Homer's Iliad: Gore, Glory, Gods and Wrath

91 TUTOR: Susan Brockman (PhD)

The Iliad is the oldest work in the Western canon, a daunting poem both in length and subject, full of glorious warriors, death and dying, valour and defeat. Most people have not read it but have heard that it's "about the Trojan War,” whatever that might mean. Homer asks the Muse in the opening lines to tell the story of one man's anger and its terrible consequences for him and for his fellow Greeks. But what is it that Achilles, a man special among people, but ultimately, just human, is so angry about? The answer to that question is the real message the poem has to teach you. As some like to say, it's a classic for a reason.

Course Notes

The Iliad is the same length as the Odyssey, but most people find that it "feels” longer. While all students will have the entire text, we'll read an abridgement of the poem with a lot of selections read aloud during class, in the manner the poem was originally meant to be experienced. While the course does not require students to have the read the Iliad before, it might certainly be helpful to pick up a translation and try to know something of the poem before attending the course. Notes, hand-outs, plot summaries, and a complete edition of the poem will be provided for all students.


Day 1: Book 1

What is an Epic? What is oral formulaic poetry? What is the Heroic Code? The main characters. The beginning: the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon.


Day 2: Books 3 & 6

Helen and Paris; the view from Troy; Hector and his family


Day 3: Books 9 & 11

A failed embassy to Achilles; a fateful day of battle


Day 4: Books 16, 18, & 22

Bad decisions all around; Achilles' very bad idea; Hector's even worse idea


Day 5: Books 22 (con.) & 24

Universal sorrows, funerals, reconciliations, and a kind of peace, or acceptance at least

Course Tutor

Susan Brockman


About Susan

With a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, Susan has taught at the City University of New York and at Stuyvesant High School for 35 years. She likes to say that she's taught "many things to many people" but mostly Classical Literature in translation, Latin and Greek, and Linguistics. She delights in helping students find how completely alive the Classical world is today. No need to make it relevant; it requires only some keys to the workings of ancient minds and being human. She hopes to enlighten and entertain, and welcomes moments of awe whenever she and her students can find them.

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All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 8 Jul - 12 Jul

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