AbstractsEarth & Environmental Science

The overburdened Earth : landscape and geography in Homeric epic

by Christopher Lovell

Institution: University of Texas – Austin
Department: Classics
Degree: PhD
Year: 2011
Keywords: Homer; Iliad; Landscape; Homer. – Iliad; Trojan War – Battlefields; Military geography – Turkey – Troy (Extinct city)
Record ID: 1929606
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2152/ETD-UT-2011-08-4304


This dissertation argues that Homer's Iliad depicts the Trojan landscape as participant in or even victim of the Trojan War. This representation alludes to extra-Homeric accounts of the origins of the Trojan War in which Zeus plans the war to relieve the earth of the burden of human overpopulation. In these myths, overpopulation is the result of struggle among the gods for divine kingship. Through this allusion, the Iliad places itself within a framework of theogonic myth, depicting the Trojan War as an essential step in separating the world of gods and the world of men, and making Zeus’ position as the father of gods and men stable and secure. The Introduction covers the mythological background to which the Iliad alludes through an examination of extra-Homeric accounts of the Trojan War’s origins. Chapter One analyzes a pair of similes at Iliad 2.780-85 that compare the Akhaian army to Typhoeus, suggesting that the Trojan War is a conflict similar to Typhoeus’ attempt to usurp Zeus’ position as king of gods and men. Chapter Two demonstrates how Trojan characters are closely linked with the landscape in the poem’s first extended battle scene (4.422-6.35); the deaths of these men are a symbolic killing of the land they defend. Chapter Three discusses the aristeia of Diomedes in Book 5, where his confrontations with Aphrodite, Ares, and Apollo illustrate the heroic tendency to disrespect the status difference between gods and men. Athena’s authorization of Diomedes’ actions reveals the existence of strife among the Olympian gods, which threatens to destabilize the divine hierarchy. Chapter Four examines the Akhaian wall whose eventual destruction is recounted at the beginning of Book 12. The wall symbolizes human impiety and its destruction is a figurative fulfillment of Zeus’ plan to relieve the earth of the burden of unruly humanity. Finally, Chapter Five treats the flußkampf and Theomachy of Books 20 and 21, episodes adapting scenes of divine combat typically associated with the struggle for divine kingship. In the Iliad, these scenes show that Zeus’ power is unassailable.