The Iliad of Homer: Summary

Updated May 6, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


The following argument of the Iliad, corrected in a few particulars, is translated from Bitaube, and is, perhaps, the neatest summary that has ever been drawn up: - "A hero, injured by his general, and animated with a noble resentment, retires to his tent; and for a season withdraws himself and his troops from the war. During this interval, victory abandons the army, which for nine years has been occupied in a great enterprise, upon the successful termination of which the honour of their country depends. The general, at length opening his eyes to the fault which he had committed, deputes the principal officers of his army to the incensed hero, with commission to make compensation for the injury, and to tender magnificent presents. The hero, according to the proud obstinacy of his character, persists in his animosity; the army is again defeated, and is on the verge of entire destruction. This inexorable man has a friend; this friend weeps before him, and asks for the hero's arms, and for permission to go to the war in his stead. The eloquence of friendship prevails more than the intercession of the ambassadors or the gifts of the general. He lends his armour to his friend, but commands him not to engage with the chief of the enemy's army, because he reserves to himself the honour of that combat, and because he also fears for his friend's life. The prohibition is forgotten; the friend listens to nothing but his courage; his corpse is brought back to the hero, and the hero's arms become the prize of the conqueror. Then the hero, given up to the most lively despair, prepares to fight; he receives from a divinity new armour, is reconciled with his general and, thirsting for glory and revenge, enacts prodigies of valour, recovers the victory, slays the enemy's chief, honours his friend with superb funeral rites, and exercises a cruel vengeance on the body of his destroyer; but finally appeased by the tears and prayers of the father of the slain warrior, restores to the old man the corpse of his son, which he buries with due solemnities.' -Coleridge, p. 177, sqq.

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