true, preserved in the stories of previous generations and doubtless exaggerated and mythologised. To grant the poem any more historical accuracy, however, would be misguided and would, to some extent, be doing the poet a disservice.

Homer's decision to have his epic poem encompass only a few days in the whole ten-year war is a clear sign that his interests were more of creating great poetry than great history. He did not set out to describe the whole war, or even an extended period of it, in exact detail, but to provide a poem that would be representative of the human condition, and the choices that each man and - to a lesser extent - woman, has to make in his/her life. We will consider the poetical merits of the Iliad later (see Themes), but, very briefly, it is crucial to see that its importance as poetry is manifest throughout Western literature. In most subsequent epic poetry, the difference between hero and villain is marked. We, as audience / reader, are prompted to see the poem in one way. In contrast, the Iliad is remarkable for its vision of a shared humanity. The Greeks may ultimately win the war, but that does not mean that morally they are superior. In fact, as Achilles opines in Book 24, no one is a winner, all are losers, and man's lot is to suffer and endure (24.518-551). The poem does not present us with a good side and an evil side, for at all times our sympathies are with both. The fall of a hero on either side is a tragic event, celebrated as such by the poet. This vision of a shared humanity is important, because it prevents the poem from becoming a triumphalistic diatribe, or merely an instrument in propaganda, and elevates it to a position where it can be seen to cast light on the human condition in general. Its legacy, in this respect, can be seen throughout Western literature.

One further point to note, which is fundamental to the understanding of and lasting influence of Greek literature in general, is the fact that Greek mythology as a whole concerns itself with the human, or, more specifically, man as hero. If we look elsewhere at the mythologies of other cultures, we see that the subject matter of most relates to, what could be called, the supernatural or the explanatory. As far as the supernatural is concerned, we see non-anthropomorphic gods with powers superior to the essentially superhuman gods of the Iliad, as well as animals endowed with human qualities. As far as the explanatory is concerned, we find myths about the creation of the world and of man and myths that explain why natural phenomena occur. Of course, within Greek mythology, we also find explanatory myths but they are far less prominent than the myths of heroism and human endeavour that are given their consummate expression in Homer and which were of paramount importance to succeeding generations of Greeks. This focus on the human narrows the scale and affords a more complex view of the human predicament, which, to some extent, every mythology is trying to account for and throw light upon. Although not an innovation of Homer's, this point is fundamental to the Iliad given its position within the canon of Greek literature and its influence on Western literature.

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