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Homeric Greek: the Iliad


Homeric Greek: the Iliad

  • Course ID:GREEK 583
  • Semesters:1
  • Department:Classics
  • Course Rank:Honors
  • Teachers:Justin Myers

Description and Objectives

All of Western literature and much of Western thought flows from Homer.

The two works of this great epic poet, the Iliad and the Odyssey, come out of the earliest tradition of story-telling. In this course we will spend an entire year exploring the earlier of the two Homeric epics, the Iliad. Eighth graders at The Heights read this poem in translation in their English classes. Now we will encounter it in the original ancient Greek.

We will also read two tragedies by the Greek playwright Euripides in translation: Iphigenia at Aulis and The Trojan Women. Euripides wrote these plays many years after Homer lived and wrote, but he was drawing from a larger tradition and his themes relate directly to events depicted in the Iliad


-Selections from Homer’s Iliad edited by Allen Rogers Benner(Copyright 2004)

Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides

The Trojan Women by Euripides

Course Requirements

Each quarter grade of this course is determined by an overall point system. There will be different assignments (quizzes, tests, papers, take-home essays, etc.) of varying point values depending on their size and importance throughout the quarter. Every day, specific lines from the Iliad will be assigned to be prepared for the following day. Either individual students will be called upon to translate orally, or a pop quiz will be given covering some or all of the day’s assignment. In addition, the entire Iliad will be read in English. As well as reading the poem in both Greek and English, we will examine the historical, social, cultural, and political context of the Iliad. Specific topics will be discussed each week. The topics will involve the particular text we are reading as well as themes that run through the poem as a whole.

There will be frequent quizzes, the majority of which will be on the Greek reading. These will be unannounced, but will always cover the reading for that day only. Some quizzes will require sight-reading. These will always be announced. As explained above, quizzes will have different point values depending on their size.

We will have two major tests per quarter. The tests will cover 100 to 150 lines of Greek text, various portions of the Iliad in English, and all topics discussed. Tests will contain multiple choice sections, literal translations from the text, and interpretive essays on the Iliad and Greek and in translation.  Tests will always be announced three or four days ahead of time.

Papers and take-home essays will also be assigned frequently and with varying point values. One paper on each of the plays by Euripides will be assigned as well a few on scholarly articles about the Iliad. Take-home essays will involve written analysis and critical interpretation of the poem with particular attention to Homer’s use of stylistic and metrical techniques.


The lines covered from Homer’s Iliad will be as follows

Book 1, lines 1-100 (The wrath)

Book 6, lines 312-502 (Hector and Andromache)

Book 22, lines 99-167; 250-375 (Achilles vs. Hector)

Book 24, lines 472-550 (Priam ransoms Hector’s body)

Successful Students

The successful student in the course is one who is able to stay on top of the demanding syllabus. It is important to retain the Homeric vocabulary and grammar as we encounter it, so that eventually translation at sight is possible. The student who masters this course will enjoy the rare treat of experiencing this excellent poet in his native language.