Summary and Main Characters of the Iliad Book XI
But Book 1 ends with Olympus in great harmony, as the gods celebrate with song and feasting, and when they go to bed at night, Hera sleeps peacefully by Zeus's side. There is beautiful symmetry in Book 1 between Olympus and the mortal men below: Book 1 has two feasts that occur in a context of conflict: the first feast is celebrated in the world of men, and the second feast is in the halls of Olympus. Although the Iliad concerns itself with war, there is a love for the world at peace. Moments of harmony are interspersed throughout the epic. For long stretches of Greek history, war was a fact of life. Homer depicts the brutality of war alongside the glory of its heroes. He shows us the suffering that war brings, while providing occasional glimpses of peace and harmony in a poem that is full of violence. There is something poignant in Achilles' pointed accusation of Agamemnon: when Achilles argues that all of the men fight for the sake of Menelaus' dishonor and the glory of Agamemnon, Achilles says that throughout the war he has killed men who have done nothing to him or his home. He speaks of his homeland, the homeland never assaulted by a Trojan, and his words conjure imagery of a kingdom in peacetime. Achilles is a fierce warrior, the best at what he does, and yet here he shows a glimmer not exactly of conscience but of consciousness. He is not, at this moment, an unthinking killing machine. He has some inkling of what it means to kill a man, to snuff out another life, and though he does not reflect on his actions seriously right at this moment, he is at least aware that the men he kills have done him no wrong. This moment may foreshadow the greater understanding of suffering that he reaches by the end of the epic.