The Iliad by Homer

Composed around 730 B.C., Homer’s Iliad recounts the events of a few momentous weeks in the protracted ten-year war between the invading Achaeans, or Greeks, and the Trojans in their besieged city of Illion. From the explosive confrontation between Achilles, the greatest warrior at Troy, and Agamemnon, the inept leader of the Greeks, through to its tragic conclusion, The Iliad explores the abiding, blighting facts of war.

Soldier and civilian, victor and vanquished, hero and coward, men, women, young, old – The Iliad evokes in poignant, searing detail the fate of every life ravaged y the Trojan War. And, as told by Homer, this ancient tale of a particular Bronze Age conflict becomes a sublime and sweeping evocation of the destruction of war throughout the ages.

The Iliad is a classic I’ve never heard anyone be excited to read. If you had an awesome English teacher like I did, you were only subjected to excerpts and that was more than enough. Having gone back and actually trudged my way through it, I see – and appreciate – why she taught her class the highlights and discarded the rest.

As with most old and translated readings, it’s pretty tough to get through. The story is clearly meant to be read like a long, long poem – since it was originally an oral tradition, this makes sense – but the structure is sort of overwhelming. There’s also a lot of repetition… a LOT of it.

It’s always great to feel like I’ve read something that is cultured and historic but I couldn’t take the Iliad as historic (because its fantastical) and I couldn’t process it well enough to do more than follow the plot. This may be one of the few cases where the movie (Troy, 2004) is actually better than book.

What classics have you found yourself unable to appreciate? I can’t be the only one. Let me know in the comments below, via e-mail –, or on social media, always @hollyandoates.

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