Achille's wrath did not only affect both sides with sadness but even his anger and dis-respect made the Gods feel pity for Hector and call it a stop.

R, P. (1630–1635). Achilles slays Hector [Painting]. Achilles Slays Hector.

Achilles, Priam- the father of the slain- gods, and both people of the war weep together under the death of a great man. Achilles re-discovered his human side by the actions that he caused after weeping and he does the only thing to compensate for his action which he gives Hector's body to Priam for an honorable burial. His anger has run its full course and been appeased. It has brought death, first to the Achaeans and then to the Trojans, to Patroclus and Hector, and so to Achilles himself, for his death is fated to come "soon after Hector's." as ones said, "he who gets up in anger, sits down with a loss". This tragic action is the center of the poem, but it is surrounded by scenes that remind us that the organized destruction of war, though an integral part of human life is still only a part of that. The lust for peace and creative desire to find new possibilities have never left their carnivorous and violent nature is never far beneath the surface.

Scenes that take place in the farewell between Hector and Andromache made one again clear that the Achaeans to are sentient of what they have sacrificed. Two poles of the human condition-war and peace, with their corresponding aspects of human nature, the destructive and also creativeness are implicit in every statement of the poem, easy to recognize, and they are in symbolic forms, in the shield that the god Hephaestus makes for Achilles, with its scenes of human life in both peace and war. Whether these two sides of life can ever be integrated, or even reconciled, is a question that the Iliad raises but cannot answer.


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  • Rana Smith, Z. (2019). ELIT 105 Introdcution To Western Literature (Fisrt ed., Vol. 1). Yeditepe University

  • Hose, Martin; Schenker, David (2015). A Companion to Greek Literature. John Wiley & Sons. p. 445. ISBN 978-1118885956.

  • Romilly, Jacqueline de (1985). A Short History of Greek Literature. University of Chicago Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0226143125. Retrieved 22 November 2016.

  • Kullmann, Wolfgang (1985). "Gods and Men in the Iliad and the Odyssey". Harvard Studies in Classical Philology. 89: 1–23. doi:10.2307/311265. JSTOR 311265.

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  • "The Concept of the Hero in Greek Civilization". Athome.harvard.edu. Archived from the original on 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2010-04-18.

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Doğukan Ejder

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