Madlibs Are Bad Libs

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Question 1

There are a variety of written sources that suggest that the Trojan War did in fact occur. Homer presents details of the Trojan war in his epic poem The Iliad, this poem presents many of the ideas that we have today of Troy and the Trojan War. However, we must also consider Homers reliability- who he (or she) was, why and when s/he was writing and from where s/he was getting his/her sources. After looking at Homers work, we look to other sources to validate what is being said. Herodotus confirms some of Homers ideas but also reveals some discrepancies. Whilst Thucydides also confirms some ideas and brings into play others. However for both Herodotus and Thucydides, reliability must be questioned.

Homer's The Iliad presents many key details on the Trojan War. The Iliad tells of the Trojan War, saying that there was a war and that it was an expedition to rescue Helen after her abduction by Paris. It tells us that "Agamemnon King of Men" (Homer, p.1) moved the Greek people to unite and take up arms against Priam's city of Troy where Helen was being held after she was stolen from Menelaus. The Iliad, however also brings myth into the mix with the idea that when Paris was asked to judge the beauty of the Goddesses, Athena, Aphrodite and Hera, he picked Aphrodite who offered him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world (Helen). It is these ideas that lead us to question the accuracy of The Iliad, and before considering The Iliad to be true, Homer's reliability as a creditable writer must be considered.

When considering Homer's work, his reliability must be questioned. Homer was in no way writing to accurately describe history, but instead he was writing to entertain people with epic poetry. It is through the poetic form that Homer was writing in that there would be great exaggerations made and the truth quite possibly stretched. Very little is known about Homer as a person, however it is known that he was writing in the 8th Century BC, approximately 400 years after the Trojan war was supposed to have taken place. The fact that Homer was so far removed from the events that took place brings in a greater question on where Homer gained his information. Homer most likely gained his sources from oral traditions, passed through the generations, this presents a problem in that the facts would become distorted over time. Over all, The Iliad isn't an entirely reliable source, however, once compared to other sources, The Iliad may be of some use.

Herodotus' The Histories validates some of Homer's ideas, while also giving an alternative view. Herodotus like Homer states that the Trojan War did in fact take place, and that it was caused by the abduction of "a girl from Sparta" (Herodotus, p.42) called Helen, by a man called Paris. Herodotus goes onto say that Helen did in fact never go to Troy but instead to Egypt. When on the way home to Troy, Paris' ship met bad weather, that "drove his ship towards Egypt" (Herodotus, p.171). Upon learning of the "Trojan stranger" (Herodotus, p.171) who had committed an "abominable crime" (Herodotus, p.171), the Egyptians arrested Paris, sending him back to Troy without his "ill-gotten gains" (Herodotus, p.172) of Helen and the treasures that he stole from his host Menalaus. The Greeks not knowing this moved against Troy, where they were told by the Trojans that neither Helen nor the treasure were in their possession, not believing the Trojans, the Greeks "laid siege to the town, and persisted until it fell" (Herodotus, p.173), not finding Helen, Menelaus went to Egypt where both Helen and his property were returned to him. Herodotus brings up some valuable points, confirming further that the Trojan War did in fact take place and that Helen, Paris, and Menelaus were involved.

Herodotus' reliability should also be questioned when considering his work as a piece of historical evidence. Unlike Homer, Herodotus was writing for the expressed purpose of recording history....
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