A generation ago (1922) in The Pattern of the ‘Iliad’, Dr. J. T. Sheppard proposed a fresh analysis of the contents of the poem, as a sequence of problems, rather moral than political, resulting from the Quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles, (1) from the seizure of Briseis to the failure of the Embassy; (2) from Achilles' consent to the intervention of Patroclus, leading to the death of Patroclus and the loss of the divine armour; (3) from the vengeance of Achilles, the death of Hector, and eventually the demand for the surrender of his body to Priam. These major problems are separated by loosely connected episodes, the killing of Dolon and Rhesus, and the making of new armour for Achilles. Within them the course of events is presented in a series of connected episodes, the more important of which are supplemented by the lesser incidents, preceding and following in order of narration, as the side panels of a triptych or side groups of a pediment supplement and enhance the centrepiece.
Following these clues, I attempted a further analysis of the Iliad (JHS LII, 265–96) and proposed some comparisons between its rhythms and those of Greek ‘geometrical’ art.
This feature of epic composition was appreciated in antiquity; Aristotle lays stress on it; the structure of Attic tragedies, and of great works of material art—the ‘Chest of Kypselos’ and the pediments of Aegina, Olympia, and the Parthenon, is founded on it; and it seems to be the clue to the originality and effectiveness of the prose composition of Herodotus.