Departmental Papers (Classical Studies)

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version


Publication Source

Classical Closure: Reading the End in Greek and Latin Literature

Start Page


Last Page



The opening lines of the Iliad give two apparent definitions of the poem's plot: the mēnis, "wrath," of Achilles, which, in the first line, the narrator asks the Muse to sing, and the Dios boulē, "plan of Zeus," which we learn In the fifth line was being accomplished through the deaths of the many Achaeans who perished as a consequence of Achilles' wrath. Both of these rather abstract formulations appear to correspond to the same specific course of events, which is set in motion in the first book of the poem: the scheme devised by Achilles and Zeus, with Thetis as their intermediary, to avenge and repair Achilles' loss of honor at the hands of Agamemnon through Trojan success in the war. This scheme or plot (in a literal sense) among the principal divine and human characters thus appears to define the plot (in a literary sense) of the poem in which it is narrated.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Chapter 2, “Equal Honor and Future Glory: The Plan of Zeus in the Iliad” by Sheila Murnaghan (pp. 23-42) from CLASSICAL CLOSURE: Reading the End in Greek and Latin Literature ed. by Deborah H. Roberts, Francis M. Dunn and Don Fowler. Copyright © 1997 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission.

Included in

Classics Commons



Date Posted: 05 January 2017