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Troy Vs Iliad Essay

Over the thousands of years that the epic story the Iliad has survived, there has no doubt been some form of alteration to Homer's original. Last May, Wolfgang Petersen directed a movie based on the Iliad. This movie, Troy, has proven to be a very loose adaptation of Homer's original, as are almost all stories that are made into movies, unfortunately. With its timeless storyline, amazing scenery, gorgeous actors/actresses and most of all, its reported two hundred million dollar budget, it is easy to see why Troy was hyped up to be a box office hit. However, the film critics were harsh on this movie, as they had every right to be, and it ended up being a total flop. Compared to Homer's Iliad, Troy is rather disappointing. But, to be fair, one must keep in mind the limitations of a movie compared to those of a book, and the fact that the title is Troy, not the Iliad. It really is not as bad as expected. Troy is Homer's Iliad gone to Hollywood. There probably are just as many similarities as differences from the original. The three major upsetting differences in Troy compared to the Iliad are the absence of the Gods, the weak character and plot development, and the addition, exclusion, and reversal of key points.

First and most disappointing, was the absence of the Gods in the movie Troy. Divine intervention was a major variable in Homer's Iliad. The Gods affected every aspect of this poem. While the Gods were mentioned and the viewers were made well aware that the characters believe in the Gods, the only God that was physically seen was Thetis, Goddess of the Sea and Achilles' mother. One memorable quote from the movie was in a conversation between Achilles and Briseis. Briseis states, "All the Gods are to be feared and respected" (Troy 2004). Achilles answers by saying:

Can I tell you a secret, something they don't teach you in your temple?

The Gods envy us. They envy us because we're mortal, because any

moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're

doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are right now. We will

never be here again (Troy 2004).

The suspected start of the war- over the abduction of Helen, Queen of Sparta- was caused entirely by a godly conflict over who was the most beautiful- Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, was selected to judge. He chose Aphrodite, who in turn gave him Helen, who was her equivalent in beauty amongst humans. In both versions, Paris is portrayed as a wife stealing, thief in the night. His brother Hector and he were on a peace mission in Sparta on behalf of Troy visiting the king, Menelaus, when Paris ran off with Menelaus' wife, Helen. This action divides the Gods who constantly meddle with the mortal's lives. Naturally, Aphrodite is on the Trojans' side, as was her lover and God of War, Ares, and Apollo. Although Zeus, King of Gods, tried to be neutral, he was pro-Trojan. Hera, Queen of Gods, and Athena help the Greeks because they were mad that Paris chose Aphrodite. Poseidon, God of the Sea and Zeus' brother, also sided with the Greeks whenever Zeus was not looking. An example of this constant intrusiveness of the Gods in the Iliad was when King "Menelaus hurls his spear, lightly wounding Paris. Paris' helmet strap becomes caught at his chin and Menelaus has nearly dragged him away before Aphrodite intervenes, breaking the strap. She then wraps Paris in a mist, sets him in his own perfumed bedchamber, and hurries to catch Helen" (Bloom 13). Of course, in the movie version, when Paris becomes wounded he crawls to Hector's ankles. King Menelaus becomes angered and says Paris is not worthy of royalty nor his wife Helen. Hector is then forced to defend his little brother and kills Menelaus. The elimination of the Gods from Troy, although unsatisfactory, does simplify the movie compared to the complicated plot of the Iliad. Wolfgang Petersen may have had motivation to remove the Gods because it may have been difficult for most Americans to imagine the actions and motivations of the Gods since a Christian or modern God doesn't normally take such an involved position in a person's daily life. Therefore, this absence gave the movie a more humanized feel while taking some of the mystique out of this legend.

Next, the characters and the plot in Troy are weakly developed in comparison to the Iliad. The Iliad is completely the opposite. All of the characters and the plot are very descriptively illustrated for the reader. Nothing is left to the imagination. On the other hand, Troy leaves much to the imagination. The entire war is downplayed by being portrayed as having taken place in just a few short weeks. As for the characters, Achilles, although brave, just does not quite live up to his hero status. Hector is depicted as more of

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Troy vs the Iliad

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Over the thousands of years that the epic story the Iliad has survived, there has no doubt been some form of alteration to Homer’s original. Last May, Wolfgang Petersen directed a movie based on the Iliad. This movie, Troy, has proven to be a very loose adaptation of Homer’s original, as are almost all stories that are made into movies, unfortunately. With its timeless storyline, amazing scenery, gorgeous actors/actresses and most of all, its reported two hundred million dollar budget, it is easy to see why Troy was hyped up to be a box office hit.

However, the film critics were harsh on this movie, as they had every right to be, and it ended up being a total flop. Compared to Homer’s Iliad, Troy is rather disappointing. But, to be fair, one must keep in mind the limitations of a movie compared to those of a book, and the fact that the title is Troy, not the Iliad. It really is not as bad as expected. Troy is Homer’s Iliad gone to Hollywood. There probably are just as many similarities as differences from the original.

The three major upsetting differences in Troy compared to the Iliad are the absence of the Gods, the weak character and plot development, and the addition, exclusion, and reversal of key points. First and most disappointing, was the absence of the Gods in the movie Troy. Divine intervention was a major variable in Homer’s Iliad. The Gods affected every aspect of this poem. While the Gods were mentioned and the viewers were made well aware that the characters believe in the Gods, the only God that was physically seen was Thetis, Goddess of the Sea and Achilles’ mother.

One memorable quote from the movie was in a conversation between Achilles and Briseis. Briseis states, “All the Gods are to be feared and respected” (Troy 2004). Achilles answers by saying: Can I tell you a secret, something they don’t teach you in your temple? The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are right now. We will never be here again (Troy 2004).

The suspected start of the war- over the abduction of Helen, Queen of Sparta- was caused entirely by a godly conflict over who was the most beautiful- Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, was selected to judge. He chose Aphrodite, who in turn gave him Helen, who was her equivalent in beauty amongst humans. In both versions, Paris is portrayed as a wife stealing, thief in the night. His brother Hector and he were on a peace mission in Sparta on behalf of Troy visiting the king, Menelaus, when Paris ran off with Menelaus’ wife, Helen.

This action divides the Gods who constantly meddle with the mortal’s lives. Naturally, Aphrodite is on the Trojans’ side, as was her lover and God of War, Ares, and Apollo. Although Zeus, King of Gods, tried to be neutral, he was pro-Trojan. Hera, Queen of Gods, and Athena help the Greeks because they were mad that Paris chose Aphrodite. Poseidon, God of the Sea and Zeus’ brother, also sided with the Greeks whenever Zeus was not looking. An example of this constant intrusiveness of the Gods in the Iliad was when King “Menelaus hurls his spear, lightly wounding Paris.

Paris’ helmet strap becomes caught at his chin and Menelaus has nearly dragged him away before Aphrodite intervenes, breaking the strap. She then wraps Paris in a mist, sets him in his own perfumed bedchamber, and hurries to catch Helen” (Bloom 13). Of course, in the movie version, when Paris becomes wounded he crawls to Hector’s ankles. King Menelaus becomes angered and says Paris is not worthy of royalty nor his wife Helen. Hector is then forced to defend his little brother and kills Menelaus. The elimination of the Gods from Troy, although unsatisfactory, does simplify the movie compared to the complicated plot of the Iliad.

Wolfgang Petersen may have had motivation to remove the Gods because it may have been difficult for most Americans to imagine the actions and motivations of the Gods since a Christian or modern God doesn’t normally take such an involved position in a person’s daily life. Therefore, this absence gave the movie a more humanized feel while taking some of the mystique out of this legend. Next, the characters and the plot in Troy are weakly developed in comparison to the Iliad. The Iliad is completely the opposite. All of the characters and the plot are very descriptively illustrated for the reader. Nothing is left to the imagination.

On the other hand, Troy leaves much to the imagination. The entire war is downplayed by being portrayed as having taken place in just a few short weeks. As for the characters, Achilles, although brave, just does not quite live up to his hero status. Hector is depicted as more of a hero than Achilles, another contradiction from the original. It seemed clear in the Iliad that Achilles was the protagonist, but in the movie, it seemed Hector took much of the hero factor. “One of the Iliad’s outstanding contributions to human civilization, for good and for evil, is its concept of the hero” (Nardo 90).

This concept of a hero in Troy is definitely vague and somewhat distorted. Most of the main characters have such petty agendas. At times, it was hard to realize whether the viewer should be cheering for Achilles and the Greeks or Hector and the Trojans. Finally, Troy incorporated some additions, exclusions and reversals from the original work. To start, Chryseis, daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo, and Agamemnon’s mistress, is not included in the movie, while the Iliad begins with Chryses praying to Apollo for her safe return.

When Apollo starts to attack the Greeks, Agamemnon refuses to return Chryseis unless he can have Briseis, Achilles’ mistress. In the movie, Briseis was not introduced until the Greeks first reached Troy and found her hiding in the temple of Apollo. She was also portrayed as royalty, being Hector’s cousin. Another major reversal was that King Menelaus was not killed by Hector as shown in the movie. He actually outlived Hector, was one of the men hiding in the Trojan horse and he took Helen back in the end.

Achilles is accurately shown as being killed by an arrow through the heel shot by Paris, but this happened before the Trojan horse incident. The main addition to the movie was the Trojan horse trick. The Iliad ends with Hector’s funeral, and the Trojan horse deception is not even mentioned in the story, but it is told in Homer’s Odyssey. Some things that were excluded from the movie completely include Paris’ death, Agamemnon’s wife, Hector stripping Patroklos of Achilles’ armor after killing him and then wearing his armor when facing-off with him outside of Troy’s gates.

Of course, Hector losing his nerve and running around Troy before facing Achilles for his fatal duel would have been quite entertaining to see in the movie also. As mentioned before, Hector was portrayed as somewhat of a hero, and if this aspect of the fight was shown, Achilles would have been glorified even more and shown as more of the hero that he was in the Iliad. Most of these things were probably changed in the making of the movie to create a happier, more finalized and simpler storyline. In conclusion, although the Iliad is based upon Troy, it is not really fair to compare the two.

A book and a movie are two entirely different things. It is almost like comparing apples to oranges. Homer’s Iliad is a classic tale, and even though many people might agree that such a masterpiece should not be tampered with, it is important to keep it alive and spread it to all those around.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold, ed. Homer’s Iliad, Bloom’s Notes. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House, 1996

Nardo, Don, ed. Readings on Homer. San Diego, CA: Green Haven, 1998

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Troy. Dir. Wolfgang Petersen. Perf. Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom. Warner Brothers Pictures, 2004

Author: Brandon Johnson

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