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Why Does the Iliad Conclude with the Funeral of Hektor?

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 07:03 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 53.8 
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Examine why the Iliad concludes with the funeral of Hektor. Could Hektors’ death be recognised as a major defining moment in the Trojan War?

In this essay I will illustrate how the burial customs of the late bronze-age Greeks facilitated the way in which the Iliad was structured; additionally in what way the belief of the Greeks in 8th Century (BCE) may have been represented in the discussions which took place between the living and the dead.   Through these points I expect to show how this has influenced the way in which Hektor death links the tragic development of the epic poem.

Although we witness many deaths of Trojan and Achaian warriors we are only aware of the two funerals (held separately) of Patroklos and Hektor and it is not until this time that the concern with burial grows increasingly adamant. During the ceremonies of the two men we find differences in the manner of how each body has been laid to rest, though equally resulting with a funeral pyre. Throughout ‘The Iliad’ there are many recurring similes that befall in the concluding lines concerning Hektors funeral. Indeed Patroklos himself knows of his ultimate fate when he prepares for battle against Hektor , then, as does Hektor when he finally encounters Achilleus . We witness not only Troy’s eventual fate with reference to fire, but also the time span in which it occurs, a time that was prophesised by Kalchas, Thestor’s son;

‘so for years as many as this shall we fight in this place and in the tenth year we shall take the city of the wide ways.’

this is mirrored by the funeral of Troy’s champion,

‘Nine days they spent bringing in an endless supply of timber. But when the tenth dawn has shorn forth with her light upon the mortals, they carried out bold Hektor’  

This nine-day period is recognised as the time span established for performing burial rites, the period begins the day after death and ended as the last offerings are placed at the...


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