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Literature / The Iliad

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"Μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾿ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾿ ἔθηκε"
Mȇnin àide theà Peleïádeo Achilȇos
ouloménin, hè myrí Achioȋs álge éthike
(Sing, goddess, of the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, the accursed anger which brought countless pains to the Achaeans)
Homer, The Iliad, Bk.I:1-2.

The Iliad (Greek: Ιλιάς Iliás) is an epic poem from the Trojan Cycle describing a few months in the ninth year of The Trojan War, a siege of the great city of Troy by an alliance of Greek city-states. It is considered one of the cornerstones of Western literature and attributed to Homer. The Iliad is one of the oldest works of literature to survive intact.

The main plot concerns Achilles, the invaders' strongest soldier. Achilles, according to prophecy, has a choice: either die an untimely death that ensures his legend lives forever, or retire to a life of normality and obscurity. After a falling-out with King Agamemnon, Achilles withdraws from the war, tempted by the second option. In his absence, the fortunes of battle begin to swing the Trojan way. Achilles eventually chooses glory... after his closest friend Patroclus has been killed by the Trojan prince Hector.


Within this narrative framework, the poem gives an incredibly detailed and engaging snapshot of the war, from the battles themselves to the personalities of the elites and the political machinations of the gods; both prophecy and free will are strong forces. Crossover characters from other Greek myths are a bonus for the dedicated fan.

For more details, and the even more famous sequel, see Homer.

Is the Trope Namer for:


Sing, O Muse, of the Tropes of The Iliad:

  • Achilles in His Tent:
    • Achilles refuses to come out and fight due to a squabble with Agamemnon. Agamemnon tries to coax Achilles back by meeting the demands he originally made before the new threat, but Achilles now refuses them. Also, in stark contrast to modern examples, Achilles does not learn An Aesop about teamwork or friendship. He re-enters battle out of pure blood rage, after Patroclus kicks the bucket, and winds up forming an Odd Friendship with the enemy king instead of with Agamemnon.
    • Nestor tells the tale of the Greek hero Menander who behaved in a similar fashion.
  • Advantage Ball: The battle goes this way and that, depending on which side the gods are currently favoring. The advantage is indicated by one side's champions being temporarily invincible: first Diomedes, then Hector, and finally Achilles.
  • Alone in a Crowd: Helen very much feels this way in Troy. The women barely tolerate her and only Hector and Priam are actually kind. Paris is no consolation, Helen seems to have come to despise him.
  • Ambiguously Gay: While Achilles and Patroclus are not explicitlynote  described as gay lovers in the text itself, their love was taken for granted by the time of Plato's Symposium.
  • Ambiguously Bi: On the other hand, Achilles is the father of Pyrrhus with Deidamie and both he and Patroclus enjoy sex with Lesbian slaves (as in native from Lesbos) in one scene.
  • An Aesop:
    • Solve conflicts through words and compromise, not violence or insult. Becomes more obvious in the penultimate book where we see several altercations (e.g. Ajax vs. Idomeneus, Antilochus vs. Achilles, Antilochus vs. Menelaus) over prizes in the Funeral Games that mirror Achilles and Agamemnon's initial argument but are settled peaceably. While this may seem something of a Broken Aesop as the setting is an enormous war, it's worth noting that if the Trojans had returned Helen and apologized at the beginning, they probably wouldn't have gotten their whole city destroyed.
    • Welcome counsel. Whenever characters refuse advice (which is often) it never ends well.
    • Disproportionate Retribution is only for the Jerkass Gods. Human beings must not engage in it, because The Moirae gave humans a patient heart, capable of enduring all the pain. Indeed, Achilles wrath is only explainable because he was the son of a goddess.
  • Anachronism Stew: Incorporates both armour and fighting styles from Homer's own time and elements of Mycenean warfare from centuries earlier.
  • An Axe to Grind: one of the Trojan uses an axe. It doesn't work.
  • Anti-Hero: At the time of the tale's origin, Achilles was perhaps less of an antihero, but due to Values Dissonance, many readers see Achilles as a colossal Jerkass and are more sympathetic to Hector, who is not a nice guy either.
  • Armor Is Useless: Played with. Oddly enough, whether a warrior's armor protects him or not depends on how much Plot Armor he has; in a sense, the real armor is used as a Handwave for Plot Armor.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: If Achilles is so badass, why is Agamemnon in charge? He has the most ships, by ten. Admittedly, the entire fleet was put together to bring Helen back to her husband, Agamemnon's brother.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: All the heroes are nobles, and the battles are all decided by how well they fight each other.
  • Badass Boast: Practically half the book is composed of lengthy exchanges of these. Diomedes delivers a pretty spectacular one in Book Six: "Who are you, my fine friend? — another born to die? I've never noticed you on the lines where we win glory, not till now. But here you come, charging out in front of all the rest with such bravado, daring to face the flying shadow of my spear. Pity those whose sons stand up to me in war! ...If you're a man who eats the crops of the earth, a mortal born for death — here, come closer, the sooner you will meet your day to die!"
  • Bash Brothers: Greater Ajax and his illegitimate brother Teucer. Typically the latter will hide behind Ajax's shield and fire over it, providing long-range support, while Ajax handles the melee. It's rather heartwarming when you realize that, despite Teucer's bastard status, the two of them are very close.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Achilles asks Zeus to help the Trojans punish the Greeks, which ends in his friend Patroclus' death fighting the empowered Trojans.
  • Because Destiny Says So:
    • The prophecy that the newborn Alexandros/Paris would grow up to bring doom to Troy. Thus, The Trojan War and everything connected with it worked out that way because of destiny.
    • Additionally, there were several ways to save Troy. Various prophecies stated that if so and so was alive on the Trojan side, or so and so did not fight on the Greek side, then Troy would never fall. Needless to say the Greeks took care of all of those.
  • The Berserker:
    • Achilles and, to the surprise of anyone familiar with the various adaptations, Agamemnon. Seriously, read his rampage in Book 11. It screams Unstoppable Rage.
    • Diomedes goes pretty berserk in Book 5, taking Aeneas, Aphrodite, and Ares, the god of war himself, out of battle, and killing quite a few dozen men. Not even the gods can rein him in. He had some help from Athena, though. However, he is shown to be a very good strategist and very cunning, knowing when to back off in battle, making him not a completely straight example of this trope.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Agamemnon, elder brother to Menelaus, leads the forces to win back his brother's wife. He pulls back Menelaus from volunteering to fight Hector and strongly hints to Diomedes that he should pick someone else to go spy on the Trojans with him.
  • The Big Guy: Ajax Telamonean, who is called Greater Ajax for a reason. He's the biggest soldier among the Greek forces (his shield is described as being like a tower) and judged second only to Achilles in fighting strength. Sarpedon seems to play a similar role on the Trojan side. Both are pretty decent guys.
  • Blind Obedience: The Myrmidons that Achilles commanded. When he goes all Achilles in His Tent, this prevents the Greeks from getting their aid in battle as well. The Myrmidons were said to be so diligent and unquestioning of orders that their name was used as describe someone as being virtually robotic in how they obeyed commands. This probably stemmed from their ancestors being said to be ants turned into humans being, as ants seem to be quite single-minded to observers.
  • Bling of War:
    • Glaucis has gilded armor, which he gives to Diomedes.
    • Agamemnon has a breastplate decorated with bands of gold, tin and cobalt, and a silver sword belt. He and several others have swords with hilts decorated in silver.
    • The armour and equipment Hephaistos makes for Achilles. Just the description of the shield is more than a hundred lines long.
  • Bond One-Liner: After throwing a rock at Cebriones and causing him to backflip out of his chariot, Patroclus remarks that he'd make a good oyster diver. This being The Iliad, it's a bit longer than one line.
  • Bookends: The Iliad begins and ends with a father offering a ransom for his child('s body) that is initially refused but eventually accepted.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: Achilles meets Patroclos's ghost and wants to have sex with him. In other myths concerning the Trojan War he falls in love with the Amazon queen when he has just killed her.
  • Brains and Brawn: Hector and Polydamas, Greater Ajax and Teucer, Odysseus and Diomedes in Book 10.
  • Cassandra Truth: Played straight with the actual Cassandra in the myth as a whole and Polydamas' advice in the actual book. This trope's notable subversion by the Greeks, either by accident or actually heeding the advice of their resident prophet Calchas is what leads to their victory.
  • Central Theme: Rage/Wrath. The whole story is about the violent rage of Achilles, but it is also worth noting that the vast majority of conflicts in the story are solved with violence and aggression, and that an equal number of problems are solved with peaceful debate and have no consequences.
  • Character Filibuster: Goes with the territory for epic poetry, but often characters have huge monologues even in the middle of battles. Lampshaded when both Odysseus and Menelaus ask, "Why am I talking to myself like this?" during their speeches.
  • Combat by Champion: Menelaus vs. Paris, Hector vs. Ajax. Menelaus and Paris' duel even was proposed to give "Helen and all her possessions" to the victor which could have stopped the war right there, but Aphrodite whisks Paris away from his now-certain defeat and one of the gods restarts the war by causing the Trojan Pandarus to shoot at Menelaus to ruin the truce.
  • Cool Old Guy: Nestor, the oldest soldier and the wisest of the Greeks. Still a badass and and excellent mentor, although suffering from a very bad case of Cassandra Truth.
  • Complete Immortality: When Achilles tries to fight Apollo, Apollo taunts him by pointing out that as a god, he is fated to never die and therefore cannot be killed.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Everyone, but especially Hector. Eventually, battles come down to a sort of game of divine poker, with characters guessing which side has Zeus' favor every so often.
  • Costume Porn: There's a lot of loving descriptions of armor, particularly Agamemnon's figured breastplate.
  • Covers Always Lie: The 2009 edition of Samuel Butler's 1898 translation from Arcturus features the 1785 oil on canvas painting "The Death of Priam" by Jean-Baptiste Regnault as the cover image. Priam's death is an episode of the Trojan War that happened after the Iliad and thus does not feature in the story.
  • Daddy's Girl: When Hera beats up Artemis with her own bow, Artemis runs back crying all the way to her father Zeus' lap on Olympus.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: One of the biggest signs of Paris's uselessness is his comparative lack of epithets — while everyone else gets "man-killer", "brilliant", or "leader of men", the only epithets Paris receives refer to his good looks and his birth, suggesting they're all he has going for him.
  • The Dead Have Names: Everyone who dies is named, even if they appear just in that scene. As an ancient Greek would have known what kind of effort and expense multiple people had to make to bring every single warrior to the battle, this was a quick and effective way to make the readers realize that War Is Hell.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Achilles and Patroclus after the latter's death.
  • Dead Sidekick: Patroclus is Achilles' sidekick and gets killed, driving Achilles' actions thereon.
  • Deconstruction: Can be seen as one of the first, given its emphasis on the stupidity of the heroic code, and the damage that it causes to those who try and live up to it.
  • Description Porn: In the chapter where Hephaestus makes Achilles a new suit of armor, roughly three-quarters of the chapter is devoted to detailed descriptions of the ornamental engravings on the shield. The rest of the armor is made in one page.
  • Desecrating the Dead:
    • Achilles slays the Trojan warrior Hector for killing his much-loved cousin and best friend (and probably lover) Patrocles. After doing so, he ties Hector's body to the back of his chariot and races around the Trojan beach, proclaiming Greek superiority to Troy for twelve days and twelve nights. The Trojans do get their revenge, though, and even the Gods themselves eventually get offended by Achilles's actions — it is the involvement of the Gods that prevents Hector's corpse from being further mutilated, and the end of the Iliad involves Hector getting a proper burial by the Trojans.
    • In general, all heroes habitually strip their victims of their armour the moment they kill them.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Roughly a tenth of the word count is devoted to descriptions of the lineages and deeds of various minor characters who die on the next page, if not sooner.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Early on, Helen gives Aphrodite a piece of her mind. Aphrodite puts her in her place shortly afterward, but damn, girl!
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • In books five and six, Diomedes goes on a god-stabbing rampage. First he slashes Aphrodite's arm when she tries to rescue Aeneas. Apollo picks up the baton and is forced to repel three attacks by Diomedes before using his divine don't-mess-with-the-gods voice to tell him to back off. The wounded Aphrodite meanwhile runs and tattles to her lover, Ares, the god of slaughter; he promptly arrives to lay down the law. Instead, he gets Impaled with Extreme Prejudice by Diomedes's spear, causing him to howl in agony "with the voices of a thousand men" and run to his daddy. Diomedes becomes the only mortal to injure two gods in a single day. Some scholars believes that this whole episode pre-dates The Iliad, and Homer lumped it into his own epic.
    • During his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Achilles beats down the local river god while crossing it, but almost gets drowned in the process and has to be rescued by the god Hephaestus.
    • And in this same scene, some random Dual Wielding Trojan becomes probably the first person in history to draw blood from Achilles.
    • When Achilles is ready for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Zeus announces to the Gods that he must personally intervene because Achilles is so angry that he will likely prove Fate wrong and conquer Troy on his own!
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Hera borrows Aphrodite's girdle to distract Zeus with sexy. This may be god on god, but Zeus, as king of the gods, can curb stomp anyone.
  • Dirty Coward: Paris is given this characterization when he flees from the fight with Menelaus. Also Dolon.
  • Disposable Pilot: Charioteers in this story tend to have the life expectancy of an asthmatic mayfly. Hector loses two in one battle when people aim at him and miss, with their deaths described using identical phrasing, and the third is killed by Patroclus not long after. Which makes Automedon holding his own in a fight against Hector of all people and surviving all the more badass. Then again, Automedon isn't just any charioteer, he's Achilles' charioteer, so he's Badass by association.
  • Divine Intervention: If a god doesn't stick their oar into the battle to help a favorite or harm a favorite's enemy at least once, it's not the Iliad. Special mention goes to Aeneas, whose bacon keeps getting saved by even gods who hate Troy, because he's so pious and because he has a destiny to fulfill.
  • Dramatic Irony: When Aeneas challenges Achilles, the latter taunts him, asking if he thinks this fight will win him enough glory to become the next king even though Priam already has sons. Of course, as the gods point out afterwards to each other, Aeneas is going to be king, because Priam and his sons are all going to be slaughtered by the Achaians.
  • The Dreaded: Hector names three Achaian warriors he'd rather not fight: Diomedes, Ajax the Great, and Agamemnon. The latter shows why during book 11, when he single-handedly drives the Trojans back to the walls.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Done by Odysseus and Diomedes.
  • Dual Wielding: Several characters are mentioned to be holding two spears at once, or one spear and one sword.
  • Due to the Dead: Proper respect towards corpses is very important in The Iliad. Fights over corpses are common, with the fallen man's allies striving to give the corpse a proper burial and the enemy refusing to give it back. There are also occasional truces to allow both sides to recover their dead.
  • El Cid Ploy: When Achilles refuses to fight and stays in his tent on account of his grudge against Agamenon, the Trojans feel encouraged and seem to get the upper hand on the Greeks. Eventually Patroclus contrives to join the battle dressed up in Achilles' armor in order to intimidate the Trojans and boost the Greeks' morale. However, the ploy fails because everyone recognizes Patroclus, and Patroclus is killed in battle by Hector.
  • Epic Catalog: The most famous is the Catalogue of Ships in Book 2, some 250 lines just listing all the Greek commanders and how many ships each one brought from his domains.
  • Eye Scream: More than one character gets their eyes bashed out.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Achilles' is his wrath and pettiness. It is so prevalent that he refuses Agamemnon's offer to return Briseis as a bribe to get Achilles to fight again. Even after he suffers the consequences of his action in Patroclus' death, he simply redirects his anger from Agamemnon to Hector, instead of realizing that Patroclus' death is primarily his fault and learning his lesson. His wrath does not abate until Priam makes him realize that Hector and Priam's situation mirrors Achilles and Peleus, and he is finally able to empathize with his enemy.
    • Agamemnon's is his pride. His refusal to initially realize that his treatment of Achilles is unfair leads to his army's near defeat, although this consequence pales in comparison to Achilles' and Hector's. He does later realize the foolishness of this action, but never admits any blame or apologizes.
    • Hector's is overconfidence and refusal to listen to advice. Unlike Achilles and Agamemnon, Hector finally realizes what his flaw is, but not until it's too late and his Tragic Mistake has already been made. Of the three, Hector experiences the worst consequences for his actions. Not only does his flaw inevitably lead to a terrible but also avoidable defeat of the Trojan army at the hands of Achilles, his attempt to redeem himself ultimately leads to his death, his body is desecrated, his city is burned, his newborn son thrown from the city walls, and his wife becomes the Sex Slave of his slayer's son.
    • Averted with Diomedes, as he is said to be the perfect embodiment of a Greek Hero, without a fatal flaw. Although after the Iliad his wounding Aphrodite comes to bite him in the back.
  • Final Speech: Sarpedon and Patroclus get these.
  • Flaunting Your Fleets: It includes a hour-long-in-reading chapter made solely of the list of how many ships and men every allied Greek kingdom sends to Troy.
  • Food Porn: Combines with Cut-and-Paste Comic to form Homer's characteristic stereotype descriptions of how the men cook their meat. No matter who's eating, the description of how they prepare, cook and eat the food is always more or less the same, because in the oral tradition to which the poem belonged, there was a stock description for that action.note 
  • Foregone Conclusion: Homer's audience would have been very familiar with the myths behind the story, and known how it all ended. The fact that the Trojans are doomed to lose is known even by Hector himself. Even if the audience doesn't know beforehand, Zeus explains midway through what's going to happen in the rest of the epic.
  • Forging Scene: Thetis gets Hephaestus to forge armor for Achilles.
  • Genius Bruiser: Most of the heroes would fall into this category by modern standards, as they're able to speak eloquently and have erudite conversations with each other despite being supreme badasses. The Greeks valued wit and intelligence as much as martial ability. However, the stand-out is obviously Odysseus, favored of Athena, who has the well-earned reputation as the most clever hero. Polydamas (as badass Hector's Foil) is also up there.
  • Glory Seeker: Most of the named combatants seem to seek gaining lasting glory.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: From Book 1 when Athena has to come down from the heavens to stop Achilles from killing Agamemnon.
    Pallas Athena! the terrible blazing of those eyes,
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Odysseus and Diomedes were on a night raid and captured the hapless but useful Dolon. Bad cop Diomedes says to stand still or die. Good cop Odysseus says, "Fear not, let no thought of death be in your mind." It goes on like that for awhile until Diomedes "struck him in the middle of his neck with his sword and cut through both sinews so that his head fell rolling in the dust while he was yet speaking."
  • Gorn: Homer gets pretty graphic with the carnage.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Very much so. While largely centering on the Greek point of view, the Trojans are also described largely as noble, especially Hector.
  • Hate Sink: Paris is generally considered a useless, cowardly, wimpy waste of oxygen by modern readers, by the Acheans, and even the Trojans (and even by Helen, leading to much Alternate Character Interpretation).
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Amongst the gifts offered to Achilles to convince him to rejoin the battle are some Lesbian slaves (which is to say, women native to the island of Lesbos), which are described as "They whom all men lust after." Hoo boy...
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Helen of Troy turns heads wherever she goes.
  • Hero Antagonist: Hector is in many ways far more noble than Achilles. For a start, he's just about the only man who treats Helen with respect.
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: The Trojan Asteropaeus throws both his spears at once, "for both his arms were as his right", when he faces off against Achilles. One of the spears hits Achilles in the arm, making Asteropaeus the first Trojan to give Achilles a wound. Nevertheless Asteropaeus is slain in the ensuing sword-fight.
  • Heroic Bastard: A few of the heroes, including Teucer, are mentioned to be illegitimate of birth.
  • Heroic BSoD: Achilles is so depressed after Patroclus' death, Patroclus' ghost has to come back to tell him to stop mourning and burn his corpse.
  • Historical Fantasy: Set during the Greek Bronze Age and although the actual date of composition was debated, it was at least a few hundred years later.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Proving this trope Older Than Feudalism, Homer does correctly realize that Mycenaean Greeks preferred using chariots in battle, rather than the modern-at-the-time hoplite warfare. However, many historians believe that he was inexperienced with how chariots tended to be used in battle; unsurprising since they had fallen into disuse by then.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: While it's unknown what the author(s) intended writing the Iliad, Achilles and Patroclus' relationship sometimes go beyond platonic in some translations. The Lombardo version is especially well known for this, and Achilles calls Patroclus "mine" and "my beloved several times".
  • Hope Spot: The Trojans almost defeat the Greeks and burn the ships.
  • Hot-Blooded: Achilles. Agamemnon as well.
  • Human Sacrifice: Achilles kills a dozen Trojan prisoners to throw on Patroclus's funeral pyre.
  • Hypocrite:
    • What did the war start over? Paris taking Menelaus's woman. So why does Menelaus's brother think he can take Achilles's woman?
      Are the Atreidae of all mortal men
      the only ones who love their wives? I think not.
      Every sane decent fellow loves his own
      and cares for her, as in my heart I loved
      Briseis, though I won her by the spear.
    • Later on, Achilles himself suggests taking away the prize rightly won by Nestor's son in a chariot race. Now, you'd think if anyone knew what could go wrong when you took away a prize someone rightly won...
    • Zeus castigates the gods for trying to interfere with fate by rescuing their various offspring in the war. Then he considers teleporting his own son Sarpedon to safety. Hera calls him out on this, pointing out how all the other gods would resent it, and he relents.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: When Paris strides out yelling if any of the Achaeans will challenge him, Menelaus unsurprisingly is eager to accept it - and then Paris just steps back behind the Trojans' ranks until Hector berates him and gets him to agree to a Combat by Champion.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: A lot of people. Including Ares.
  • In Medias Res: The Roman Horace wrote the Trope Namer pointing out the fact that the Iliad starts in the middle of the war.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Many warriors are instantly killed by injuries to the belly or other wounds that, while probably lethal in a pre-medicine world, would take some time for their sufferers to succumb.
  • Inverse Dialogue Death Rule: Although scores of heroes die during the epic's pages, most of them die without so much as a word before eating dust. However, the most pivotal death in the book, Patroclus' killing by Hector, has a long final speech by the victim, in which Patroclus warns Hector of his impeding death.
  • It's All About Me: Achilles abandons his duties just because Agamemnon took him his captive Briseis. This is not because he cares about her as he already has other captives and still refuses to return when Agamemnom offer Briseis and many extensive gifts, this is just because Agamemnon hurt his pride (when he's told that Agamemnon hasn't slept with Briseis, he replies that he might as well start). He goes as far to ask Zeus via his mother to favor the Trojans.
  • It's All My Fault: Achilles after Patroclus' death — he's right.
  • It's Personal: After Agamemnon dishonors him, Achilles doesn't care a fig about The Trojan War until his buddy gets killed.
  • Javelin Thrower: Heroes are frequently described making mighty javelin throws in battle, and javelin-throwing is also mentioned as a sporting contest. The trope doesn’t entirely take its later form, though; these are mighty hand-to-hand warriors who can also hurl a mean javelin, not just hit-and-run fighters.
  • Jerkass Ball: Achilles' armor seems to invoke this trope in anyone who wears it. For example, when the mild-mannered Patroclus wears it, he acts like a natural-born killer, and when Hector wears it, not only does he refuse to hand Patroclus' body to the Greeks so they can bury it, he tries to have it cut to pieces.
  • Jerkass Gods: Humans are Cosmic Playthings, but the Gods know that Troy will fall, because The Moirae ordained it. However, they are constantly quarreling between them trying to help his favorite side, to save / to kill his favorite / unfavorite warrior, manipulating and insulting each other, and making fun of humans. (Apollo fools Achilles to save many Trojan warriors, and then reveals himself and brags Achilles cannot do anything to him. Achilles curses him in vain, and goes to kill more Trojans). On numerous occasions various gods are shown not bothering to do the things which are basically their job to do until somebody bribes them with the promise of an expensive offering.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Agamemnon not only refuses to ransom Chryseis back to her father, but tells him she'll be his Sex Slave into her old age.
    • Even the aforementioned Jerkass Ball on Hector's part does not excuse Achilles' dragging of his body behind his, Achilles', chariot.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Literally no one likes Paris after he caused the Trojan War by kidnapping Helen, and his Dirty Coward ways especially makes everyone's contempt for him look justified.
  • Lady of War:
  • The Lancer: Patroclus to Achilles, either Aeneas or Polydamas to Hector.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Achilles is described as "fleet-footed" many times. Antilochus calls him the fastest of the Achaeans, though he might have just been buttering Achilles up for a reward, which he gets.
  • Lipstick-and-Load Montage: In Book XIV, Hera embarks on a long dress-up scene with lots of ambrosia and fancy clothes in preparation to distract Zeus from manipulating the outcome of a battle. Classicists have described it as an "arming scene" analogous to those of the mortal warriors like Achilles.
  • Living MacGuffin: The official objective of the Trojan War is to possess Helen of Troy.
  • The Load: Paris may be the Ur-Example. Even the other Trojans think he's a philandering, cowardly jerk who's responsible for the war. His preferred weapon is a "cowardly bow." He is humiliated in his only proper fight, and relies on the Goddess of Love to get him out of trouble. When the armies gather for the duel between Paris and Menelaus, it is explicitly stated that, whether Greek or Trojan, everyone wants Paris dead. In one translation, he gets called a "desperate, womanizing pretty boy" by his badass older brother Hector, and a "sissy, curly-haired pimp of a bowman" by Diomedes. Even his father, Priam, calls him a "hero of the dance, light-fingered pillager of lambs and kids from the town pens", saying that he's a useless wimp. In part of the myth not covered in the Iliad, he gets one over Achilles by hitting his heel with his poisoned arrows. (Poison was not considered utterly dishonorable in this time period, but it wasn't exactly Rated M for Manly, even if both Heracles and Philoctetes used arrows poisoned with the blood of the Hydra.)
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: And roughly 70% of them get killed off — within two paragraphs of being introduced.
  • Lock and Load: Arming scenes are everywhere. Even the ladies get in on it; for example, when Hera is dressing to seduce Zeus. Athena is described in loving detail slipping out of her dress and... donning armor for battle.
  • Long-Lasting Last Words: Hector delivers a 500 line monologue after being stabbed in the neck. Homer makes sure to mention that the spear didn't sever his windpipe, just to facilitate this.
  • Lover and Beloved: Achilles and Patroclus aren't explicitly a gay couple (thought they are frequently considered so), but due to erastes and eromenos being a social norm in 5th century Greece, people of that time argued which one was which since they did not fit neatly with the dynamic - Achilles is the younger one of the two and Patroclus trained him before the war, but Achilles is also the more skillful and directing of the two. Plato's Symposium even has a character (Phaedrus) laying out the argument that Achilles was the eromenos.
  • Lover, Not a Fighter: Paris is known for stealing Helen and being a poor fighter.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Sometimes the deaths in Iliad are quite messy. Homer goes into loving detail about how each weapon is swung/thrown, how it flies through the air, who it hits, what part of their body it hits, how it penetrates their armor, which internal organs it damages, whether/how it exits their body, how long it takes them to die, how they die, and their comrades' reaction to their death. These details were essentially 'oral memorials' kept to commemorate the dead in a society where most of the populace were illiterate and the honored dead were cremated.
  • Made a Slave: Hector foresees this fate for Andromache and all the women of Troy. It has already been the fate of the women of neighboring cities and allies. It also happens to men on occasion, as Achilles has sold some of his prisoners overseas instead of ransoming them.
  • Manly Tears: Many times. The most famous example being between Achilles and King Priam when Priam begs Achilles to return the body of his son Hector for burial. Priam's passion moves Achilles who begins thinking about his lost friend Patroclus and his own aged father back in Greece, who will soon lose his son; and the two men weep together over their loss.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: Apparently the norm between the Greek Warriors and their captive women. The latter are invariably depicted as resigned, submissive and in some cases affectionate towards their captor. Briseis weeps pitifully at being parted from Achilles and he claims to love her and calls her his wife.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Agamemnon, "very steadfast".
    • Priam(os), "exceptionally courageous", which he proves to be. Another etymology is "ransomed" which fits both with his own backstory and with his later actions in the Iliad.
    • Diomedes, "Cunning of God", which makes sense since he is the favored warrior of Athena and is an accomplice of Odysseus, as well as the one with most battle experience out of all the Greek warriors, next to Nestor.
    • Achilles, whose name some believe derives from akhos, a Greek word for "grief". Achilles is famous for his wrath, but it's his grief that motivates him to his greatest deeds. One particular interpretation is that the second part of his name comes from laos, "people" or "army." As the very first lines of the poem speak of the grievous losses that his anger brings on his own people, "the grief of his people" is an apt name.
  • Men Don't Cry: Mostly averted, as Greek culture didn't look down on crying as unmanly, but played straight in book 16, when the crabby Achilles asks Patroclus why he's crying, comparing him to a blubbering baby girl begging for her mama.
  • Mind Screw: The end of the second book is deemed as jarring by some as the author starts to talk in the first person and invokes the Muses to aid his memory.
  • Mistaken for Badass: When Zeus takes part in the struggle — sending his thunder to signify his support for the Trojans — the Greeks turn en masse and flee back to their boats. Nestor is the only one who stays on the field, and seeing him alone before the Trojans inspires Diomedes to turn back and return to the fray to assist him. However, Nestor hadn't wanted to stay: he’s stuck because one of his horses has been wounded and he can’t control them.
  • Momma's Boy:
    • When she gets her hand speared by Diomedes, Aphrodite proves herself to be quite the Momma's Girl.
    • Achilles. When Agamemnon takes Briseis this famous hero goes down to the sea shore and cries for his mother.
  • The Mentor: The elderly Nestor tries to talk sense into Achilles.
  • Mood Dissonance: Quite a lot, to the modern mind at least. Poetic descriptions are interposed with nasty, detailed descriptions of what close combat death and wounds really look like. There is a famous scene when Andromake suggests that Hector fight from the relative safety of the walls instead, pointing out the she is a stranger in the city and neither she nor their son has anyone else to rely on if Hector dies. He declines, tries to hug his child, but the child is terrified not recognizing his father in the scary helmet. He takes off the helmet, and says something like: "Gods if I have ever pleased you, now hear my prayer: let my son grow up to be a great man so that the people say he is greater than his father." To the modern mind the continuation is a brutal dissonance to the previous cuteness and family values, to the Greeks it was probably natural. "And let him come home safely from combat with the bloody armor of his slain enemy as a spoil of victory and make his mummy glad." Hector does not mention himself in this wish for his son's future. He probably does not expect to live to see it.
  • Multiple-Choice Future: Achilles' mother knew that he could either live a brief but glorious life as a hero or a long life of I Coulda Been a Contender!. While she tries her best to steer him towards the latter by disguising him as a girl, it doesn't work, and when she sees how easily he takes to the warrior's life she realizes she would rather he be happy rather than miserable for the rest of his days, so she stops trying to keep him safe.
  • The Muse: Homer invokes the Muse of Poetry, Calliope, several times to help him get things right.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut:
    • Notably, despite the fact that she was taken as a war prize by Achilles, Agamemnon has to swear that he did not sleep with Briseis when giving her back to Achilles.
    • In another point against him, Paris does not defend Helen when others accuse her of this. Helen laments in her Due to the Dead that Hector was the one doing that.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Warriors like to introduces themselves to their opponents.
  • Narrative Poem: Not quite the Ur-Example...
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Inverted, as Andromache mourns that the nature of Hector's death meant she never got to hear any last words from him.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Achilles, making this form of Straw Nihilist Older Than Feudalism. He gets an absolutely epic rant about how life and the heroic code are meaningless, and they're all going to die and be forgotten anyway. He goes so far as to wish everyone but himself and Patroclus dead.
  • Noodle Incident: When Achilles asks his mother to intercede toward Zeus, she boasts that she owes him since the time she prevented the other Olympians from dethroning him and sent Briareus the Hundred-Hander to help him. She doesn't provide many details, and this story is only mentioned here.
  • Off with His Head!: A couple of people get beheaded. At least once, it's done with a stone. In the entirety of Book 17 Hector tries to decapitate Patroclus' corpse.
  • Oh, Crap!: Every one of the Trojans does this when they see Achilles, including Hector. Every one of the Greeks does this when they see Hector except for Ajax, Patroclus, Automedon, Diomedes and Achilles.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted:
    • Two of the Achaean leaders are named Ajax, or Aias (they even have a collective name — the Aiantes — which seems to be an example of ancient lampshading).
    • One of the Ajaces' patronym is Oileades (son of Oileus) — and there's another soldier by that name briefly mentioned as well.
    • One of Achilles' female slaves is named Diomede, the feminine form of Diomedes.
    • Both Priam and Agamemnon have a daughter named Laodice/Laodike.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Helen of Troy, who got that name — in the English-speaking world — after being abducted by a Trojan prince. Almost nobody calls her "Helen of Sparta."
  • Oral Tradition: Until it was written down, at least.
  • Our Ancestors Are Superheroes: Even Badass Normal types can chuck around boulders that two men of "today" wouldn't even be able to lift.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Inevitable, given that everybody is introduced as I Am X, Son of Y. Thetis has it worst, as she knows it's going to happen and can't prevent it.
  • Overly Long Gag: When Hera seduces Zeus, he compares her attractiveness to the other women he's slept with. The original Greek version has this last 20 lines.
  • Person as Verb: Apollo, while in the guise of one of Hector's friends, tries to rile him up by accusing him of being "in fight a Paris".
  • Psychopathic Manchild: All the characters have their moments actually, but Achilles really takes the cake (outside of the Jerkass Gods that is).
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue: Nestor loves to talk, regaling Patroclus with a lengthy story of his youth in between lecturing him about going along with Achilles' inaction.
  • Rated M for Manly: This was a story by men, for men, about being manly men.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: The men are all soldiers.
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Usually an ox or pig slaughtered for the purpose. With a detailed description of being cut up, put on skewers, and roasted.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Though at least it is more realistic than dactylic hexameter!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hector stays outside to face Achilles because he fears receiving this for his tactical misjudgement.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Hector's attempt to redeem himself from his mistake of waiting outside the Greek camp the night before Achilles returns to battle, leading to the death of countless Trojans, by facing Achilles in single combat.note 
  • Red Shirt Army: Hundreds die in the Iliad, but only about four have any emotional import.
  • Relative Button: Hector does not take kindly to having two of his half-brothers killed.
  • Retired Badass: Nestor, who lectures the Achaeans about all the glory he had when he was young.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Achilles loses it when Patroclus bites the dust. A strong contender for the Ur-Example.
  • Robbing the Dead: Most of the time a warrior will attempt to strip the armor of a slain enemy as a keepsake, even in the midst of battle. Sometimes this results in a fight over either the armor or the body. The most dramatic example occurs after Hector kills Patroclus and takes the armor he was wearing, and which originally belonged to Achilles. Meanwhile, the Greeks manage to recover Patroclus' body and return it to friendly lines for burial.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Most all the central warriors are either kings or princes.
  • Running Gag: If someone throws a rock, it's a rock two men today couldn't lift.
  • Sacred Hospitality:
    • One of the more famous examples in literature. Paris steals Helen (and a lot of treasure) while he's a guest in her and Menelaus' home. While the act has plenty of political ramifications, it's the breach of hospitality that causes such an uproar, and is used to rouse the entire army of Greece to sack Troy in response.
    • Diomedes and Glaucos hold off from killing each other, decide they'll mutually avoid each other, and exchange armor... because one's grandfather had been the guest of the other.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: The Iliad is an epic poem, not a myth. It also does not contain many well-known events in The Trojan War, such as the Trojan Horse, the death of Achilles, the theft of the Palladium, the fall of Troy, etc. Some of these events are mentioned in the Odyssey, but we've lost the other epics from the Trojan Cycle that actually deal with these episodes. Some colorful additions (like Achilles' Achilles' Heel) come from sources much later.
  • Secret Test of Character: Early on, in preparation for an attack, Agamemnon tests the Greeks' fighting spirit by saying, in short, "We'll never take Troy; let's pack up and go home." The leaders then have to stop their troops from following through.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: When Hera seduces Zeus, he creates a cloud for a little privacy.
  • Shields Are Useless: Played with. Some spears actually not only penetrate shields, but also skewer their owners. On the other hand, Telamonian Ajax's 8-layered shield (7 ox-hides on a bronze base) and Achilles' 7-layered metal shield Forged By Hephaestus are never penetrated in the epic.
  • Shipper on Deck: Agamemnon becomes exponentially funnier if you view him as a Helen/Menelaus shipper. It's not even inaccurate.
  • Short-Range Guy, Long-Range Guy: An early version of this is the Greater Ajax and his illegitimate brother Teucer. Teucer is the Achean's best archer and is depicted hiding behind Ajax's shield picking off Trojans while Ajax is among the Achean's best in melee combat.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal! and/or Shut Up, Kirk!: Several characters respond to their opponents' pre-duel Badass Boasts by telling them to shut up and hit someone. This being Homer, they take several pages to say that.
  • The Smart Guy: Odysseus (Greek), and Polydamas (Trojan) for their respective armies.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Helen is kidnapped and has a war waged over her for her beauty.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Achilles/Akhilleus, Patroclus/Patroklos, Hector/Hektor, Ajax/Aias, Helen/Helene, Teucer/Teukros, Clytemestra/Klytaimnestra. During the ages, the text has gone through editing, transliteration, translation, and adaptation for poetic purposes: it's not surprising that there are variants of the main characters' names. Romanized vs. original Greek names is a big contributor.
  • Support Party Member: At one point Poseidon gets around Zeus' ban on participating by going around giving a Rousing Speech. The narration actually credits him with the Greeks not fleeing to the ships.
  • Take Our Word for It: In all of Helen's appearances she is never given a full description. Homer uses the reactions of those around Helen to emphasize her beauty.
  • Talking Is a Free Action:
    • Several characters give speeches in the middle of battle, both to the other men and the enemy. Patroclus both lampshades and plays this straight, when he points in the middle of battle that words are good for debate and not in war, and that in the time you'll give a nice speech a whole bunch of people will have probably died. In Book Sixteen he says, "Warfare's finality lies in the work of hands, that of words in counsel. It is not for us not to pile up talk, but to fight in battle."
    • Glaucos manages to include a recap of the myth of Bellerophon during his Badass Boast to Diomedes.
  • Talking Animal: In the end of Book Nineteen, Hera temporarily gives Achilles' horse, Xanthos, the power of speech for a few minutes.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Andromache is working on clothes for Hector when she hears of his death.
  • Those Two Guys: Idomeneus (King Of Crete) and his aide-de-camp, Meriones. They're practically joined at the hip. Still badass though.
  • Together in Death: Patroclus's ghost asks for his bones to be mixed with Achilles after death.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Trope Codifier. The entire plot happens because people just don't stop to think before they act. Paris especially is guilty of this, and Homer all but mentions the trope by name in the first lines (see page quote).
  • Tragic Bromance: Achilles and Patroclus.
  • Tragic Hero: So many. Hector being probably the most outward example.
  • Tragic Intangibility: The Ur-Example of the trope is Achilles' attempt to hug Patroclus's ghost. As he goes to hug him, he passes through him and Patroclus passes into the floor. Achilles agonizes and despairs alone.
  • Tragic Mistake: Hector waiting outside the Greek camp the night before Achilles returns to battle.
  • Traumatic C-Section: Agamemnon scolds his brother Menelaus for showing mercy to a Trojan:
    Agamemnon: Not a single one of them must escape sheer destruction at our hands. Not even if a mother carries one in her belly and he is male, not even he should escape.
  • Twice-Told Tale: Many women have written from the perspective of the Greek soldiers' war-brides, since everything they do revolves around Questionable Consent; Homer claims that the soldiers treated their captives kindly, but he was a Greek man, after all—in real life, they weren't known for caring what women thought. Hector, as Troy's champion, is openly afraid for all the city's women when he goes to his death, so he certainly doesn't think the Achaeans will treat them kindly.
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: The story is largely a build-up to Hector v. Achilles.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Everybody, but most noticeably Achilles and Agamemnon, who seem to be at their best when enraged.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • Many women are abducted or taken captive. To the Greeks that would always have been rape in the sense of "theft of a person" since women were the property of their the father or husband. This almost certainly involved rape in the modern sense of "nonconsensual sex" as well, but the narrative is rarely explicit about this. Slaves can also be taken for the purpose of doing work, of course, and Agamemnon even once swears that he didn't have sex with a captive woman he stole from Achilles.
    • Also, depending on the translation, book 14 is called "Hera Outflanks Zeus".
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: This was a common aspect of oral tradition at the time, partially because most epics would have to be recited over several days or more, meaning it was easy for people to forget things that had happened early in the story. It also helps in memorizing the story.
    • The dream Zeus sends Agamemnon in book 2 is written out no less than three times, and nearly word-for-word: when Zeus describes what it will be, when dream!Nestor relays this message, and when Agamemnon relays this message to the war council.
    • The bribe for Achilles in Book Nine is repeated. That's two pages of walls of text there.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Homer returns to this idea repeatedly, expressing it through a metaphor likening human beings to leaves as autumn approaches.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: In book 6, Andromache tries to dissuade her husband Hector from returning to combat: "Nay, Hector, thou art to me father and queenly mother, thou art brother, and thou art my stalwart husband. Come now, have pity, and remain here on the wall, lest thou make thy child an orphan and thy wife a widow."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Aeneas. Just as Diomedes is about to kill him, the gods save his life and declare that after the war, he shall be the leader of all future Trojans. He's rarely mentioned again, and then only in passing. 800 years later, Virgil decided to make this a Brick Joke.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Patroclus calls Achilles out on his stubborness over his wounded honor instead of fighting the Trojans.
    • Paris is such a Jerkass that Helen doesn't mention him in any meaningful way over her half-page of grieving over Hector. She doesn't even name him as the only other person who's still nice to her — no, that goes to Priam. Nice work, Paris.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: The Trojans could have just given Helen back to avoid total annihilation, but this would have made a lousy story. The Trojans are actually ready to do this after Menelaus beats Paris in their duel, but Hera refuses to countenance any solution that doesn't involve Troy being destroyed and Athena influences an archer on the Trojan side to shoot at Menelaus before the truce is ended, thereby restarting the war.
  • Wimp Fight: The duel between Menelaus and Paris looks a fair bit like this—Paris is obviously a downright bad fighter, while Menelaus is mentioned to be a pretty mediocre one. Both of Menelaus's attacks fail to cause any damage and leave him unarmed, and he eventually resorts to just grabbing Paris by his helmet-crest and dragging him around. Paris is too wimpy to fight back at all.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Helen, the Trope Namer (as well as the Trope Codifier).
  • World of Badass: Greece is full with heroes, each worth at least 100 common soldiers. For the humans, there is Achilles, Aeneas, Agamemnon, Ajax, the other Ajax, Diomedes, Glaucus, Nestor, Hector, Patroclus, Odysseus, Sarpedon, Menelaus, Memnon... EVERYONE, in fact. Except for Paris. For the goddesses, there's Hera and Athena.
  • You Can't Fight Fate:
    • Troy was always going to fall.
    • Several routs are credited as being "the gods don't want us to win this one", and is actually true.
    • Zeus himself has to be told this by other gods, first when he proposes that the conflict could be settled peacefully after Paris forfeits the duel and again when he wants to avert the death of his son Sarpedon.
  • You Should Have Died Instead: Priam tells his surviving sons he wishes they all had died instead of Hector.
  • You Should Know This Already: Not only is the epic thousands of years old, but Zeus himself spoils the story in-universe!

Alternative Title(s): Iliad