Following is an outline of the chapter along with the
main learning objectives. To help coordinate your studies, this outline and the
learning objectives are organized to match your textbook. This organization is also
utilized in the chapter review section.
Part 1: Key themes
- You should be able to discuss the basic elements of the mythic beginnings of
the Trojan War, including the implications of the competition between the Goddesses over
the golden apple, and its origin at the hands of the uninvited wedding guest -- Eris
(Discord) and the resulting conflicts involving human and the gods and goddesses.
- You should be able to discuss the cultural importance of a mortal judge --
Paris -- in the initial myth concerning the competition between Goddesses, especially in
terms of idealized female roles and their status within the patriarchy; the concept of
human perception as the defining element (a human male gets to decide the worth of these
goddesses and their symbolic cultural roles, representing wisdom, family and beauty).
Part 2: The Decision of Paris
- You should be able to discuss the cultural implications of Paris' choice of
the Goddess Aphrodite, both in terms of beauty versus wisdom (Athene) or status (Hera
offers power over Asia Minor) and in terms of what the Goddess Aphrodite offers to Paris
--both literally in terms of the "most beautiful woman in the world (Helen) and in
figuratively in terms of the status of beauty within the value system of a male-oriented,
- You should be able to discuss the basic story line of the events leading to
the Trojan war: the guest, Paris (prince of Troy), abducting his host's wife, Helen -- the
most beautiful (mortal) woman in the world -- and the Greeks pursuit of Paris and Helen on
behalf of her husband, Menelaus; the concluding event of the siege of Troy by means of
Odysseus' cunning, the Trojan horse; the return of Helen to her husband.
- You should be aware of the fact the epic poem, the "Iliad", is set
in the ninth year of the Trojan War, which would last ten years in total, and be able to
discuss the narrative choice of the author of the "Iliad" in selecting one event
to focus his story rather than including the divine or mythic references, or following a
chronicle of the war.
Part 3: The Implications of the Story
- You should be able to discuss the underlying theme of the sacred-ness of
guest/host relationships in the "Iliad" and consider the implications of the
beginning or motivating factors of the Trojan War -- was it Paris' abduction of Helen, or
the God Zeus' rape of Leda (Helen's mother) because she would not betray her husband with
a human lover, both violations of social codes.
- You should be aware of the many temporal paradoxes in the "Iliad",
including the appearance of Achilles as a Suitor of Helen while beginning as the son of
Peleus and Thetis (whose wedding party the Goddess of discord interrupted with the golden
apple, etc, beginning the Trojan War fought over Helen (Achilles should still have been an
infant) -- relating these temporal paradoxes to other myths that feature Hercules and
Theseus, among others, out of their era.
- You should be able to discuss the concept of the gods and goddesses who
interfere in human affairs as a divertissement, or as the trivial machinations of their
inter-familial squabbles; and the belief that neither the God Zeus nor and of the other
gods and goddesses are in control of the cosmos, or human choices; the belief that the
gods and goddesses can't control human destiny as giving rise to a corollary belief in the
freedom of human choice.
- You should recognize the implications of Heroes that reluctantly go to fight
in the Trojan war -- including Odysseus, who pretend to be insane, and Achilles, who
dresses like a girl because of his mother's prediction that he would die in the Trojan
Part 4: The Homeric Epics
- You should be aware that the authorship of the epics the "Iliad"
and the "Odyssey" is unknown and considered by academics to be a compilation of
myths but that academics generally agree to attribute the works to the poet Homer.
- You should be able to discuss the similarities of the two myths:
semi-divinity of the Hero; the descent into the Underworld; serious subject; the
celebration of the cultural achievement and the deeds of the Hero who protects that
culture, as well as narrative devises such as the use of dialogue and the omniscient
Part 5: The "Iliad"
- You should be able to discuss the implications of the contrasts between the
works such as the characters of the gods and goddesses; the role(s) of women; the value of
heroic life and the nature of the universe.
- You should be aware of the differences between an epic poem and the
surrounding mythology; the closed narrative form with a definite beginning, middle, and
end; the extended comparison and standard epitaphs; the cliff-hangers and flashbacks.
- You should be aware that the narrator/author of these epic poems is exploring
the central questions of his/her culture; including what it means to be a Hero and what is
its worth; how to create a meaningful life in the face of mortality.
- You should be able to discuss the concepts inherent in the Heroic ideal,
including the Hero's potential versus limitations; acts of violence committed to preserve
peace (destroying what he is trying to save); his readiness for death while pursuant of
immortality his dependence on human society for validation (including prizes, word of his
fame, etc.) and as motivation for conquering impossible obstacles (saving the culture from
various threats to humanity).
- You should be able to discuss the three recurring themes of humans'
determination of their own fate -- the image of the scales, the two urns of blessings and
curses, and the dual destinies of the Heroes, to live and die by fighting or
- You should be able to discuss the need for a "worthy" opponent for
the Hero to achieve any real victory and the related concepts of respect in combat while
recognizing that one Hero's victory means the death of another; you should include
consideration of the other aspects of this Hero's code: face to face combat, monitored by
a referee, to keep the loser's armor but exhibit respect the corpse, and the point of such
conflict --not the defeat of the enemy but the enhancement of the Hero's fame and
- You should be able to discuss the implications that, if war is a game for the
gods and goddesses, it is also idealized by the ancient Greek culture (among others) into
a kind of glorious game even while recognizing that, in the reality of war, idealism gives
way to graphic savagery.
Part 5: The Role of Women
- You should be able to discuss the status of women in terms of their role(s)
in the Heroic myth -- that while the men (Heroes) may become trapped in a nightmare of
violence, it is of their own choosing, while women become the victims, whether as
motivators or prizes of male aggression they are the property (whether as literal slaves
or through familial bonds such as matrimony) of their husbands, fathers and brothers.
- You should be able to look at the representatives of female roles in the epic
myths as helpmates or obstacles, temptresses, or as forces of civilization.
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