Homer's "The Iliad" is an epic poem that touches on the lives of the everyday people of Ancient Greece, particularly the soldiers, as well as the "lives" of the gods and goddesses in which they believed. Some critics claim that the crowning achievement in this work is Homer's sense of realism in the characters and plot. Literary Realism, as defined by the Literary Encyclopedia at www.literarydictionary.com, is "a genre of fiction in which there is a detailed presentation of appearances, especially of the familiar details of everyday life." As per this definition, "The Iliad" is an example of realism about half of the time.
Many of the characters in "The Iliad" are not realistic at all; however, many of the scenes and circumstances are very true to life. If one were to remove all the gods and goddesses represented and eliminate their connection to the mortal characters one would see a much clearer picture of the life of an Ancient Greek during war time.
For example, the detailed descriptions of the battles throughout the work in general are very accurate to real life. These scenes are very realistic (when the gods aren't directly involved) because they are mostly unbiased and show the casualties and victories of both sides. For example, in Book 4 there are detailed descriptions of many individual conflicts of the battle, but the book ends with: "...on that day many of the Trojans and Achaians lay side by side, face down in the dust" (66). By detailing these individual skirmishes, Homer is showing that all of the soldiers regardless of which army they fight for are men with families and each life lost is as valuable as every other. This is the harsh reality of war.
The reader is given detailed descriptions of the clothing,