I’m re-reading the Iliad and happened to need an “I” post. So I though, “What the hell?”
Instead of writing a book report, however, I’ll just keep this short with a few observations:
1. This is some really gorgeous writing! The scene where Athena and Ares meet on the battle field is literally awe-inspiring.
The first time I read Homer I was a teenager and found this really dry and tedious next to the Odyssey. In retrospect, I’m not sure why.
Also, any one who things gorn is a modern invention needs to read some of these battle scenes.
2. There has been some discussion lately about whether the ancient heroes were looked upon as role models for how to live a virtuous life. Obviously the pro position is being held by people who have never read the Iliad. Hector: Wonderful father, husband, and son. Ideal patriot. Achilles: Self important dick. (There’s a reason so many people who read this root for the Trojans.)
But the victor? The greatest hero Greece has ever known? Spoiler: It’s not Hector.
3. I’ve been disturbed about how the Gods are portrayed in Homer – especially in the Illiad. Apollo kills thousands of mortals – mortals who argued in favor of acquiescing to His priest’s wishes – to make a point. Zeus ardently supports the Trojans, and particularly Hector, only to abandon them in the end because His intention was for the Greeks to win all along.
(Ares, on the other hand stands by those He loves and is willing to start a war with Zeus in order to avenge His son. He gets more interesting to me every day.)
Then I realized that Homer is illustrating some very basic, if unfair, truths about the world – and doing it disturbingly well: Bad things happen to good people. The actions of leaders affect those who follow them, however innocent. People die for “no reason.” And we can’t always understand the will of the Gods.
It is not our place to try. Our place is honor the Gods and to strive for excellence despite what fate has in store for us.
And in that, I guess the heroes really are excellent role models.