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The "Iliad" of Homer

Discover why, after almost 3,000 years, Homer's Iliad remains among the greatest adventure stories ever told.
Iliad of Homer is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 158.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding course and teacher Elizabeth Vandiver is a superlative teacher. I've listened to all her Great Courses multiple times and read many of the books and plays, inspired by her. Definitely hear her GC courses. She is that rare teacher combining scholarship with outstanding teaching skills.
Date published: 2024-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous review I've read The Iliad 2-3 times on my own, but no one close to me has, so this is the closest I'll get to someone discussing it with me... but someone who is wildly informed and knowledgeable. I think this would be a good course to go along as you read The Iliad, but it's definitely best for someone who has read the book at least once!
Date published: 2022-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from essential Professor Vandiver is eminently, and evidently, mistress of her subject, she is concise, probing, and thoroughly engaging, delivers a superb introduction to "Iliad", a book any serious reader, if there are any left, must read, it is a pinnacle of our literary heritage
Date published: 2022-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from scholarly and entertaining The course was beautifully organized and Dr. Vandiver lectures with wit but also with attention to sources, controversies and scholarship. She pays tribute both to the language of the original and the themes and makes one feel that he/she is hearing the story with the ears of someone living in ancient Greece.
Date published: 2022-10-30
Date published: 2022-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Done - An Excellent Course My wife and I enjoyed this course immensely, occasionally listening to an audiobook rendition of the Samuel Butler FRS (1774–1839) translation of The Iliad which is available on YouTube. Prof. Vandiver’s Lecture 1 (Introduction to Homeric Epic) makes the case for the relevance of The Iliad to readers of our times which are no less war-wracked than those of the ancient Greeks. And the cause of the Trojan War --the abduction of fair Helen, is just as absurd as the reasons for belligerency in our many unnecessary aggressions. On a personal level, I found that The Iliad figures as a mythological backbone to my own college fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon. In 1883, DKE Brother John DeWitt Warner (1851-1925), Cornell 1872, published a poem, “Our Aegis,” in the first number of the Fraternity’s journal, that begins with “the huge and massive shield, divinely wrought in every part” by the fire-god Hephaestus and delivered to Achilles by his goddess-mother, Thetis (Iliad XIX). Again, this scene unfolds in two memorial stained-glass windows in the 1893 Cornell Deke House (Ithaca, NY) that commemorate those brothers who died before the lodge was erected. We see a grief-stricken Achilles mourning over the slain Patroclus. Finally, a line spoken by Thetis in the 1870 William Cullen Bryant translation, “Leave we the dead, my son,” appears on the lintel over the entrance to the House’s basement bar. So, this ancient story of gods and mortals, war and death, keeps popping up in our own lives, three thousand years later. HWF & ISF, Mesa, AZ.
Date published: 2021-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Elizabeth Vandiver is good. Elizabeth Vandiver is a great speaker: smart, compelling, humorous. Whether it's Homer or the Greek tragedians, you will enjoy her courses. If you doubt that knowing about Homer will enrich your life, then you have something to learn from Professor Vandiver.
Date published: 2021-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well done The lectures were informative and succinct. They gave me a very strong foundation for understanding the depth and importance of this epic.
Date published: 2021-03-13
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From the wrath of Achilles to the machinations of Agamemnon that led to the fall of Troy, the "Iliad" is one of the most compelling meditations on the human condition ever written. Take an in-depth look at Homer's epic Greek poem in The "Iliad" of Homer and realize why this literary masterpiece is held in such high regard. Alongside award-winning Professor Elizabeth Vandiver, examine the most important episodes in the Iliad and the universal human issues that Homer's poem addresses, including the limits of our freedom, the forces that shape our actions, and the fine line between justice and revenge.


Elizabeth Vandiver

I think many of the stories that we tell ourselves as a society–the stories that encode our hopes, aspirations, and fears–preserve the traces of classical culture and myth and are part of our classical legacy.


Whitman College

Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver is Professor of Classics and Clement Biddle Penrose Professor of Latin at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She was formerly Director of the Honors Humanities program at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she also taught in the Department of Classics. She completed her undergraduate work at Shimer College and went on to earn her MA and PhD from The University of Texas at Austin.

Prior to taking her position at Maryland, she held visiting professorships at Northwestern University, the University of Georgia, the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, Loyola University of New Orleans, and Utah State University.

In 1998, The American Philological Association recognized her achievements as a lecturer with its Excellence in Teaching Award, the most prestigious teaching prize given to American classicists. In 2013 she received Whitman College's G. Thomas Edwards Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship. Her other awards include the Northwestern University Department of Classics Excellence in Teaching Award and two University of Georgia Outstanding Honors Professor Awards.

Professor Vandiver is the author of Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War and Heroes in Herodotus: The Interaction of Myth and History. She has also written numerous articles and has delivered many papers at national and international conferences.

By This Professor

Classical Mythology
Introduction to Homeric Epic

01: Introduction to Homeric Epic

What is an epic? How should we go about reading such a work? What is the "back story" of the Trojan War with which Homer's listeners were familiar?

31 min
The Homeric Question

02: The Homeric Question

Here is one of the great literary debates of all time. For centuries, experts have been asking: How were the Homeric epics created? Is there really an individual genius named Homer behind these awesome works, or are we dealing with conglomerations of shorter poems from the hands of many bards? How, why, and by whom were these stories first written down? What role did they play in ancient Greek society?

31 min
Glory, Honor, and the Wrath of Achilles

03: Glory, Honor, and the Wrath of Achilles

What wider themes does the bard open up as he sings the wrath of Achilles? What is the cultural background against which we must understand Achilles's anger and its implications? What do "timê" (honor) and "kleos" (everlasting fame or glory) mean to Homeric heroes?

30 min
Within the Walls of Troy

04: Within the Walls of Troy

Homer's portrayal of the Trojans is sympathetic and subtle. Trapped in an unsought war of annihilation, they fight not just for honor and fame, but for all they hold dear, and even their very lives. Here are some of the most deeply moving scenes in all of Homer.

31 min
The Embassy to Achilles

05: The Embassy to Achilles

After Achilles's quarrel with Agamemnon and subsequent withdrawal from combat, the absence of their greatest captain becomes an ever-graver problem for the Greeks. This lecture examines the embassy and offer of vast gifts that Agamemnon sends to Achilles, and the latter's refusal in a remarkable speech that reveals much about his character even as it calls into question the entire ethos of his society.

31 min
The Paradox of Glory

06: The Paradox of Glory

"Kleos" is the only kind of immortality available to a Homeric hero. Every major warrior in "The Iliad" strives for it, often in a scene of conspicuous combat prowess called an "aristeia." But as the character of Achilles reveals, a kind of paradox lies at the heart of the quest for "kleos."

29 min
The Role of the Gods

07: The Role of the Gods

The Olympians are actively present at every turn in the Homeric narratives. What sorts of divinities are they? How does their ageless, deathless nature serve as a device through which the bard can dramatize the human condition and its stakes? Finally, what is fate, and what does it mean for gods and humans alike?

31 min
The Longest Day

08: The Longest Day

This lecture continues our comparison of gods and mortals by examining the dual narratives, divine and human, of "Iliad XI-XV," the books which lead up to and feature Hektor's great display of martial prowess.

30 min
The Death of Patroklos

09: The Death of Patroklos

In this lecture we focus on Books XVI-XVII. The lecture begins by discussing Patroklos's character and his role as Achilles's substitute in battle. We then examine Patroklos's "aristeia" and death, the turning point of "The Iliad."

30 min
Achilles Returns to Battle

10: Achilles Returns to Battle

We examine Achilles's reaction to Patroklos's death, his re-entry into the battle, his divinely forged armor, and his fixation on vengeance. Why does Homer use language and imagery that suggest Achilles is a god and that he is a dead man?

31 min
Achilles and Hektor

11: Achilles and Hektor

In this lecture, we examine the characters of Achilles and Hektor. The lecture addresses both the bard's characterization of the two champions and their interactions. What do their differences tell us? What do we learn from the scene in which Achilles kills Hektor? How is their conflict crucial for the final resolution of "The Iliad"?

31 min
Enemies' Tears—Achilles and Priam

12: Enemies' Tears—Achilles and Priam

This lecture focuses on the meeting of Achilles and Priam, and the closing of "The Iliad." Priam seeks the return of his son's body, which Achilles has been trying to defile, but what does his visit do for Achilles? We look closely at the meeting between these two enemies and consider the impact of their encounter for an understanding of "The Iliad"'s great underlying theme.

30 min