The Iliad and the Odyssey, Part 1
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||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 4 to 6
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||all-out, bloodshed, dire, epic, fateful, flat-out, happening, landfall, long-awaited, plague, recant, sequel, undeterred, vengeance, assault, archery
||Trojan War, And Nestor, Mount Olympus, When Patroclus, When Achilles, King Priam
The Iliad and the Odyssey, Part 1
By Vickie Chao
1 Homer was the most famous poet in the whole of ancient Greece. But he was a mysterious man, too. For centuries, scholars had no idea exactly when he lived or where he was from. They could not even agree on whether he had actually existed at all! Despite the lingering questions, historians traditionally credit Homer with writing the two greatest epic poems of ancient Greece. They said that he wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Iliad (pronounced "IL-ee-ud") has 24 books and 16,000 lines. It describes vividly the final days of the Trojan War and introduces a character called Odysseus. The Odyssey (pronounced "AHD-ih-see") also has 24 books. But it is shorter, with only 11,300 lines. The Odyssey is like a sequel to the Iliad, for it centers on Odysseus and his struggle to get back home after the Trojan War.
2 Here is a brief account of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
3 A long, long time ago, there was a girl named Helen who lived in Greece. From a young age, her looks had been the talk of the town. No matter where she went, people always turned their heads to admire her. They all agreed that she was the prettiest girl in the world. Every young man -- both in and out of Greece -- dreamed of marrying her. One by one, they came to declare their love. As the competition grew fierce, Helen's father began to consider the suitors carefully. At last, he settled on Menelaus. Menelaus was the king of Sparta. His brother, Agamemnon (king of Mycenae), was the most powerful ruler in Greece.
4 Helen's father knew that his pick would break many hearts. To avoid troubles, he made all of Helen's admirers swear an oath. He made them promise that they would never take Helen away from Menelaus. If any of them did, the others would unite to get her back. At the time, this idea seemed marvelous. Helen and Menelaus got married without a hitch. Everybody else moved on with his own life. For a while, there was no snag. Soon, many of Helen's former suitors -- such as Odysseus -- forgot all about the vow. Years later, Odysseus became the king of Ithaca. He married Penelope. The two had a son called Telemachus. They were very happy.
5 Though Odysseus was able to put Helen out of his mind, Paris, a Trojan prince, was having a hard time with it. One day, a great opportunity arose. On that fateful day, three goddesses -- Athena (the goddess of wisdom), Aphrodite (the goddess of love), and Hera (the queen of all gods and goddesses) -- came to see Paris. They had only one question for him. Who among them was the most beautiful? Paris looked at them and was torn. He did not want to upset any deity. Yet when Aphrodite promised him the hand of Helen as his wife, the choice became clear. Right away, Paris declared that Aphrodite was the prettiest. The beaming goddess then used her power to make Helen fall in love with Paris. The two eloped and stole a lot of Menelaus' treasure. For several years, nobody knew where Helen and Paris were. Then, all of a sudden, they resurfaced and went back to Troy, Paris' home country. When word reached Menelaus, he asked all the former suitors of Helen's to honor the oath. Odysseus was, of course, on the roll call. He tried to avoid going. But he could not break a promise. So with a heavy heart, he bid his wife and son good-bye to join Menelaus in Aulis. Upon his arrival, he saw that a great number of heroes had already turned up. They were all busy preparing for the battle. Shortly after Odysseus docked his ships, he and the others met and exchanged pleasantries. Then, they got down to business. Agamemnon would be the leader of this military campaign. And Nestor, an ailing king from Pylos, would be his advisor. Once the plans were drawn up and the sacrifices were offered to the gods, they took sail and made their way to Troy.
Paragraphs 6 to 14:
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