ActivitiesChapter 19: The Trojan Saga and the Iliad


Read the commentary on chapter 19.


Familiarize yourself with the map of the Aegean Sea.


View Tintoretto’s paintings of Leda and the Swan.

From the Perseus Vase Catalog, investigate the images of ParisHelen, and Achilles.

View Ruben’s and Cranach’s 

Judgment of Paris


Investigate the artistic representations of the various incidents in the Trojan War.

Examine the panels of the François Vase that depict the wedding of Peleus and Thetis and the funeral of Patroclus.

View the Laocoön Group from the Vatican Museum.

From the Perseus Project, consult the essay on the conflicting views of Helen by Katie Olesker.


Contrast Apollodorus’ account of the Trojan War with that of Homer’s.

Read the works of the epic cycle detailing incidents of the Trojan War that take place after Homer’s 



Compare Homer’s treatment of Briseïs with Ovid’s 


 3, a letter from Briseïs to Achilles.

Read Sophocles’ 


 and compare the tragedian’s portrayal of Odysseus with Homer’s treament in the 


What meaning do you find in Auden’s poem “The Shield of Achilles”?

Read Giraudoux’s play 

Tiger at the Gate

. Why is the original title 

The Trojan War Will Not Take Place (La Guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu)


How does Yeats’ poem “Leda and the Swan” depict the encounter between Zeus and Leda?

A helpful scholarly work, which should add to your appreciation of Homer’s artistry, is Jasper Griffin’s 

Homer on Life and Death.

John Shay’s 

Achilles in Vietnam

 offers a provocative and refreshing perspective on Homer’s 


 in which the author tries to demonstrate, using Homer’s portrait of Achilles, the dissolution of trust that can infect a warrior’s soul and isolate him in combat.

Compact Discs and Videos

One of the very greatest American musicals is 

The Golden Apple

, by Jerome Moross, with text by John Latouche. Clever, amusing, touching, and tuneful, this is a must.

You should enjoy the tunes and the satire of Jacques Offenbach’s 

La Belle Hélène

, a most delightful comic operetta about Paris’ wooing of Helen.

Those who like rock should explore “Achilles Last Stand” and “Cassandra.”

After reading Euripides’ 

The Trojan Women

, listen to the musical rendition of the lines in which Andromache bids a heartrending farewell to her son, Astyanax, who is soon to be hurled to his death from the walls of Troy: Samuel Barber, 

Andromache’s Farewell

. Then appreciate the movie of Euripides’ play, directed by Michael Cacoyannis, a great movie with a great cast.

A symphonic work, by Arthur Bliss, 

Morning Heroes,

 includes a stirring reading of Hector’s farewell to Andromache from the 


, Book 6, which captures the sad and heroic beauty of this Homeric scene.

The movie 

Helen of Troy,

 despite its flaws, may hold some interest.

Now is the time to begin a study of the monumental opera 

Les Troyens

 by Hector Berlioz. The first part is based on Vergil, 


, Book 4 (The Fall of Troy); the second part deals with Book 6 (Dido and Aeneas). Listen to a CD recording and view the video.

The Odyssey of Troy

 is a video that will give you an excellent introduction to the history of the excavations of Troy. 

In Search of the Trojan War

, a series by Michael Wood available on DVD offers more depth, and so do the video records of the excavations at Troy, offered by the Institute for Mediterranean Studies.

Here are four twentieth-century operas to be explored by the more adventuresome:

Richard Strauss, 

Die ägyptische Helena

. About Helen’s sojourn in Egypt, and her return to Menelaüs.

Othmar Schoeck, 


. This harrowing opera, based on Kleist’s tragedy, has an intensity and power that are reminiscent of Strauss’ 



Michael Tippett, 

King Priam

. This opera on the Trojan War begins with the birth of Paris and ends with the death of Priam. See Videos.

William Walton, 

Troilus and Cressida

. Those interested in the various postclassical treatments of this legend (see collection in Bibliography), will want to add this operatic version to their list.


Consider what the following words and phrases mean in English: 


 and Achilles’ heel or tendon; 


apple of discord





I fear Greeks even when they bear gifts

; a 


; and 




View the constellations Gemini and Cygnus.

Essay Questions

1.    Compare and contrast the two principal warriors in Homer’s 


, Achilles and Hector, in terms of their actions and their character.

2.    Although the judgment of Paris is not in Homer, how do you account for its popularity and importance? What do you make of Lucian’s satiric treatment?

3.    In Homer’s 


 Achilles is called “godlike,” and it has been said that he evinces this quality most in his rage. Explain this statement and the way in which Achilles begins to pull back from his anger, which has distanced him from his comrades, and to come to an understanding of his nature and his common humanity.

4.    Compare and contrast the relationship of Paris and Helen with that of Hector and Andromache.

5.    What is Homer’s view of war in the 


? In your answer, discuss the importance of the divinely crafted shield of Achilles.

6.    Write a critical essay about the actions and character of Helen.

7.   Discuss the heroic code (for both men and women) as depicted in the 


. What are its advantages to the society depicted in the work, and its defects?