Posted in Classic

The Illiad

This is for all the boys.  I know a lot of you probably cringed when you saw the Jane Austen biography.  So I thought I’d satiate some of that bloodlust I know you guys have.

Wrath!!! Sing, O Goddess, the Anger of Achilles…

    That’s got to be the coolest way I have ever heard of starting a book.  The Ilad is about year ten of the Trojan War.  For those of you not up on Greek Mythology I’ll give you a little background.

    The Trojan War started all because of an apple.  (Quite a recurring motif is it not?)  The Olympian gods decided to marry Thetis, a nymph, to a mortal king.  Eris, the goddess of discord, was not invited for obvious reasons.  True to her nature she tossed an apple into the midst of the wedding feast with a note on it that read, “For the Fairest.”  Well Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena all tried to claim it.  They asked Zeus to declare one of them the fairest.  Zeus, in a move that is in this readers opinion both wise yet amusing, sends the three to a mortal to judge.  He sends them to Paris who is a goat herder at this time.  Paris had been banished from the kingdom as a baby because there was a prophesy that said he would bring the downfall of Troy.  

    Of course all the goddesses offered him something.  But he took up Aphrodite’s offer of the most beautiful woman in the world has his wife.  At that time that honor belonged to Helen of Greece, who was the wife of Menelaus and mother to Hermione.  Helen was also the daughter of Zeus.  Anyway, when Helen married it causes quite a stir.  Men were ready to battle over her.  To prevent a war, Ulysses had all the men swear an oath of fielty to Helen’s future husband.  Due to this oath all these kings went to Troy to war.  Hence the expression:

        The face that launched a thousand ships.  

    So anyway, at the beginning of the book, Achilles is not fighting.  Why?  Because Menelaus’ older brother Agammemon took Briesis, Achilles’ woman, for his own.  As a result, the Greeks were getting their clocks cleaned.  

    Achilles finally decided to go to war once his cousin, who decided to wear Achilles armor, was killed by Hector of Troy.  This was an epic battle for more than one reason.  In addition to the mortals battling, the gods took sides.  Almost all the gods lined up on the Grecian side as they did not want to run afoul of Hera or Athena for that matter.  

    Aphrodite was for the Trojans.  Zeus was as well; but he promised his wife that Trojan would be sacked.  Of course, in return, Hera had to allow Zeus to regularly sack several of her favorite cities.  

        At the end of the story there was a showdown between Achilles and Hector with Hector being killed.  Achilles shows his barbaric side by string a rope through Hectors calf muscles and dragging him around the city of Troy.  Achilles does however allow Priam, Hector’s father, to come get the body; and promises a few days respite to bury his son.  That’s how the story ends.  It doesn’t tell you what becomes of the city.  You have to read the Odyssey to find that out.  

    I like the book.  I would have liked it a lot more if Homer had had the creativity to give every character a unique name.  I mean for crying out loud, does one need two Ajaxs in one story?  I read the edition from Borders.  I wasn’t impressed at all.  It was difficult to read because the translator wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box and decided to use the Roman names for the gods.   Hello it was Greeks versus Trojans!!  But no, no, no they had to use the names Jove, Juno, Minvera, Mars, etc.  With the major gods the name translations weren’t bad.  It’s just the minor gods don’t quite correspond from Greek to Roman.  The Barnes & Noble version is much better in this regard.  In particular, I believe the Barnes & Noble version has updated language which will make the lay a great deal easier to read.  

Yes Gentleman- I will be reviewing the Odyssey in the future.  Just sit tight.  Oh and I will also being reviewing King Soloman’s Mines, which is the Alan Quartermain story.  It’s not going to be all fluffy stories.