The Iliad

Reading the classics is a life’s work. I just finished The Iliad, translated by Fagles. Now, on to The Odyssey and a hundred other powerful books.

Heroes and gods. Valor, courage, pride. Strong verbs for strong actions. Strong Anglo-Saxon language employed by Fagles.

Words of strength; vaunting, scrimped his honors, brave, more success, Past his strength no man can go, Hector answered the giant Ajax taunt for taunt, our fighting spirit, no shame, to the last man, That man has got no heart in him, not a pulsebeat, Hector seethed in anger, pay the price, survive and avenge his death in battle, I will never cease my anger, fighting words, sturdy thighs, It’s no small labor to rescue all mankind, every mother’s son, he threatens to come here in person, So, force me, will he, to wrench my will to his?, glory, rouse him, rescue, no dishonor there!, Quick, better to live or die, once and for all, than die by inches, slowly crushed to death by far inferior men!, how can we take things lying down this way?, giving glory over, that worthless father who sired a better son, “Be men, my friends, maintain your pride in the eyes of other men, stand and fight, no turning back, cowards!, commandeer a prize, exulting in his own power, If only the might Agamemnon met me with respect, deadly anger, Fight like men, my friends!, Lycians, where’s your pride?, soldier’s soldier, brave among the brave, but now be braver still, shame him, one of the braver ones down, proof of the battle is action, staunch, bluster, proud, had the spine, redeem my honor, save my price, If the Trojans had that courage, unswerving courage, you lacked the nerve, look him straight in the eye, he’s a better man than you, I never cringe, Come on, my friend, stand by me, spirit strong enough, greatest, to win the glory, shame, what shame!, gallant, Our glory’s gone if we fall back now, if you have the heart to join me, let me seize great glory!, No coward’s work, So I must do all I can to pay her back, resisting with all my will, breathed in her son tremendous courage, once we’ve avenged our shame, We must steel our hearts, I will never stop, magnificent pride, greathearted fighter, whatever fists and feet and strength can do, that I will do, the man’s proud spirit, a far, far better man than you, What disgrace for us- to return without a fight, blazing to seize his glory, heart racing for some great exploit, the fixed resolve, But did I give way?, Now my spirit stirs me, call up whatever courage you can muster, resolve, your noble father, among the champions, What honor will he gain?, worthy, it’s their duty.

Such language is incompatible with our age. It is politically incorrect to talk of honor and the route to it. Worthless, better. No one is unworthy. No one is responsible for themselves or their actions. Failure’s source lies at some other door. Strength is gone. Weakness settles in.


A couple of other notable concepts, pertinent to our era:

Body: the inviolability of the body, even when a corpse. The indignity of mutilation; the shame of mis-handling a friend’s corpse. “These are the solemn honors owed the dead.” “He cannot mutilate his body.” “Bathe and anoint the body.”

Lineage: Who is your father? This is my lineage, why I have cause for pride…


One Response

  1. Tom, when rolling all those stirring words around on your tongue remember that homosexual relationships and pederasty were widely practiced, accepted and exalted at the time of the Iliad. Achilles and Patroclus were lovers. From Achilles’ lament over the corpse of Patroclus: “”Does it mean nothing to you, the unblemished thighs I worshipped and the showers of kisses you had from me?”

    I mention this not to especially exalt homosexuality, but to point out that courage, valor, honor, loyalty and a well crafted phrase and a well wielded sword are not gender specific. Would you agree?

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