Erotic Love in the Iliad

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Eros, meaning “erotic love” in Greek, has had tremendous power over men and women for centuries, causing small and large conflicts. In Homer’s Iliad, it is the very thing that sparks the war between Greece and Troy. This theme of erotic love shows itself over and over again in the epic poem, showing the detriments of allowing desire and sexual attraction to overcome reason.

Beginning in the first book, erotic love is responsible for starting the rage of Achilles. Agamemnon demands Achilles’ concubine Brisies for himself in exchange for returning his maiden Chryseis to her father Chryses in order to end the plague set upon the Achaean army. Agamemnon and Achilles, two of the best Achaean warriors, came extremely close to battling each other over these stolen maidens – a fight driven by erotic love that could have divided the Greek army.

Furthermore, Helen contributes significantly to the theme of erotic love blinding men and causing citywide conflict in the Iliad. Paris’ attraction to and desire for Helen, the most beautiful of all women at the time, essentially led to the downfall of Troy. In Book 3, Aphrodite inspires the erotic love between Helen and Paris that Helen initially resists but is overcome by the power of this attraction fostered by the goddess. This book of the Iliad shows erotic love as an undeniable, powerful force responsible for much of the conflict resulting in the rest of the epic poem.

This theme of erotic love, capable of dividing friends and starting wars, is not to be confused with other forms of love also portrayed in the Iliad, such as the love between Hector and Andromache, or between King Priam and his people. Erotic love appears alongside of other forces of love that all play a part in shaping the characters actions and the outcome of conflict.
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