Greek epic- the Iliad and the Odyssey

Read Iliad 4.131-172 (lines 131-172 of Book 4). Answer the questions about it below. Your answers should be brief and concise – a paragraph (half a page, double-spaced) at most. You may have to do some online research to answer some of the questions.  24 marks.


But the blessed gods did not

forget you, my Menelaos! Above all, the booty-bringing

daughter of Zeus, who stood before you and brushed

aside the piercing shaft. Why, Athena brushed away the arrow

from the flesh as a mother brushes aside a fly from her child                     135

when he lies in sweet sleep. She directed it to where the golden

clasps of the belt were fastened and the chest-protector doubled.

The bitter arrow fell on the clasp and was driven through

the fancy belt, and through the highly worked chest-protector

and the belly-protector too, which he wore as a screen and guard              140

for his flesh against any arrow, a main line of defense.

Yet even through this the arrow pierced and scratched

the outermost flesh of the man. Immediately the dark blood

flowed from the wound. It was as if when a woman from Maeonia

or Caria stains ivory with Phoenician scarlet to be a cheek-piece                145

for horses. It lies in a chamber, though many horsemen

pray that they can wear it—a delight for the king,

both a decoration for his horse and a boast for the driver—

like that, my Menelaos, were your handsome thighs stained

and your legs and the beautiful ankles beneath.                                           150


the king of men, shivered when he saw the black blood

run down from the wound. The warrior Menelaos shivered

too. But when he saw that the sinew and the barbs were outside

the flesh, then his breath-soul was gathered back into his breast.

With a heavy moan King Agamemnon spoke, holding                                   155

Menelaos by the hand, and his companions moaned too:

Dear brother, it is your death  I swore with the oath and sacrifice,

setting you out alone before the Achaeans to fight with

the Trojans. Now the Trojans have shot you and trampled

down the trust-oaths! But not for nothing are oath and the blood                160

of lambs and the drink offerings of unmixed wine, and handshakes

in which we place our trust. Even if at the moment the Olympian

does not bring all to fulfillment, in the end he does,

and that man pays a heavy price not only with his own life

but with the lives of his wife and children. For I know                                   165

this in my heart and soul: The day will come

when sacred Ilion will be destroyed and Priam

and the people of Priam with their fine ash spears.

Zeus, Kronos’ son, from his high throne, dwelling

in the upper air, will shake his dark goatskin fetish over all,                                    170

furious because of this deception. Surely these things

will come to pass.


  1. Identify three epithets, divine or mortal, in the passage above. 3 marks.
  2. Are there any examples of Homer’s use of simile in the passage above? Indicate all you see. 3 marks.
  3. Choose one of the similes you identified and briefly outline how, in your opinion, it enhances the story-telling of the poet. 4 marks.
  4. Based on the passage above and the other books, how are Menelaos and Agamemnon related and how would you describe the relationship between them? 4 marks.
  5. Who struck Menelaos with his arrow and why did he do so? 3 marks.
  6. What can you find out about Zeus’ goatskin fetish? 4 marks.
  7. Why is Agamemnon so sure that Troy will be destroyed? 3 marks.


Part 2 – Answer 2 of the following 4 questions. Here you are required to find examples in the Iliad itself. If you are using the translation by Powell or Lattimore, you can site passages by book and line numbers (i.e. 4.131-172). If you are using a different translation, please quote the first line of the passage as well. Your answers here should again be brief and concise. 16 marks.


  1. Some of the scenes in which the gods participate are rather comic (perhaps more to an ancient audience than to us!). The gods in these scenes suffer humiliation and endure mockery, often at the hands of other gods. Which god can you identify as having experienced such treatment? Site the passage in your answer.


  1. Achilles is moved by powerful anger (mēnis). We see this in Books 1 and 9. Is there a passage in either of these books that you think best illustrates his ‘cosmic’ rage?


  1. Which character best embodies the heroic ideal in this world? Site a passage to support your choice.


  1. We’re talked a little about the seers or soothsayers who are consulted by our heroes. From passage in which a seer appears, what can we assume about the nature of prophecy in Homer’s world?








Part III – Brief Description or definition. 15 marks.


  1. Heroic Code


  1. ‘Greek Renaissance’


  1. Guest-Friendship (Xenia)


Part IV – Provide a brief character sketch of the following people or gods appearing in the Iliad, based on what you have learned about them so far. 20 marks.


  1. Helen.




  1. Achilles (Achilleus).


  1. Paris


  1. Diomedes.





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