Homer as a realist


Question: Write on Homer as a realist with reference to his epic poem “The Iliad”.


 “The Iliad” is an epic poem by Homer that touches on the lives of the everyday people of Ancient Greece, particularly the soldiers as well as the lives of the gods and goddesses in which they believed. Some critics claim that the prime or crowning achievement of Homer in this work is his sense of realism in the characters and plot. Homer presents human nature and the real world in such a way that people of all ages and societies have existed.

Definition of literary realism

Literary realism, as defined by the literary Encyclopedia of www.literarydictionary.com, is “a genre of fiction in which there is a detailed presentation of appearances, especially of the familiar details of every life.” According to this definition, Homer is a realist and seems to belong to all society and culture.


Realistic aspects of Homer

Although many of the characters in “The Iliad” are not realistic at all, many of the scenes and circumstances are very true to life. An apt account of Homer’s realism is here.

The harsh reality of the war

Homer is unique since the detailed descriptions of the battles throughout the epic are very accurate to real life. These scenes are very realistic because they are mostly unbiased and show the casualties and victories of both sides. In book four, there are detailed descriptions of many individual conflicts of the battle but the book ends with:

“On that day many of the Trojans and Achaeans

 lay side by side, faced down in the dust”

By detailing these individual riots or skirmishes, Homer shows that all the soldiers regardless of which army they fight for are men with families and each life lost is as precious as every other. This is the harsh reality of war that provided the massage thousand years ago that war is not prolific but a matter of destruction.

Very realistic human nature

There are an enormous understanding and compassion in “The Iliad” which means a very realistic view of human nature. Homer sees human beings as they are such as flawed and driven by feelings and emotions. Even the great Achaean warrior Achilles is not only wrathful but also passionate and revenged for his self-esteem and intimate companion’s death. His wrath and emotional love for his intimate friend Patroclus are blazoned while talking to his goddess mother Thetis. His pride is displayed by rejecting Agamemnon’s offer and his assets.

“My journey home is gone,

but my glory never dies.

If I voyage back to the fatherland I love,

My pride, my glory dies…………………….”

 Portrayal of characters

Homer has shown his realism by portraying the characters of his epic. All walk of people of human society has existed in the characters who are heroes like Achilles and Hector, housewives like Andromache, deceitful wives like Helen, timid lovers like Paris, intimate friends like Patroclus, thoughtful wise leaders like Odysseus, commander like Agamemnon, passionate and affectionate parents like Priam, and so on. Priam’s fatherly role is displayed in the middle of book 24 and he says before Achilles to mitigate his wrath, Achilles’ anger;

“Remember your own father, great godlike Achilles-

As old as I am,………………………………………

To see his beloved son come sailing from Troy”

By such emotional speech, Priam begs mercy from Achilles and gets back Hector’s dead body to Troy for a ritual funeral. So, Homer’s realism is out and out beyond suspicion.

Other miscellaneous realistic points of views

As it is known to all that united, we stand and separated we fall. This realistic maxim has been first presented by Homer because all the city-states of Greece were united to preserve their prestige and glory and on the other hand, the friendly states of Troy became united. Such a coalition of the states is the picture of world wars of this real world.

However, in this poem, the poet introduces supernatural activities of Olympian Gods and Goddesses in a realistic manner. Their emotions like anger, jealousy, etc. represent human emotions.

” We everlasting gods . . . Ah what chilling blows
we suffer—thanks to our own conflicting wills—
whenever we show these mortal men some kindness”

Besides, the crucial realistic point of view of the poem is that illicit love affair is always a matter of all kinds of destructions which we at first find in Homer’s “Iliad”.


In a few words, Homer teaches human beings psychologically by illustrating realism prevailed in human society forever.

Biswazit Kumar
Biswazit Kumar
Articles: 64

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