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Mythology
The Iliad and the Odyssey

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The Iliad and the Odyssey

The Iliad and the Odyssey are the oldest surviving works of Western literature. They are two epic poems, written in ancient Greek. The Iliad is about the ten–year siege of Troy by a coalition of Greek states; specifically, it tells of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles. The Odyssey is a sort of sequel to the Iliad, and tells of the wanderings of Odysseus after the siege ended in the fall of Troy (in 1270 BC).

Both epics are attributed to Homer, who is believed to have lived in the 8th century BC (i.e. about 500 years after the events that his works describe, and 400 years before people like Herodotus and Socrates). The ancient Greeks saw Homer as the first and greatest of the epic poets, and Plato's Republic describes him as "leader of Greek culture". But it's not certain that he ever lived at all; some scholars find it unlikely that both epics were written by one person.

Son of Peleus, king of the Myrmidons in Thessaly, and the sea–nymph Thetis; slew Hector at the siege of Troy Click to show or hide the answer
Father of Theseus – committed suicide when Theseus returned to Athens but forgot to change his sails from black to white Click to show or hide the answer
Son of Aphrodite and ancestor of Romulus and Remus, who replaced Hector in command of the Trojans Click to show or hide the answer
Mythical King of Mycenae who led the Greeks at the siege of Troy; murdered by his wife Clytemnestra Click to show or hide the answer
Leader of the Salaminian forces at Troy; 'Bulwark of the Achaeans' (Homer) Click to show or hide the answer
Described in the Iliad as 'those who go to war like men' Click to show or hide the answer
Daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta – subject of plays by Sophocles and Euripides Click to show or hide the answer
Odysseus's faithful dog: the only one who recognises him after his return to Ithaca – but dies after Odysseus is unable to greet him (as it would betray his identity) Click to show or hide the answer
Menelaus and Agamenmnon Click to show or hide the answer
Nymph who imprisoned Odysseus on the island of Ogygia in order to make him her immortal husband Click to show or hide the answer
Daughter of King Priam, sister of Hector – given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, fated always to tell the truth but never to be believed. Foretold Hector's death and the fall of Troy; murdered by Clytemnestra Click to show or hide the answer
Whirlpool in the Straits of Messina Click to show or hide the answer
Iliad: lion before, goat in the middle, serpent behind Click to show or hide the answer
Daughter of Zeus and Leda, sister of Helen of Troy, Castor and Pollux; wife and murderer of Agamemnon Click to show or hide the answer
Brother of Oedipus' mother Jocasta – followed Oedipus as King of Thebes Click to show or hide the answer
Phoenician princess, legendary founder of Carthage; fell in love with Aeneas; committed suicide because he deserted her (according to Virgil) Click to show or hide the answer
Son of King Priam of Troy – foremost warrior on the Trojan side; married to Andromache (an-DROM-a-kee) Click to show or hide the answer
Wife of King Priam of Troy Click to show or hide the answer
Daughter of Zeus (and either Leda or Nemesis); hatched from an egg Click to show or hide the answer
Stentor died after losing a shouting contest with Click to show or hide the answer
Odysseus was king of Click to show or hide the answer
Mother of Oedipus Click to show or hide the answer
Father of Oedipus Click to show or hide the answer
Trojan priest of Apollo, warned against accepting the Greeks' gift of a wooden horse Click to show or hide the answer
Odyssey: people who were transported to a blissful oblivion, and lost the desire to return home, after eating of a certain tree Click to show or hide the answer
Answer to the Riddle of the Sphinx (What goes on two legs in the morning, at mid-day on two, and in the evening on three; and the more legs it has, the weaker it be) Click to show or hide the answer
King of Sparta: brother of Agamemnon, husband of Helen of Troy Click to show or hide the answer
Advisor to the young Telemachus while his father Odysseus was away on his travels Click to show or hide the answer
Fierce warrior nation, troops led by Achilles (his father Peleus was their king); name entered English to mean an unquestioningly loyal follower, or hired ruffian; often used in computer, video and role–playing games Click to show or hide the answer
Hero of the Odyssey: son of Laërtes (some say Sisyphus) and Anticlea, husband of Penelope, father of Telemachus; renowned for his brilliance, guile, and versatility; Latin name Ulysses Click to show or hide the answer
Legendary king of Thebes, saved the city by solving the Riddle of the Sphinx; fulfilled the prophesy of the Delphic Oracle by killing his father and marrying his mother; punished himself by putting out his eyes with her brooch pin. Name means 'swollen feet' Click to show or hide the answer
Judged which of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite was most beautiful; Aphrodite promised him Helen of Troy if he chose her Click to show or hide the answer
Prompted the Trojan War by abducting Helen (then known as Helen of Sparta)
Fired the arrow that struck Achilles in the heel and killed him
Achilles's beloved comrade, killed by Hector after driving the Trojans back to the gates of Troy, while wearing Achilles's armour; Achilles fought and killed Hector to avenge his death Click to show or hide the answer
Wife of Odysseus Click to show or hide the answer
Queen of the Amazons, whom Achilles injured and fell in love with Click to show or hide the answer
Cyclops – son of Poseidon and the sea nymph Thoosa – who captured Odysseus – promised to eat him last after he gave him wine; Odysseus escaped by blinding him Click to show or hide the answer
King of Troy, during the Trojan War and the Siege of Troy Click to show or hide the answer
Rock opposite Charybdis in the Straits of Messina – personified as a monster that devoured sailors Click to show or hide the answer
Loud–voiced Greek herald at the siege of Troy Click to show or hide the answer
Son of Odysseus, born on the day his father sets out to fight in the Trojan War; sets out with Athena (in the form of Mentor), 20 years later, to find him; kills his mother's suitors on his father's return Click to show or hide the answer
King of Salamis, father of Ajax Click to show or hide the answer
Oedipus, his father Laius and his mother's brother Creon were kings of Click to show or hide the answer
Mother of Achilles – dipped him in the Styx Click to show or hide the answer
Latin name for Odysseus Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2017