Structural Levels of the Iliad


Structural Levels of The Iliad


Wars are often very complex in nature and are fought for many diverse
reasons. The school boy may fight in order to get money for college, the patriot may fight to bring life, liberty and justice to some poor soul, and a coward may fight because he was drafted by force. In the Iliad, powerful gods, great nations, and heroic people all fight for many different reasons. This wide variety of fighting results in unique situations, problems, and structural levels to the war. These structural levels are of special interest, because they help define the consequences and outcomes of the war. The universal war of the gods, social war of the Greeks and Trojans, and the private war of Achilles’ honor are structural levels of the Trojan war. These structural levels seem to influence and shape each other in many distinct ways.
The universal war between the gods over the apple of discord consequently lead to the social war between the Greeks and the Trojans. For example, Aphrodite promised Paris that he could have the most beautiful woman in the world if he gave the apple of discord to her. He did so, and decided to go and get his reward. Unfortunately, the most beautiful women in the world, Helen, was the wife of the Greek King Menelaus. The abduction of Helen by Paris lead to the Trojan war. The promise made by Aphrodite to Paris in order to get the apple of discord resulted in the abduction of Helen and the start of the Trojan war. Therefore, Aphrodite, in the universal war, set the stage for the social war of the Greeks and Trojans. Another time the gods influenced the social war was when the Greeks and Trojans had a one on one battle to decide the outcome of the war. The Greeks chose King Menelaus and the Trojans chose Paris. Menelaus and Paris fought, but when Paris was about to be killed he was whisked off by Aphrodite. Both sides agreed that the Greeks had won. Zeus decided to start the war again, and he sent Athena to trick Pandaros to shoot at Menelaus, breaking the truce between the Greeks and Trojans. This intervention by Zeus lead to another outbreak of war between the Greeks and Trojans. The universal war of Athena and Hera versus Aphrodite had Zeus so caught up in it that he did not want the social war to end. A god in the universal war once again created the social war between Troy and Greece. The universal war was the cause of the social war of Greece and Troy.
The private war of Achilles’ honor was an outgrowth of the social war between the Greeks and the Trojans. During the social war, Apollo grew angry at the Greeks for the abuse of his priest, Chryses. The Greeks had abused Chryses when Agamemnon took Chryses’ daughter, Chryseis, during the raid of the town of Thebes. Agamemnon wanted a replacement for Chryseis, so he took Briseis from Achilles. This deeply wounded the honor of Achilles, and he decided to stop fighting in the social war until his honor was amended. Achilles was angered by an event that occurred in the social war, thus providing the need for Achilles to reclaim his honor. The social war was the cause of the private war of Achilles. The opportunity for Achilles to carry out his private war came after the death of his comrade, Patroclus. Because Achilles would not fight, Patroclus asked him if he could wear his armor. Patroclus thought that this might make others think he was Achilles, so that the Trojans might be scared and the Greeks might gain courage and confidence. Achilles consented, and during the ensuing battle Patroclus was killed by Hector. Achilles now had a way to go out and fight gloriously, in order to avenge Patroclus’ death as well as to mend his honor that was so wounded by the ransack of Briseis. The social war then influenced the outcome of the private war of Achilles. Events that occurred in the social war created and influence the private war of Achilles to reclaim his honor.
The universal war of the gods was deeply impacted by the private war of Achilles.