, Research Paper
The Iliad and Song of Roland:
Attitudes Toward War
The Iliad by Homer and Song of Roland are two enjoyable novels that both deal with the basic nature of war. They are set in different eras of history, but they both manage to depict the image of war and conquest very well. With that said, they do indeed share obvious plot characteristics. However, the manner of which the subject of war is portrayed in both novels is considerably different. The Iliad leans toward a more graphic and honest depiction whereas Song of Roland illustrates a more glorious and honorable view of battle.
In The Iliad, Homer tells the tale of the war between the Achaeans and the Trojans. They are fighting an intense and gruesome battle with each other. The two warriors that stand out the most in the novel are Achilles, who is fighting on the side of the Achaeans, and Hector, who is the great Trojan warrior. They fight back and forth in many battles, asking the gods to help them with different tasks.
In Song of Roland, the story is told of Charlemagne and his army, who are fighting the Muslims in Spain. Their conquest proves to be a success. This success has much to do with the mighty and skillful warrior Roland, who is the hero of the novel. He ends up dying a martyr s death and is held with the highest regard amongst his people.
As you can see, these two stories both have heroes in them, and they both deal with war and battle. Song of Roland seems to glorify the attitude of war by using more of a bold and egotistical tone when describing it s conquests. Charlemagne s army is off to rid the world of pagans and convert as many of them as possible into Christians. They feel themselves to be superior to the pagans due to their Muslim belief. They will stop at nothing when it comes to pushing their belief of Christianity on them; the pagans only other option being death. This self-righteous attitude prevails throughout the novel. On the other hand, the Iliad has more of a dark feel to its battles, with both sides being faulty and making mistakes. Both the Trojans and Achaeans use the help of the gods in their fighting with the hope of conquering one another.
By reading Song of Roland, one might get a more positive view towards war than with the Iliad. In Roland, there is more of a clear purpose whereas in the Iliad, one might wonder what the purpose of all the bloodshed is besides petty rivalry. If one were to read the Iliad, he would find himself riveted by the story while at the same time observing the dark nature of the war and bloodshed that the novel portrays.
With that said, it can be determined that Song of Roland has more of a heroic feel to it than the Iliad does. Roland s heroic death is being avenged with rightful cause. It seems the only logical thing for Charlemagne and his men to do other than cower and let an injustice prevail. The Iliad can be seen as more of an honest novel in the way that it depicts war. There are many questions resurrected in it as to what the fighting is accomplishing and if it is worth all the bloodshed and heartache. War is indeed a very dark and evil thing that should be avoided at all costs. Sometimes, however, there is right cause for war. It is up to each human mind to decide what that right cause is and if it will all be worthwhile in the end.