Dicuss similarities and differences between Homer’s Iliad and the movie Troy
A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteedOrder Now
The ancient legend of Troy, recorded in Homer’s epic poem “The Iliad” Oxford (trans. Robert Fitzgerald University Press 1974) has been retold in many other forms, the most recent being the blockbuster film “Troy” (2004, Wolfgang Peterson). “Troy” is a basic retelling of the myth, lacking many elements of the book thus containing many inaccuracies. However, it appeals to a modern day audience shortening and condensing stories from the “Iliad”, “Odyssey” and “Aenead” and greatly reducing the time span of events. Some might say “Troy” is sacrilegious, but could merely be viewed as another interpretation of events as “The Iliad” is, too, a secondary source of evidence. The texts differ greatly from one another but contribute to pass on valuable tales to Western culture; all that is left of Greek history.
As for the site of Troy itself, researchers have found that descriptions in Homers “Iliad” coincide with their findings, which is more than the film’s representation can say. Troy, or Ilium, existed on the West Coast of what is modern day Turkey, around 1200 BC. There are many layers of strata and evidence suggesting that Ilium was indeed attacked and burned to the ground. Hittite texts also make reference to the characters of Homer’s “Iliad” and a possible war. Archaeologists are still questioning their finds and searching for evidence to support or disprove the many theories that evolve around Troy.
Between the book and the film there are a wealth of differences, and similarities only lie in the basic, undisputed ideas. “The Iliad” begins in the ninth year of the ten year siege of the Greeks upon Troy, whereas the movie shows Paris taking Helen away from Troy angering Menelaus in the process. The Greeks sail across the Aegean Sea (in ships of a questionable eighth century design www.archaeology.org/onlinereviews/troy) for vengeance upon Priam’s Kingdom, with the assistance of Achilles. Fighting and bloodshed follow, culminating in the well-known wooden horse stealth attack and the burning of Troy. This part of the myth is told in “The Aenead”, as “The Iliad” ends with Hector’s funeral – a main difference between the two texts.
Another obvious difference is the absence of divine intervention of the Greek gods in the film, or indeed any direct evidence of their presence. As the gods where what made the ten year war come to pass in the first place making “The Iliad” an epic battle of wills, “Troy” falls short of providing this resonance to its audience, and also lacks credibility in its plot. The catalyst of the war was triggered by Aphrodite when she promised to beautiful Helen of Sparta to Paris. She shields the lovers from Menelaus’s gaze, and when the battle between Menelaus and Paris takes place, transfers Paris to the safety of Helens bedchamber (Book 6 pg 106). As the movie can’t do this Hector has to save Paris instead.
Intervention by the gods as the assist their favourite mortals is a big theme in “The Iliad”, helping to explain how certain instances take place. For example, King Priam walking into the Greek camp seeking Hector’s body. In “The Iliad” he is guided by the god Hermes by order of Zeus “The Wayfinder, showered a mist of slumber on them [the sentries]” (Book 24 pg 432), but in the film Priam merely says “I think I know my country better than the Greeks”. This is where “Troy” lacks credibility and needs to explain how occurrences such as these take place, if they will not involve gods at all.
Who kills who is another questionable factor in “Troy”. As mentioned, Hector intervenes and saves Paris from Menelaus, stabbing him. In ancient tales Menelaus returns to Sparta taking Helen with him when he plunders Troy. Another such instance is when Brisies ( a slave girl for Achilles in the book, but a priestess of Apollo, Priam’s niece in the film” stabs Agamemnon. He too was supposed to survive the war and return home to Greece to be killed by his wife Clytemnestra. Scenes like these are necessary to make “Troy” a simplified version of the myths, and bring drama to the three hour film so are perhaps excusable.
As far as characters go, the films star cast of Brad Pitt as Achilles, Eric Bana as hector, Orlando Bloom as Paris and Sean Bean as Odysseus, makes for an interesting if not accurate portrayal of the age-old protagonists. Hector is perhaps a little too perfect and noble as he fights both his and his brothers battles with unflagging bravery and honour. He cries out to his army “Honour the gods, love your women and defend your country”. However in “The Iliad” when it comes to the climatic fight between Hector and Achilles, it is Hector who flees “when he could hold his ground no more. He ran…with Achilles hard on his heels”, before facing his enemy. Also in the “Iliad” it is intentional when he kills Patroclus.
Achilles’s lust for power and his stubborn pride is well conveyed in the film. He travels to Greece so his name will “live forever”, and upon his arrival defies Agamemnon’s orders, just as in “The Iliad”: “I swear a day will come when every Archaean soldier will groan to have Achilles back” (Book 1 pg 6). However the film overdoes his sensitive side, if there is one that exists in the book, with his relationship with Brisies “The gods envy us…you will never be lovelier than you are now” as opposed to the “prize…sweated for” (Book 1 pg 6). His anger at Patroclus’s murder, though he is only a comrade in “The Iliad”, not his cousin, is apparent in both texts as he leaves Hector’s desecrated body to “lie full-length in dust” (Book 23 pg 421).
A character with obvious flaws is Helen. She flees willingly to Troy with Paris in the film (this is disputed by Herodotus who claims Helen never landed in Troy but stayed in Egypt, pg 107), fearing her husband Menelaus, continues to love Paris even when he fails in battle, and the two escape in the end. In “The Iliad” she says to Hector “I wish I had a good man for a lover…This one – his hearts unsound…he will win what he deserves” (Book 6 pg 106) voicing her displeasure of Paris. Little of this is conveyed in the film “I don’t want a husband who can fight”. Her character is demeaned throughout the film and does not support the view that Helen of Troy was a powerful woman in Greek history.
The flaws in the film may not aid in accurately telling the story of the “Iliad” but it does ultimately create more interest in Greek legend, perhaps spurring on a small fraction of the audience to further pursue this interest, and to read Homer’s work for their own interpretations. However as Homer was born approximately three hundred years after the Trojan War took place it stands to reason that the poet himself may have made some errors.
Heinrich Schliemann was the first investigator to uncover the site of Troy, located on the Western coast of Turkey at the entrance of the Dardanelles strait. Schliemann found that over 3500 years, layers had built up and the mound had grown to nearly 65 feet. He developed a practise known as stratigraphy, a form of pottery dating, enabling him to date the mixed up strata.
Other archaeologists continued Schliemann’s work to find that Troy VI – the 6th layer of Troy from 1700-1250BC – had been the richest city. Horse teeth were found in this layer, and as the Mediterranean climate was not likely to have bred wild horses, this indicated that the horse had been a domesticated animal in Troy. After the 1250BC layer is it apparent that disruptions occurred around Troy, causing the city to fall on hard times. Around 1180BC it was attacked and convincing evidence shows that a war was lost by Trojans, preceded by a layer of ash. This date was determined by radiocarbon dating and pottery stratigraphy.
The Trojan walls whose ruins still exist today had been erected around 1470BC. At first archaeologists were puzzled by these as the area they enclosed was so small – only five acres, but it was found that the fortifications only enclosed the citadel, while the rest of the city was expanded to the south. It is unlikely the walls had ever been fifty feet high as in the film, because siege weaponry did not exist at this time. As for the lower city’s protection, a ditch just wide enough to stop chariots passing was built, so the invading army would have to scale it on foot while being attacked by Trojan archers. The ditch, along with the remains of a wooden palisade wall three hundred feet away has been excavated and Homer supports this telling of how Nestor, the great warrior designed the boundary so that horses were “brought up short on the edge of the ditch and stand whinnying in fear”.
Another researcher, John. C. Kraft (“Troy” www.udel.edu/PR/udaily/2003/troy030303.html), has found descriptions in “The Iliad” which match the geography of the site, although the landscape had changed over time. He believes that the Greek camp and ship station were in
view of one another and that Homer supports this “For the beach, though broad, could not contain all the ships…so they filled the long mouth of the shore between the enclosing headlands”. The film too shows the ships in such rows, but fails to realise that having the sun rise over them, up from the Aegean Sea, means it would be raising from the West. This is a large oversight.
Many questions remain as to how the Trojans defences were broken down. An interesting theory involving the god Poseidon has arisen: there is evidence of earthquakes occurring in the mixed strata levels, which may have been the downfall of the Trojans after a ten year siege, and Poseidon was god of both earthquakes and horses. Thus it follows that this is how the great Trojan Horse myth came about (“Troy – Ancient Myths and Unsolved Mysteries” National Geographic 2004).
Further excavations around Troy show links between the Trojans and the Hittites in the Late Bronze Age. A ‘Standing Warrior’ figure was found at Troy; others of its type have been found at Hittite sites. More revelations have resulted from this; in a Hittite text dated to 1280BC there is a list of three gods : Appaliunas, “The Storm God of the Army” and Kaskal.Kur. “Appaliunas” closely resembles “Alexandros” – Paris prince of Troy, or Apollo, god of the Trojans. Other Hittite documents show links with Homer, such as “steep Ilious” and a Luwian cult song “When they some from steep Wilusa” about a great conflict, possibly even war. (“Homer and Troy” http://www.basarchive.org/sample/bswb/Browse.asp?)
There is ample evidence to show that a Trojan War did occur, and that Homer did look upon the site as his descriptions of the landscape are so accurate. However the myths surrounding the war and its events are open to speculation and any evidence pieced together on these would be circumstantial.
Homer’s “Iliad” and Wolfgang Petersons “Troy” are two different retellings of a myth that has been carried down for centuries, they share basic similarities and doubtless both contain inaccuracies when compared to the archaeological evidence at Troy. The film brings to a modern audience the wonders of Greek History, and inspires interest in Homer’s “Iliad” which in turn provides its readers with a more in-depth representation of events.