The Iliad Essay

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The Mythological Background of the Iliad

Zeus, the father of deities, seemed to have realized that the earth was getting terribly overcrowded. To solve the problem of overpopulation, he devised a great war which would sweep like a conflagration over Greece. This was the Trojan War.

A minor goddess, Thetis, was married to a mortal, Peleus. Out of the marriage, Achilles, the greatest Greek warrior, was born. Eris, the goddess of mischief, was not invited to the marriage feast, so into the middle of the banquet hall she threw a golden apple with this note: To the fairest of the goddesses. Each of the most beautiful of the goddesses---namely, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite---claimed the golden apple. A quarrel ensued and Father Zeus was asked to decide who was the most beautiful of the three. This placed Zeus in a predicament since Hera was his own wife and Athena and Aphrodite were his own daughters. So he parted the clouds covering Mount Olympus, the dwelling place of deities, and showed the three goddesses a prince of Troy named Paris. Zeus suggested that the three beauty contestants take their problem to Paris and ask him to decide. The goddesses descended upon the earth, circled Paris by turns, and each proceeded to bride him so that he would award her the golden apple. Hera promised him power; Athena promised him wisdom; Aphrodite promised that he would give him the most beautiful woman in the world for his wife. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite.

It happened that Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, was already married to Menelaus, king of Sparta. With the of Aphrodite, Paris abducted Helen and took her to Troy where she remained until the end of the ensuing Trojan War. That is the reason why she is called the Helen of Troy. The Greeks (Achaians) banded together to restore Helen to Menelaus. Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, was their general. Many adventurous Greek the greatest and bravest of the Greek heroes; Odysseus, the clever and wily...

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