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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. In some instances, the private war of Achilles fueled

the universal war of the gods. An example of this was when Achilles was killing

Trojans left and right in the river Scamandros. All of the dead Trojans in

the water made Scamandros angry, and he chased Achilles with a huge wave.

Athena and Posiedon both saw this, and they called on Hephaistos to burn

the river with fire. This massive conflict between the gods was fueled by

the result of Achilles’ private war. Essentially, Achilles’ private

war was a source of major conflict between the gods. The universal war of

the gods was also resolved by some of the effects of Achilles’ private

war. The universal war occurred mainly because Hera and Athena felt that

Aphrodite should not have received the apple of discord. This resulted in

a symbolic social war that mirrored the war of the gods. Achilles’ effect

on the social war, during his private conquest, caused the social war to

come to an victorious end for the Greeks. In a way, the victory of the Greeks

was a reward to Hera and Athena, in order to compensate for the fact that

Aphrodite had received the coveted apple of discord. The private war of Achilles

swayed the social war to the extent that it effected the resolution of the

universal war of the gods. The private war of Achilles motivated the gods

to fight and to resolve the universal war.

All of these examples show the numerous consequences and

influences that the structural levels of the Trojan war had on each other

and the outcome of the Trojan war. The universal war of the gods over the

apple of discord created the social war between the Greeks and Trojans. This

social war lead to Achilles’ war to redeem his honor. Achilles’

private conquest then had a enormous effect in giving the Greeks victory

of the social war. The resolution of the social war eventually lead to peace

on Mt. Olympus. The three structural levels of the Iliad thus created, carried

out, and concluded the Trojan war.


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