Questions for Discussion

Theogony and Works and Days, Hesiod

1. Why does the Theogony begin with the Muses? Later, in lines 104-115, what is Hesiod calling on the Muses to do? Hesiod takes until line 115 to start the order of creation with Chaos. Why?

2. In the first hundred lines of the Theogony (a poem that tells the tale of the overthrow of the patriarch, Ouranos), Hesiod provides a rationale for the power of mortal kings. What is his rationale?

3. In Works and Days, Hesiod describes the creation of the first moral woman. Who was she? What properties did she have? What did she do?

4. In Works and Days, Hesiod describes himself as belonging to the fifth race of man, the race of iron. What will bring about the end of the fifth race of men?

Iliad, Homer

1. 1.44-51 (Book I, lines 43-51) of the Iliad give a picture of ritual/religious acts that a priest of Apollo might do. What are these actions for and do we see these kinds of actions mentioned elsewhere?

2. What happens in 6.299-327 and why?

3. In the Iliad, the cause and end of the plague, the losses and victories in battle, the deaths of individual fighters, the emotions of fighters, are attributed to the gods. Sometimes the gods act directly to accomplish their ends and sometimes indirectly through deceit. Give examples showing how the gods are directly and indirectly responsible for events and feelings as described in the Iliad.

4. What do the disagreements and arguments in the Iliad (1.112-317, 1.569-603, 16.470-496) illustrate about the nature of the relationships between the participants?

5. When Glaucus and Diomedes met (6.120-242), their interaction did not end in battle. What happened and why?

Agamemnon, Aeschylus

1. The house of Atreus is multiply cursed. Why? What did Tantalus and Atreus do? (You'll need to look outside the play for some of this information--it was background that Aeschylus' audience would know.)

2. What do lines 341-346 mean?

3. What crimes is Agamemnon to pay for?

4. Why is important that Paris "shamed the tables spread for guests" (401)?

5. According to Aeschylus, should the people trust the words or messages of the gods?

6. Why does Clytaemnestra order tapestries for Agamemnon to walk on? Why does he first refuse and then relent?

7. What is Cassandra's curse and why was she cursed?

8. Clyaemnestra says (1429-1430) "Here is Agamemnon, my husband made a corpse/by this right hand--a masterpiece of Justice!" What does she mean? She makes her case for the justice of her cause over the next few lines. What is it?

9. Aegisthus has a different ostensible motive for wanting Agamemnon dead (presented in lines 1612-1643). What is it?