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What Is Homer's Epic ‘Iliad’ about: Essay

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The Illiad is a story detailing the consequences of the competition between the three goddesses Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera on who was the most beautiful and fairest of all the Gods. They decide to have Paris, the prince of Troy, decide who was the most beautiful. They decide to bribe him with gifts of swords or of gold. Aphrodite approaches Paris with a deal that she will give him Helen, the most beautiful girl on earth. Paris readily agrees and soon manages to take away Helen from Menelaus of Sparta, brother of King Agamemnon. Menelaus then demands his wife back from Paris, but Paris refuses to return Helen. Hearing this, Menelaus seeks aid from his brother, King Agamemnon. Together they wage war against Troy.

King Agamemnon sitting on his throne

The story of The Illiad chronologically began ten years into Greek’s siege on Troy led by Agamemnon, King of Mycenae. The Greeks are currently heavily debating on the issue of whether they should release Chryseis, a captive priestess from Troy, back to her father, Chryses, a priest of Apollo who pleads to him to return his daughter. As Agamemnon continues to deny Chryse`s pleads, Agamemnon then proceeds to make threats upon the girl to her father, Apollo catches wind of this, feeling insulted and obligated to protect his followers, plagues Amagemnon’s kingdom with a pestilence.

Achilles, Greek’s greatest warrior-hero

After so many of his citizens die, Amagemnon seeks help from the prophet Calchas to determine the cause of the pestilence. Calchas reveals that the cause of the pestilence is Chryseis, hearing this, Amagemnon reluctantly gives her up, but as he was returning her, Amagemnon demands Briseis, Achilles’ own war-prize concubine and lover. Achilles, feeling slighted and dishonored, withdraws himself and his warriors from the Trojan war to spite Amagemnon.

Achilles takes it a step further and begs his mother Thesis, A nymph, and Goddess of water, to plead to Zeus and help Achilles in his resentment for King Agamemnon. Zeus decides to honor this request by sending a dream to Amagemnon promising him with astonishing victory over the Trojans. Agamemnon then gathers all the Greek leaders of the council to relay the contents of his dream. He then goes on to test the soldiers by saying that they are free to go home. As soon as he says this, the soldiers run for the ships to prepare voyage for home. All that was left was Odysseus, Odysseus then goes to the soldiers and convinces them to stay and fight.

Menelaus and Paris with Aphrodite’s Intervention

Then both the Greek and the Trojan warriors march out into the battlefield to fight it out. As this happens, Paris, the Trojan prince proposes a solution. He relays that the war is paused and that he would meet Menelaus in the middle of the battlefield over single combat. Menelaus, who harbors hate for Paris as Paris had previously stolen his wife from him, accepts the duel.

Paris and Menelaus meet in single combat over the most beautiful maiden on Earth, the cause of the ten-year Trojan war, Helen. Aphrodite, who was the one who promised Paris to give him Helen, then intervenes in the fight in order to help Paris win. Despite Aphrodite’s intervention, Melenaus still ends up being the victor.

The goddess Athena, who is in competition with Aphrodite, and is someone in favor of the greeks, soon manipulates the Trojan bowman, Pandoras. She then controlled this bowman to cause a painful, but not fatal wound to Melenaus, thus breaking the truce and reinvigorating the war between the Greeks and the Trojans again.

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Diomedes, a Greek hero manages to drive away the Trojan forces before him but, in his arrogance, blood-lust, and Athena’s manipulations, manages to strike and injure the goddess Aphrodite. The Trojan hero Hector, the son of King Priam, King of Troy, challenges the Greek warrior-hero Ajax, King of Salamis and descendant of Zeus, to single combat, and is almost overcome in battle. But is able to fend for himself, but is unsuccessful in killing Hector. Both parties from the Greek camps and the Trojan camps agree to a day of rest to grieve for the soldiers who had fallen in battle. During this period of griefing, the Acheans build a wall around their camps and ships. Throughout all of this, Up high on Mount Olympus, the gods and goddesses continue to argue amongst themselves over how they can continue and manipulate the war, despite Zeus’, King of the gods, orders not to meddle and interfere with the war.

Meanwhile, Achilles is still in isolation and refuses to give in to the requests for help from Agamemnon, Odysseus, Ajax, Phoenix, and Nestor, offered honors and riches and even as going as far as to return Briseis back to him but only to be disappointed as their offers were rejected.

Diomedes and Odysseus, are unable to rest and sleep the night. Decides then to sneak into the Trojan camps and attack it from the inside, killing a lot of Trojan soldiers and ruining a bunch of supplies before managing to escape. Agamemnon then orders the attack on the Trojans early in the morning to continue the momentum of Diomedes and Odysseus’ attack last night. Amagemnon’s forces manage to push the Trojans back all the way to their camps but Zeus decides to intervene and manages to damage Amagemnon’s forces, turning the tides of the battle again. Zeus manages to push back and kill many soldiers who fought valiantly but ultimately died. When Zeus looks away from the battlefield for a moment, Poseidon helps the Achaeans by inspiring them to kill and injure the Trojans. Hera then concocts a plan to take Zeus away from the battlefield. She seduces him into bed and with the help of Hypnos, the personification of sleep puts him to sleep. And now with Poseidon’s aid, the Achaeans gain back momentum and manage to drive away the Trojans. However, time is limited as Zeus soon rises from his slumber and is ready to take control of the battlefield again. He then sends Apollo, his son, and god of light, to strike fear into the hearts and wills of the Achaeans with Zeus’ shield as the symbol of Zeus’ wrath.

Apollo, the god of light

Achilles, who is conflicted in his allegiances, orders his friend, Patroclus to dress in Achilles’ armor and then lead Achilles’ warriors in repelling the Trojans in his stead. Drunk and intoxicated by his own success to repeal the forces of Troy, Patroclus soon forget Achilles’ orders and continues to chase down the fleeing Trojans to the walls of Troy and almost managed to take control of the city if Apollo, god of light, had not interfered. In the midst of the battle, Hector soon finds Patroclus who is still in disguise as Achilles, and challenges him to a fight. Once again Apollo interferes and with Apollo’s help, Hector manages to kill him. Menelaus and the other Greek warriors manage to recover Patroclus’ corpse before Hector can desecrate it and cause more damage to the corpse.

Over in despair at the loss of his close friend, Achilles then proceeds to put away his misgivings with Amagemnon and successfully rejoin the battle and manages to drive away all the Trojans before him in his fury. And as the war reaches its climax with even the gods joining in battle, Achilles is clad in the new armor his mother requested made especially for him by Hephaestus, god of forges. Despite previously boasting, Hector loses his courage and turns tail as soon as he sees the sight of Achilles. After Achilles chases him around the city three times, Athena manages to trick Hector to stop and allow Achilles to catch up, Achilles then manages to finally kill him.

Achilles then continues to desecrate and disfigure Hector’s corpse for several days.

The climax of the Trojan war

The gods are displeased at how Achilles continues to desecrate and dishonor the corpse of Hector, now with Achilles dragging it all over the Greek camp so that every soldier can see the corpse and proof of his conquests. They come to a decision, they relay that King Priam, Hector’s father, is allowed to have the chance to negotiate with Achilles for the corpse of his son Hector. The gods manage to convince both parties to reconcile with a ransom, with Thetis, Achilles’ mother, convincing Achilles to accept the ransom. They then proceed to grieve both of their respective losses during a truce that lasted for twelve days. And so marks the end of the Illiad.

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What Is Homer’s Epic ‘Iliad’ about: Essay. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
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