Homer’s account of the Trojan War in the Iliad explores the effects of warfare upon Greeks and Trojans alike. It illustrates not only the challenges that the combatants faced, but also the plight of innocent victims– women, children, and the elderly. Though the Iliad is often regarded as a kind of Greek national epic, Homer is remarkably even-handed in his treatment of the two sides, even seeming to favor the Trojans over the Greeks at times. He repeatedly emphasizes the horrors of war and his varied descriptions of deaths on the battlefield are unparalleled in both intensity and, paradoxically, poetic charm. The primary objective of warfare in the imaginary time period depicted by Homer is to attain personal glory through acts of individual prowess, with the good of the community seen as a secondary goal.
This course explores the idea that war is both universal and particular. The Vietnam War was not the same as the Iraq War. In every war, some things are the same, while some are different. Intense suffering and horrific acts are inevitable. However, the mode of fighting, the resources, the arms, the equipment, the treatment of prisoners, the command structure, and the ideology driving men and women to fight all differ.