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Discuss the concept of national identiy in the Iliad and the Aeneid - Essay Example

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The epic poem Iliad, which was written by Homer in 8th or 7th century BC about the Trojan war and Aeneid, written by Virgil in the first century BC is about the Roman ancestor Aeneas (he was already a character in Iliad) and the war involved have many commonalities…
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Discuss the concept of national identiy in the Iliad and the Aeneid
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Download file to see previous pages People of a certain region had their own national symbols and Iliad as it is said to be based on arguably historical facts, it had much of national romanticism in it. Even though Homer was Greek, he writes Iliad with impartiality towards Trojans too. The work covers one incident of Agamemnon's refusal to return Chryseis to her father; then his decision to take Breseis, Achilles' girl in the place of Chryseis, because he had to return his own to stop Greeks from dying due to some obscure disease and thus creating hatred in Achilles who refuses to fight and this resulting in diminishing Greek strength and increasing Hector's and Trojans'. It also covers Achilles' dilemma about fighting or not fighting, his mother's prophecy etc. Talking about national identity, one can get surplus of it from Trojans and Greeks both. Actually Greeks fight with Trojans because it was a foreigner, Paris, who had taken Helen from her husband, as they were honor-bound to do so according to the oath and their existence was within the national framework of the same identity. Paris was from another state and they felt a common hatred towards him. At the same time, Trojans fought the war, because they were united against the Greeks, who did not belong to their culture and the threat was against an action of their prince Paris. Even though the war (around 1200 BC) was about Helen and Paris, it lasted another ten years not because of the desire to bring Helen back, but because of the national identity and national pride that the war had unleashed. Both the armies fought for their own dignity and pride and Helen was simply an excuse. They did not want to end the war, because they did not want to hurt their national dignity. They dreaded the bad name that might get attached to their region and their clan. So, both the sides had to win the war somehow and thus, it went on beyond all expectations. At the end of it all, Trojans burn the Hector's dead body as though it was a national event that unified them even in their disastrous defeat. We can see that the funeral of their adored Prince resurrects their national identity once again. "And then they gathered again in due order and held a glorious feast in the house of Priam, the god-ordained king" (410). Heroes like Achilles, Hector, and even Paris are there because of the national identity. What we see here is a pure and undiluted form of national identity, and the glorification of the nation that has already existed before the war and gave strength to it.
Another classic, Vergil's Aeneid, has similarly strong national identity attached to it. Here it is the Roman nation, though provisional, against other ethnicities like Trojan, Italian, Greek and Carthaginian. But the national identity here is not what we see in Iliad. This roman identity is not absolutely stable, but adaptable. While Homer simply expresses the already existing national identities impartially, Vergil tries to build the state's identity by demonizing other states. This is another kind of narrative and is a powerful story, and pitted against to Aeneid, Iliad becomes a sincere report. People who have 'failed' in their duties towards the state are treated abominably by all the sides. While talking about war prisoners and the way of dehumanising them, the principle employed here is that they have failed in saving their national pride ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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