Homer: Passion in the Iliad

  • Simon Haines


European literature begins with the word μηνιν (mênin). This is the accusative singular form of a Greek noun usually translated as “wrath”, “anger” or “rage”, but also connoting “bane” or “malice”. “The wrath sing, goddess, of Peleus’ son Achilles, that deadly anger which heaped up a myriad sorrows upon the Achaeans”: these are the first two lines of the Iliad, a formulaic oral composition probably of the later eighth century BC.1 These two lines, rather than the poem’s title, announce its theme and disclose its quality. This is the story not of the fall of Troy (Ilium), but of Achilles’ passion. The poem does not offer a sequential account of the Greek (Achaean) expedition to recover Helen from the Trojans, but represents the emotions and behaviour of Achilles and the other leading characters of the war in relation to a single illuminative episode in it.


Dust Smoke Funeral Pyre Burial Defend 


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Copyright information

© Simon Haines 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Haines
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian National UniversityAustralia

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