GRC10190 War and the Hero: The Epics of Homer and Virgil

Academic Year 2023/2024

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (c. 700 BC), dealing with the mythical Trojan war, are the foundation of Greek and Western literature. The lectures will discuss the structure, characters, and main themes of the two works, with special reference to the epic heroes Achilles and Odysseus.

When Virgil began writing his epic poem the Aeneid in the 20s BC, Augustus was establishing his imperial rule. While Virgil's contemporaries and generations-to-come greeted the Aeneid as a celebration of Augustan Rome, many modern readers view it as a powerful denunciation of war and imperialism. This module explores the ways in which the text engages with both political ideologies and the literary tradition.

Tutorial classes will encourage students to develop their skills in analysis and evaluation of the texts. The module requires no previous knowledge of Homer or Virgil, and all three texts are studied in translation.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:

• synthesize information about the moral, social, and religious beliefs expressed in the texts;
• analyse the main themes and central characters of the texts;
• evaluate modern interpretations of the texts;
• evaluate the contribution of Homer and Virgil to Western literature.

Indicative Module Content:

Indicative Lecture List

1. Historical background to Homer
2. Homer and the invention of the alphabet
3. How to read the Iliad
4. The epic hero in the Iliad
5. The gods in the Iliad
6. Similes in the Iliad
7. The structure of the Odyssey; storytelling
8. The epic hero in the Odyssey: Odysseus
9. Hospitality in the Odyssey; Polyphemus
10. Women in the Odyssey; Penelope

11. Virgil and Homer: the plan of the Aeneid
12. Aeneid 1: The wanderings of Aeneas – a second Odyssey
13. Aeneid 1 and 2: Virgil’s use of simile
14. Aeneid 2-3: The last night of Troy
15. Aeneid 4: Aeneas and Dido
16. Aeneid 6: Aeneas in the Underworld
17. Aeneid 7: The war in Italy – a second Iliad
18. Aeneid 8: The Shield of Aeneas
19. Aeneid 8-9: Heroism
20. Aeneid 12: Fate and the gods


There will be five tutorials in small groups, in which students can express their own views and ask questions. The tutorials will be in alternate weeks, starting in Week 2 or Week 3. There will typically be an introductory tutorial, followed by two tutorials on Homer and two on Virgil.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The module is taught through lectures and tutorials. The lectures provide an introduction to the background of Homer and Virgil, and discuss some of the main issues in the interpretation of their works. The tutorials focus in more detail on some of the main points discussed in the lectures, and give the students the opportunity to express their own views and ask questions. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
GRC10160 - Homer and Herodotus, GRC20080 - Virgil's Aeneid, GRC2008E - The Aeneid and Augustan Rome, GRC20140 - Homer and the Age of Heroes

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: 1,000-word commentary Week 7 n/a Graded No


Examination: Essay and comment questions 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the commentary assignment will be sent to students through Brightspace. Students may request feedback on the exam from the module co-ordinator.

Prescribed texts

Homer, The Iliad (trans. M. Hammond, Penguin Classics)
Homer, The Odyssey (trans. E.V. Rieu, revised by D.C.H. Rieu, Penguin Classics)
Virgil, The Aeneid (trans. D. West, Penguin Classics)

There are many other translations of Homer and Virgil, which you may use if you wish, e.g. by Barry Powell available as ebooks through UCD Library, or by Tony Kline available for free download through

Indicative secondary reading

J. Griffin, Homer (Oxford, 1980)
–––––– , Homer: The Odyssey (Cambridge, 1987; 2nd ed., 2004)
M.S. Silk, Homer: The Iliad (Cambridge, 1987; 2nd ed., 2004)
B. Graziosi, Homer: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2019)
J.S. Burgess, Homer (London, 2015)
W. Allan, Homer: The Iliad (London, 2013)
A. Kahane, Homer: A Guide for the Perplexed (London, 2012)
S.L. Schein, The Mortal Hero: An Introduction to Homer’s Iliad (Berkeley, 1984)
B.B. Powell, Homer (Oxford, 2004)
D.L. Cairns (ed.), Oxford Readings in Homer’s Iliad (Oxford, 2001)
M.W. Edwards, Homer: Poet of the Iliad (Baltimore & London, 1987)
M.I. Finley, The World of Odysseus (Harmondsworth, 1954)
R.L. Fowler (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Homer (Cambridge, 2004)

R. Alden Smith, Virgil (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)
J. Farrell & M.C.J.Putnam, A Companion to Vergil’s Aeneid and its Tradition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)
K.W. Grandsen, Virgil, the Aeneid, 2nd ed. by S.J. Harrison (Cambridge 2004)
P.R. Hardie Virgil. Greece & Rome New Surveys in the Classics No. 28 (Oxford, 1998)
C.A. Martindale (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Virgil (Cambridge, 1997)
C.G. Perkell (ed.) Reading Virgil's Aeneid: An Interpretive Guide (Oklahoma, 1999)
D.O.Ross Virgil’s Aeneid: A Reader’s Guide (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007)
Name Role
Dr Martin Brady Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Ms Suzanne Lynch Tutor