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The Little Iliad (Greek: Ἰλιὰς μικρά, Ilias mikra; Latin: Ilias parva) is a lost epic of ancient Greek literature. It was one of the Epic Cycle, that is, the "Trojan" cycle, which told the entire history of the Trojan War in epic verse. The story of the Little Iliad comes chronologically after that of the Aithiopis, and is followed by that of the Iliou persis ("Sack of Troy"). The Little Iliad was attributed by ancient writers to Lesches, a native of either Pyrrha or Mytilene on Lesbos. The poem comprised four books of verse in dactylic hexameter.

Date

The Little Iliad was probably composed in the latter half of the seventh century BC, but there is much uncertainty. Ancient sources date Lesches to the seventh century; but it is typical for ancient writers to place archaic literary authors earlier than they actually lived (sometimes centuries earlier).

Content

The Little Iliad is one of the better-attested epics in the Epic Cycle: nearly thirty lines of the original text survive. Nevertheless, we are almost entirely dependent on a summary of the Cyclic epics contained in the Chrestomatheia (see also chrestomathy) attributed to the 5th-century AD philosopher Proklos Diadochos. Numerous other references give indications of the poem's storyline.

The poem opens with the judgment of Achilleus' arms, which are to be awarded to the greatest Greek hero: the contest is between Aias and Odysseus, who recovered Achilleus' body in battle. The arms are awarded to Odysseus, and Aias goes insane. Later, in shame, he commits suicide.

Odysseus captures the Trojan prophet Helenos, who makes prophecies concerning the preconditions for the Greeks' conquest of Troy. In accordance with the prophecies, Odysseus and Diomedes go to Lemnos to bring back the hero Philoktetes, who then fights and kills Paris; after Paris' death, his wife Helen marries Deiphobos. Odysseus also brings Achilleus' son Neoptolemos to Troy: Odysseus gives him Achilleus' armour, and Achilleus' ghost appears to him. When the Trojan ally Eurypylos dominates the field in battle, Neoptolemos kills him. Odysseus also goes into Troy disguised as a beggar, where Helen recognises him but keeps his secret; he returns safely, killing some Trojans on the way, with the Palladion.

On the goddess Athena's initiative, the Greek warrior Epeios builds the wooden horse, and the Greeks place their best warriors inside it, burn their camp, and withdraw to the nearby island Tenedos. The Trojans, believing that the Greeks have departed for good, breach a section of their city wall to bring the horse inside, and celebrate their apparent victory.

The emergence of the heroes from the horse, and the Greeks' destruction of Troy, seem not to be recounted in the Little Iliad, but are left for the Iliou persis; however, a substantial fragment describes how Neoptolemos takes Hektor's wife Andromache captive and kills his baby son Astyanax by throwing him from the walls of the city.

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