Brewer's: Iliad

(3 syl.). The tale of the siege of Troy, an epic poem by Homer, in twenty-four books. Menelaos, King of Sparta, received as his guest Paris, a son of Priam (King of Troy), who ran away with Helen, his hostess. Menelaos induced the Greeks to lay siege to Troy to avenge the perfidy, and the siege lasted ten years. The poem begins in the tenth year with a quarrel between Agamemnon, commander-in-chief of the allied Greeks, and Achilles, the hero who retired from the army in ill-temper. The Trojans now prevail, and Achilles sends his friend Patroclos to oppose them, but Patroclos is slain. Achilles, in a desperate rage, rushes into the battle, and slays Hector, the commander of the Trojan army. The poem ends with the funeral rites of Hector. (Greek, Ilias, genitive, Iliad[os], the land of Ilium. It is an adjective, and the word means, “a poem about the land of Ilium.”)

Probably “Æneid” is the genitive of Æneas, Æneados, and means a poem about Æneas (See Æneid for another derivation.)

Wolf, Herne, and our own Grote, believed the Iliad to be the work of several poets. R. W. Browne says:

“No doubt was ever entertained by the ancients respecting the personality of Homer. Pindar, Plato, Aristotle, and others, all assumed this fact; nor did they even doubt that the Iliad and Odyssey were the work of one mind.” —Historical Classical Literature book i. chap. iv. p. 59.

The “Iliad” in a nutshell.
Pliny (vii. 21) tells us that the Iliad was copied in so small a hand that the whole work could lie in a walnut-shell. Pliny's authority is Cicero (Apud Gellium, ix. 421). Huet, Bishop of Avranches, demonstrated the possibility of this achievement by writing eighty verses of the Iliad on a single line of a page similar to this “Dictionary.” This would be 19,000 verses to the page, or 2,000 more than the Iliad contains.

In the Harleian MSS. (530) we have an account of Peter Bales, an Englishman, clerk of the Court of Chancery in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, under date of 1590, who wrote out the whole Bible so small that he inclosed it in a walnut shell of English growth. (See Nutshell.)

Whilst they (as Homer's Iliad in a nut) A world of wonders in one closet shut.

On the Monumental stone of the Tradescants in Lambeth Churchyard.

The French Iliad. The Romance of the Rose, begun by Guillaume di Lorris in the latter half of the thirteenth century, and continued by Jean de Meung in the early part of the fourteenth. The poem is supposed to be a dream. The poet in his dream is accosted by Dame Idleness, who conducts him to the Palace of Pleasure, where he meets Love, accompanied by Sweet-looks, Riches, Jollity, Courtesy, Liberality, and Youth, who spend their time in dancing, singing, and other amusements. By this retinue the poet is conducted to a bed of roses, where he singles out one and attempts to pluck it, when an arrow from Cupid's bow stretches him fainting on the ground, and he is carried far away from the flower of his choice. As soon as he recovers,he finds himself alone, and resolves to return to his rose. Welcome goes with him; but Danger, Shame-face, Fear, and Slander obstruct him at every turn. Reason advises him to abandon the pursuit, but this he will not do; whereupon Pity and Liberality aid him in reaching the rose of his choice, and Venus permits him to touch it with his lips. Meanwhile, Slander rouses up Jealousy, who seizes Welcome, whom he casts into a strong castle, and gives the key of the castle door to an old hag. Here the poet is left to mourn over his fate, and the original poem ends. Meung added 18,000 lines as a sequel.

The German Iliad. The Nibelungenlied,
put into its present form in 1210 by a wandering minstrel of Austria. It consists of twenty parts. (See Nibelung.)

The Portuguese Iliad. The Lusiad
(q.v.), by Camoens. The Scotch Iliad. The Epigoniad, by William Wilkie, called The Scottish Homer (1721-1772). The Epigoniad is the tale of the Epigoni, or seven Grecian heroes who laid siege to Thebes. When OEdipos abdicated, his two sons agreed to reign alternate years; but at the expiration of the first year, the elder son, named Eteocle, refused to give up the throne, whereupon Polynikes, the younger brother, induced six chiefs to espouse his cause. The allied army laid siege to Thebes, but without success. Subsequently, seven sons of the chiefs resolved to avenge their fathers' deaths, marched against the city, took it, and placed Terpander, one of their number, on the throne. The Greek tragic poets Æschylus and Euripides have dramatised this subject.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894

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