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Structural Levels of The Iliad
Wars are often very complex in nature and are fought for
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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