Le Salon reads the Iliad

TalkLe Salon Littéraire du Peuple pour le Peuple

Join LibraryThing to post.

Le Salon reads the Iliad

Jun 9, 2019, 12:37 pm

Come one, come all!

Jun 11, 2019, 12:07 pm

OK what's the time line here and how many people are doing this?

I have to find my copy. I will do that tonight.

Jun 11, 2019, 1:24 pm

So far so... the two of us? Maybe if we post, they will come!

I'm afraid I won't be able to start before the weekend, though.

The Iliad consists of 24 fits books. I'll probably aim to read each in one go, but there's no reason to over-regiment comments, is there? Post as the fancy strikes? With maybe an obligatory note after each book so we know where we're at?

What's your preference?

Jun 11, 2019, 1:42 pm

I commit to posting once a week on it. Starting on the weekend works for me, too.

Come on, everybody else! Join me and Lola or I will unleash the cute cat pictures!

Jun 11, 2019, 1:54 pm

How does this work?

Jun 11, 2019, 2:23 pm

>4 anna_in_pdx:


>5 Meredy:

Well, unless some Homerotician or Greekologist wants to take the helm and lead a more structured discussion, I guess it boils down to us chikins

STEP 1. reading the Iliad

STEP 2. telling the world about it right here in this thread

but then, I don't have much experience with group reads... does this work for you or how would you like to do it?

Jun 16, 2019, 7:08 pm

Hi everyone. It’s Sunday and I’m spending Father’s Day with big daddy Homer.

Edited: Jun 16, 2019, 7:15 pm

Jun 16, 2019, 7:55 pm

>6 LolaWalser: I actually have no idea. I tried to join one once before, but couldn't figure out how to join in without posting or reading spoilers. With the Iliad I wouldn't worry too much about that. If it takes a while to launch this, that'll give me some time to find my copy, which I'm pretty sure I bought in 1964.

Jun 16, 2019, 8:32 pm

Or maybe I'll just get a new one. Any recommendations as to edition or translation?

Edited: Jun 17, 2019, 3:07 am

We just started today. We are reading 50 lines a day Mon - Friday, and see where we end up. That's why I hesitated - we are going to be SLOW. They really enjoyed 'translating' everything today. So Agamemnon said "I better not find you hanging around my ship, old fart" and Chryses was like "Smite them, SMITE them, Apollo, I'm your boi ain't I?". What did Apollo have against mules and hounds anyway, they want to know.

Edited to add: we are actually reading the Lattimer translation, and the first 50 lines read well. A good mix of old timey epic poetry language and understandability - the boys are 11 and 9.

Jun 17, 2019, 11:13 am

I thought I used to have the Lattimer translation but turns out I have his Odyssey and Fagles' Iliad. I think the Fagles belongs to my husband actually. I don't know where my copy went!

I read book one. All these Greeks arguing about who has more glory than who and who gets whose female spoils of war. I love my translation, quite poetic.

Jun 17, 2019, 2:40 pm

>12 anna_in_pdx: I was just looking at the Lattimore translation on Amazon. It may be the greatest thing ever, but I don't think I'd be comfortable with Achilleus rather than Achilles. Also the cover of the current edition is hideous. I wouldn't want to look at it all the time.

So I took your cue and ordered a copy of the Fagles translation. Thanks very much for the steer.

I'll catch up as quickly as I can.

Jun 17, 2019, 6:23 pm

I got the 2015 translation by Caroline Alexander. It's the first time I'll be reading it in English. Cool that we're all reading different translations, I hope there'll be some occasion to compare them.

>11 captainsflat:

Can the boys read Italian or Croatian? Once you go through Homer, you'll owe it to them to introduce them to the true history in the Alan Ford comic. ;)


Edited: Jun 17, 2019, 10:32 pm

I’ll gladly watch! I’ve read the Iliad twice (Lattimore and Fagles) and the Odyssey not at all. If you guys get to it give me a shout out.

Jun 18, 2019, 8:21 am

Today went well, another 100 lines or so, more than I had planned, so they are enjoying it. "Not cool, Agamemnon."
Mind you, weaving all day and being a bed companion by night does not sound so bad to me.

I would love to read all the translations plus the greek at once. I love reading multiple translations. It's like standing at the top of the mountain, you can see the whole view.

Those Alan Ford comics look great! No Italian, but we could try the Croatian.

Jun 19, 2019, 4:16 pm

Book 1 finished. Quite a lot happens. The Greeks' nerves are frayed, lots of bitchy squabbling and fuming, and Achilles even has a good cry with his mommy. He knows his days are numbered and it's quite possible he'd prefer to skeddadle back home. What does he owe to the Atreides anyway?

Apparently there used to exist tons of Homeric "fanfic" in the ancient times, giving the prequels, sequels and various side stories--most of that now lost.

Alexander's version reads well (it's hard to work against my core conviction that English is the wrongest language to be reading Greek in). This image struck me as particularly beautiful (minus that terminal Latinate "proceeded"):

They stepped the mast and spread the glistening sails,
and the wind blew gusts in the middle of the sail, and around
the cutwater the bow-wave, shimmering dark, sang loudly as the ship proceeded.

lines 480-484

Jun 19, 2019, 7:33 pm

>17 LolaWalser: I am reminded how charmed I was when I read the Odyssey by all of Odysseus' nicknames. I love the ones for Achilles too, I want to collect them in a commonplace book.

Jun 20, 2019, 1:58 am

My copy came. My goodness, it's bigger than I remembered. I would have hated to be a Greek apprentice recitalist in the days of the oral tradition.

Jun 20, 2019, 2:25 pm

>18 anna_in_pdx:, >19 Meredy:

Among various interesting tidbits in Alexander's introduction (as I'm sure appears in other editions as well) was the idea that the repetitive formulae aid both memorisation and successful improvisation.

Another thing that struck me was that the Mycenaeans were notorious raiders, and the likelihood that the abduction of la belle Hélène, i.e. some "personal" motif for the war, was a myth. The historical kernel of the epic in other words probably concerns ordinary robbing expeditions by Greek plunderers. Art is great!

Jun 21, 2019, 7:59 am

So today we did up to where Nestor has his say, and Achilles goes his way ("I'm taking my toys and my bro's and I'm going home") and Agamemnon gives the girl back, everyone has a cleansing ritual and they burn bulls and goats on the beach, nice beach party. Nestor and his "back in my day...." made us all laugh. Agamemnon was surprisingly polite to him.

I can't decide whether Achilles is whiny, or whether it's good he is standing up to the bully (who doesn't follow the rules and gets them all in trouble).

Jun 23, 2019, 5:51 pm

I tend to cut Achilles some slack as he knows he's about to die and clinging to glory is all that's left to him. I mean, other Greeks can at least hope and dream, but for him this is the end of the road. So the threat of losing face is doubly intolerable, in itself but also because of the moment when its happening, and by whom.

Agamemnon, though, is a real POS. For one thing, he murdered his daughter Iphigenia--sorry, "sacrificed"--as the price for a quiet trip to Troy.

Compare that to Chrysos' desperate attempts to get his daughter back, humiliating himself and offering an enormous ransom...

Then he throws temper tantrums in front of his troops. "I can't be the only one without a girl, get me a girl, I'm the king, I deserve a girl!" etc. Shocking bad form.

By the way, I suppose y'all have seen how tiny these men were, judging by their armour etc.? Five feet or so on average... what a sight that beach party would be to modern eyes.

Jun 23, 2019, 7:10 pm

Joining in. If you like Greek myths revisited, you might enjoy The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, told from the perspective of Briseis. Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles is also quite enjoyable.

Jun 23, 2019, 8:00 pm

>23 urania1:

WOOOT!!!! hip hip hooray!!! Greetings, Mary, Our Lady of the Goats & Epicness In General! :D

Jun 24, 2019, 3:04 am

We are about 100 lines off now from finishing Book 1. After reading an article about the huge role shame and not feeling feelings plays in domestic violence, Achilles crying to his mother was great. Briseis was apparently sad at going - did Greek maidens expect to be prizes and get carried off?
I have been going around randomly shouting "Your birth was bitterness. Why did I raise you?" and my kids keep slapping me.
The boys had great fun reenacting the sacrifice of the hecatomb to Apollo, and the feast and party after. I think Calder likes bowing, and just doesn't get a chance to do it in modern life.

Urania, I will definitely have to explore these. Revisiting myths is much fun.

Lola, yes, Ilia said even his name sounds nefarious. He just reminds me of capitalists. Only out for himself, does everything not to be bound by stuff he doesn't like, Entitlement oozing out of him, etc. etc. I guess they will always be with us.
Little pygmy men on the beach. How would they even eat 100 cows?

Jun 24, 2019, 6:56 pm

I bet the cows were tiny too!

I have been going around randomly shouting "Your birth was bitterness. Why did I raise you?"


Omg, yes, the sacrifice was so detailed. Some fat and bones for the god, roast to the people... fair enough.

Stockholm syndrome must've been going strong with the captive women, what with the YEARS that went by... the general hopelessness of their situation... pretty awful to consider that the "you're damaged goods now, may as well shut up and accept it" attitude is still alive and well. But don't get me started on the attitudes to rape in Greece...

I'm curious to hear how Briseis and Patroclus got along. ;)

Oh, I forgot.

I'll be keeping a running tab of insults, would love to see how they are rendered.

Achilles to Agamemnon (line 225)--calls his commander-in-chief a dog! (also a drunk) nice going, dude, good luck with the court martial:

Wine-besotted, you who have the eyes of a dog and the heart of a deer...

The modern Greek version from 1917 is rather similar:

Α κρασοζάλιστο κορμί που σκύλας έχεις μάτια, μα τ' αλαφιού καρδιά!

A version from 1870 goes, interestingly, for an out-there epithet, dogeyed vs. you-who-have-the-eyes-of-a-dog (oh, and it begins "(you) drunkard"):

Μεθύστακα, σκυλόμματε, και με καρδιάν ελάφου!

and the original (1920 OUP edition):

οἰνοβαρές, κυνὸς ὄμματ᾽ ἔχων, κραδίην δ᾽ ἐλάφοιο,

(wine-heavy) dog-eyes-having etc.

The two modern Greek versions are on Project Gutenberg, the 1920 edition of the original here:


Jun 27, 2019, 11:38 am

I'm also very struck by the whole dynamic of the captive women. The Mediterranean cultures have such a long history of raiding and women being part of the booty. There is an Arabic girl's name which means "war booty."

Jun 27, 2019, 8:36 pm

I happened upon this thread by coincidence. I started reading the Iliad a couple of weeks ago. I'm enjoying the conversation a lot, so do you mind if I take part?

Those Greeks remind me a lot of Viking warriors, with their ships out to catch the greatest booty. And wait till the fighting starts, you will be reminded of Asterix and Obelix, and their habit of collecting Roman helmets;-)

Edited: Jun 27, 2019, 10:09 pm

>28 EllaTim:

Welcome, EllaTim, thanks for joining us, absolutely no need to be shy. The group may be clinically dead but we're providing life support... ;)

ETA: adding touchstones The Iliad... Homer

>27 anna_in_pdx:

Heavenssss... The retellings Urania mentioned may redress the situation somewhat, imagining it all from the women's point of view. (In the retelling genre I've only read Baricco's Omero, Iliade, which is a machine-gun-rapid drumming distillation of the violence.)

Edited: Jun 27, 2019, 10:07 pm

Argh, double post!

Jun 28, 2019, 7:39 am

>29 LolaWalser: Thanks for the welcome! In this case reading support, I get stuck in the violent parts of the book, it's nice when someone gets you laughing about it. I still want to keep reading, reasons enough, but I need some help.

Jun 28, 2019, 12:28 pm

>28 EllaTim: Welcome! The more the merrier! If you help me through the horse introductions, I'll help you through the battle scenes.

Jul 1, 2019, 11:33 am

OK - I'm about halfway through Book 2 and it's like a very accurate game of telephone how Zeus' malign dream is passed from his mind to Agamemnon's to Nestor's to Odysseus' speeches. I guess oral societies were much better at remembering things word for word than we are!

Jul 1, 2019, 1:23 pm

>33 anna_in_pdx:
Your comment about oral societies reminded me of something I’d read before, but remembered only vaguely, and had to use the internet to track down, a need that seems to support what follows.

In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates tells Phaedrus about an Egyptian god named Theuth who advised Thamus, King of Egypt, that written knowledge would make the citizens wiser with better memories. Thamus objected, saying:
“If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written…What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder…by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing…filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom.”

I have to admit . . . that’s me. Lots of conceits.

Jul 1, 2019, 2:32 pm

>34 dypaloh: Great quote

Jul 1, 2019, 3:23 pm

Yeah, and if the books contain what's in the {holy book of one's choice} we don't need 'em, and if they don't, we don't need 'em even more.

Thamus can go out on a raft with all the other biblioclasts as far as I'm concerned... (or rather Plato, the wizard behind the curtain, that little proto-Nazi...)

*She's With Borges*

Jul 3, 2019, 4:48 pm


Great quote. I was always on the side of writing and book knowledge. But this internet information thing is a whole different kettle of fish, and I feel big luddite tendencies the older I get. It's seeping in to books too, so often these days I find myself grumbling "Oh, you have no idea what you are talking about, but it's very obvious you think you do".
Mind you, we started book 2, and it was just not as gripping and entertaining to us as book 1, and of course I jumped on Wiki to see if Homer was more than one author. As far as I could see, the jury is still out, but I feel he is.
So we have had and will have coming up great interruptions to our reading - I had to go to town (which means an overnight stay) and Dad read for a few nights, because, well, mum, he is just a better reader than you. (He is, I used to make him read to me every night whenever we were apart early on). But they like my asides and explanations more. And with Book 2, we have seriously slowed down. I told them just wait til we get to the horses.
One funny thing, Dad had been away, and when he came back he had to ask me a favour, so he scooted over in the computer chair and .... clasped my knee to ask. Well, off they screached and squawked - "He's got her knee! He's clasped her knee! DON'T NOD MUM. DON'T NOD. Ahhh, the mountain is shaking!"

Jul 3, 2019, 6:32 pm

>37 captainsflat:

Not only could "Homer" have been multiples, some of the "Homer" might have been... women... hashtagAnonymousWasAWoman

I love how ready your kids are to apply gained information. Uh oh! Just remembered Saki's story, "The Schartz-Metterklume Method": http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/SchaMeth804.shtml

Careful with the historical reenactments! :)

Jul 14, 2019, 12:28 pm

Book 2

Agamemnon continues to be awful. As if ten years of futzing around among thousands of smelly men at the worst beach party ever wasn't enough to frazzle the nerves, he decides to play a little game to see if the troops are still with him and pretends it's time to sail back home. Needless to say, there's a mad rush to go.

Fortunately (or not), Odysseus steps in and saves the day. To waste ten years is bad enough but to waste them AND go home empty-handed doesn't bear thinking about. They are COMMITTED. Point driven home on the back of that ugly wretch, Thersites, who's something like an anti-mascot of the Greeks. There's more than a whiff of the court jester around this figure...

As the troops assemble in preparation to attack, we get a catalogue of players, eventually on the Trojan side as well. If this is the bit people stumble over, too bad, there is so much romance in the names, and Homer inserts tantalizing little anecdotes and remarks about some of the characters that keep you wondering--what (mis)adventures did Tlepolemos the son of Heracles survive before getting here? and Nireus, the most beautiful man to come beneath Ilion, could we hear more about him? But there's no time, not in this epic anyway.

A Very Beautiful Bit:

As when obliterating fire rages through an immense forest
on the mountain height, and from afar the flare shows forth,
so the gleam from the sublime bronze of marching men
glinting through the clear sky reached heaven.

(lines 455-458)

Book 3

Well, this is exciting. After a bit of shaming by big brother Hector, Paris (AKA Alexandros) offers to fight Menelaos in single combat and let the outcome decide the winner once and for all. Praised be the gods, we can start packing! OR CAN WE???

After a spot of spear-throwing and sword-banging, Aphrodite herself intervenes to save her handsome darling and spirits him from the battlefield to his bedroom. As if that weren't scandalous enough, she lures Helen there as well so Paris can enjoy a quickie after his travails. Menelaos is considered the victor, by the Greeks anyway, but as his rival is nowhere to be seen, we're back to square one.

The Bit That Shows That Gods' Love No Less Than Hate Is Terrible, (Aphrodite to Helen):

"Do not provoke me, wicked girl, lest I drop you in anger,
and hate you as much as I now terribly love you..."

(lines 414-415)

Jul 14, 2019, 3:31 pm

I would love to be joining in, but for now I'm still lurking. Most of my power reading at the moment is going to my six-week class called "Arts and the Human Spirit," with ten chapter readings and twenty writing assignments per week. After August 8th I hope I can catch up here.

Jul 14, 2019, 5:59 pm

No worries, no one seems to be in a rush around here. Good luck with your course.

Jul 22, 2019, 2:29 pm

>39 LolaWalser: thank you so much for this hilarious roundup of the key events of Book 2 and 3. Onward to book 4! How is everyone else doing with this?

Jul 28, 2019, 2:44 pm

>42 anna_in_pdx:: I started Peter Green's translation a little before this topic opened and I've just finished book 6. Have to say I'm getting a bit benumbed by all the names and who slaughtered who. I'm surprised there's anybody left. I did read it a good while ago in a different translation but I'm still not making much sense of a coherent story.

Jul 28, 2019, 5:45 pm

We are still in Book 2 - school holidays are not as conducive to reading as I thought - who would have thunk it? I thought maybe Grandad, he who recites T.S. Eliot loudly while washing the dishes, might have helped, but all he had to contribute was that he had almost finished understanding the first two words, and they were very interesting.
Book 2 has gotten a bit better, with all the scheming going on. We noticed, and loved, the way everyone gets titles - Thersites of the endless speech, etc. So we gave ourselves/each other Greek titles. It was voted that Calder definitely co opts "the endless speech", really nothing fits him better. Ilia the dreamer in the day (his own), Ilia of the dark eyes. Mariana also piped up in the back and said she is Mariana of the Finn and the animals. (Her cousin who she loves excessively). I ended up Mum of the Continuous Thread. Or The Endless Cup.
Everyone feel free to name yourself!

Aug 10, 2019, 2:36 pm

Well, I am proceeding--in very slo-mo.

Book 4

On Mt. Olympus, the dysfunctional family to end all dysfunctional families is bargaining about their respective Achaean and Trojan pets. Zeus and Hera always crack me up. Central Casting for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Anyway, the gods are deep into this backroom politicking, with Athena and Hera dead set on Troy's destruction (you'll recall Paris dissed them both by proclaiming Aphrodite the most beautiful) and Zeus wavering between the sides.

Agamemnon the boss from hell makes rounds rallying his troops, offering friendly strokes here and taunting pokes there, and pretty soon they crowd up ready to attack Trojans again. Menelaos is lightly wounded and we get a chance to observe a field doctor in action. The blood is sucked from the wound and then herbs applied.

I don't remember comments on this, but are the weapons poisoned? Arrows are often called "bitter" and even wounds through limbs and shoulders seem liable to prove instantly fatal. Plus this blood sucking. Not sure what's the point otherwise.

Anyhoo, Menelaos is out of action for now, but the rest are galvanised--none more than Diomedes, who goes full Rambo.

In one after another beautiful, sombre passage we observe Greeks and Trojans die, falling like towers, like poplars, spirits departing, "and darkness covered his eyes". There is a dirge-like quality to the repetition of that phrase.

Final lines: many Trojans and Achaeans on that day/lay sprawled face down in the dust beside one another.

Book 5

The heat of the battle. A Trojan falls, then a Greek falls, then a Trojan falls, then a Greek falls, then Odysseus slays seven one after another, and almost every time Homer tells us what was the wound and how the man had fallen, making it all weirdly and poignantly concrete. The flesh is mortified around under and through the armour.

Diomedes, in full berserker mode, wounds a goddess, Aphrodite. Aphrodite runs away in pain to her mum Dione, where Hera and Athena in a mean girls double act mock her tears and inaptness for war.

Ares, who was cunningly sidelined by Athena (she made him sit down by the river, wtf?) perks up to the entreaties of his wounded lover (and ugh sister but when on Olympus, do as the Olympians) and decides to face Diomedes himself. However, Athena herself joins Diomedes in his chariot and together thay administer such a drubbing to the god of war that he hops back home ASAP. And he lodges a complaint with Zeus about carnage getting out of hand.

Ares: dependably furious but a bit soft in the head and very malleable by pretty ladies.

Zeus goes all-out Harsh Dad and tells Ares he can't stand him, he hates him (oy oy oyd, calling Dr. Freud), he's the worst, and his mother (Hera btw) too, but in the end family is family, so Zeus gets Ares medical attention and a bath and they sit together.

I gotta say, the gods are far more embarrassing than the mortals so far. What a strange notion to organise a religion around these characters.

Aug 11, 2019, 3:00 am

Lola's rendering is better than the original

Aug 11, 2019, 5:40 am

>45 LolaWalser: LOL!

The whole gods thing reminded me strongly of Terry Pratchett;-)

Aug 11, 2019, 11:54 am

>45 LolaWalser: almost every time Homer tells us what was the wound and how the man had fallen, making it all weirdly and poignantly concrete. The flesh is mortified around under and through the armour.

It's been several years since I last picked up the Iliad but I still remember the first time I read it as an adult, as literature, instead of when I was a high school kid trying to get through classwork and read it as "myth" -- a word that at the time was almost interchangeable with "fairytale" to me.

So reading it as literature, I was profoundly shocked at how, um, detailed, even realistic, it was. I still remember the description of Achilles going berserk on the battlefield (Book 20), how the hooves of his horses gored the corpses on the ground as he drove his chariot over them, and how blood and gore splashed up to cake itself on its axle, wheels, and his own bare arms.

And the dragging of Hector's corpse is the stuff of nightmares.

Aug 11, 2019, 12:45 pm

>46 Macumbeira:


Join us, Macou, raise the level of discussion!

>47 EllaTim:

Yeah, rather more "small gods" than YHVH, aren't they? Actually there's something charming about the close interest they take in people (minus the creepy propensity to sleep with them volens-nolens)...

>48 southernbooklady:

Oh yes, it's all HD and Technicolor, pretty amazing.

And really beautiful. Not the gore, the feeling behind it all. There's no way I appreciated back in school at fifteen the pathos and the grief, the awe in front of death.

Aug 11, 2019, 12:56 pm

>49 LolaWalser: And really beautiful. Not the gore, the feeling behind it all. There's no way I appreciated back in school at fifteen the pathos and the grief, the awe in front of death.

They are worth experiencing on audio as well, with some basic precautions.

Aug 11, 2019, 7:26 pm

Oh that's precious. That anecdote should be taught when intro-ing the Iliad. Wait, wait--that's youuu? Oh my. Thankfully your rampaging chariot was stopped by the firm arm of the law and not a major traffic accident. :)

Aug 12, 2019, 11:57 am

>50 southernbooklady: Terrific tale, excitingly rendered

Aug 13, 2019, 1:35 pm

I've finished my class and started the Iliad. I can say for sure that I didn't get what I was reading when I was a freshman in college, perhaps in part because the instructor was so delicate with her explanation of the problem pertaining to Chryseis and Briseis. She never used the word "sex," and if she hinted at it, I was too naive to know. This was a Presbyterian college in the Midwest in 1964.

But now I can tell you--Achilles is really pissed.

Aug 16, 2019, 1:58 am

Ok, I've been catching up and just finished book 6, bringing us the tender scene between Hector and his wife Andromache. I know things are going to end badly for Hector, but there's still the part of me that used to hope every time I saw Romeo and Juliet that it would turn out differently this time.

One thing that really stands out to me is not just how the war is a proxy battle for the gods but how in particular it seems to have been fueled by strife between spouses. Not only that but the quarrels and taunts between Zeus and Hera just sound so...realistic.

I'm also thinking about the fact that we have sympathetic characters on both sides, heroes and good guys on both sides, rights and wrongs on both sides. Can you think of a major contemporary drama in which we have adversaries but not a clear-cut protagonist and antagonist?--one where the author is not telling us from the first which side to root for? I can't think of one at present, not even one where the sympathetic characters occupy the usual bad-guy role, such as in The Sopranos (which I'm currently watching for the first time, now up to season 2). I'm wondering how it would even work if, say, the Gryffindors and the Slytherins were equally attractive and relatable in the readers' eyes. Wouldn't prevailing wisdom say you can't do that, because you have to have conflict, you have to have drama? As if The Iliad didn't have bushels of both.

Aug 16, 2019, 11:34 am

>54 Meredy: I was also surprised by the nuance in the characters. (I have not caught up with you quite.) In the part about Helen reviewing the troops there's an impassioned monologue where she mourns her stupid decision to follow Paris and calls herself all kinds of names and seems stricken by remorse; she needs to be seduced by Aphrodite herself back into bed with Paris. The gods act on humanity kind of like drugs, making them do things it seems they would not otherwise do.

Aug 16, 2019, 11:45 am

>55 anna_in_pdx:

I don't think Helen was given choice? The way I remember it, Paris abducted her. She was actually a prize for him devised by Aphrodite. Helen's not a guilty party in my book at all.

Aug 18, 2019, 12:49 pm

>55 anna_in_pdx:, >56 LolaWalser: If you get a chance it's worth reading H.D.'s Helen in Egypt which is a kind of scathing feminist response to the idea that the war was a woman's fault, rather than because men, as a rule, are always spoiling for a fight and will start one on the least excuse. I think she wrote it as a kind of anti-war statement, among other things. It's based on one of the lesser-known Troy stories that Zeus took Helen to Egypt and let the Greeks and Trojans fight over an illusion.

Aug 18, 2019, 3:31 pm

I remember that story (not H.D.'s, the myth). Very strange.

IIRC Helen was married off to Menelaos when she was twelve. Paris was her first (and presumably only) "true love". But as a dutiful Greek wife and mother she never got over her remorse about it all.

Aug 25, 2019, 1:11 pm

Book 6

Menelaos is on the verge of sparing an opponent (granted, it's not a question of pure mercy, the victim offers to buy his life for a handsome ransom) but Agamemnon, that wretch, crowns his loathsomeness with an Old-Testamental outburst in favour of total genocide:

Let not a man of them escape sheer destruction
and our hand, not even he whom the mother carries in her womb,
the male child, may even he not escape, but together, all of them,
may they be expunged from Ilion, without burial and without a trace.

(lines 57-60)

Nestor joins in with the sage advice first to kill, then plunder.

As a generation of leaves, so is the generation of men.

(line 146)

On the battlefield, Diomedes faces Glaukos. The two launch into a lengthy convo and figure out they are guest-friends as their fathers were guest-friends, and decide to avoid killing each other. To mark the pact they exchange armour--but guess what?--Glaukos' is worth much more than Diomedes', so Homer comments humourously that Zeus had taken Glaukos' wits.

Yes, only a fool would play a gentleman around these Achaean animals.

Hector visits the city to put the screws on Paris yet again and see wife & son. A sad scene--Andromache fully expects Troy will be taken and already senses she'll end a slave; Hector only replies he hopes to be dead before having to witness that. And some bromide about war being man's business and tending to the house the woman's to which I and gajillions of women dead in and by war offer a hearty FUCK YOU, DICKHEAD.

Book 7

Hector and Paris re-enter the battle, but the "scheming gods" set about pulling the strings this and that way again. Apollo persuades Athena to let Hector carry the brunt of the fighting in single combat, and the Greeks cast their lots to select their champion. One of the Ajaxes is the lucky man. Ensues a sacred affray, blow to stinging blow. And thus until nightfall, at which point the two combattants agree to continue disagreeing tomorrow.

Back in the city, there is repeated call to return Helen and so end the war; Paris says firmly no--he's ready to give up Helen's possessions, but not her. Anyway, the Greeks, as Diomedes makes clear in turn, are by now convinced that Trojans are marked for death and refuse the idea of ending the war even should Helen be returned.

They allow however a respite from fighting during which both sides can cremate their dead.

Book 8

Zeus reminds his unruly house who's the Boss-Man. His will will be done, and the resisters are merely incurring his thundery displeasure to no profit whatsoever. (Homer is funny again when he has Zeus say that he expects no less from Hera, who exists to oppose him, but is angered and chagrined by pet daughter Athena's behaviour.) Athena is cowed. Zeus throws his favour toward the Trojans a bit; the Greeks are in disarray.

It's actually cool to see the "heroes" being cowards, it gives a proper dimension to the usual bluster about these "noble warriors". A crooked, two-faced, sly, lying, deceitful lot who strikes in the back, murders the fallen, and stoops to all evil for the sake of loot.

Nestor persuades Diomedes to flee now to fight another day, seeing that Zeus is not on their side. Hector, otoh, rejoices a bit too much in this turn of events, which angers Hera and off she goes looking for accomplices to bring the Trojans to heel. Poseidon does not feel up to fighting Zeus, so she influences Agamemnon, first to try and shame the Greeks, then soften Zeus with his tears. And this works. Zeus takes pity on the Greeks, sends them a sign, and they, encouraged, resume the fighting.

Hera and Athena join the mêlée, which prompts Zeus to send them Iris with the message to cease & desist--omg, this is what time now?--or else he'll get rid of the lot of them for good!--wow, Greeks could have gone monotheist then and there.

Hector tries to raise the spirits of his men after the disappointing end of the day when it seemed they might beat the Greeks for good, and promises that tomorrow may be better yet.

A Beautiful Sad Bit:

his head hung to one side like a garden poppy
made heavy with seed and the showers of spring;
so his head drooped, weighed down by his helmet.

(lines 306-308)

Aug 28, 2019, 11:45 am

Isn't the petty squabbling of the gods funny? Especially Zeus' repeated "now everybody just remember it's my way or the highway" when the others get too fractious.

Aug 28, 2019, 12:18 pm

Or that he'd bolt to his very own "man cave" on Mount Ida when the Olympian shenanigans got on his nerves...

Aug 28, 2019, 12:22 pm

One tidbit I picked up I don't know where is that Zeus courted Hera for 300 years!!! before she'd sleep with him.

And then only he managed by transforming into a puppy* and burrowing between her breasts.

*maybe not a puppy, but something along those lines--bunny? calf? piglet? How am I blanking on this?

Aug 28, 2019, 12:33 pm

A baby of some sort. I remember that too. Puppy sounds about right.

Aug 28, 2019, 12:34 pm

Having just adopted a three month old kitten who's very soft and cuddly I think Zeus was not stupid in that regard.

Aug 28, 2019, 12:35 pm

From Wikipedia: As a cuckoo, Zeus pretended to be in distress outside her window. Hera, feeling pity towards the bird brought it inside and held it to her breast to warm it. Zeus then transformed back into himself and raped her.


Aug 28, 2019, 1:19 pm

Yep, sounds legit!

Sep 3, 2019, 9:59 pm

Diomedes attacking the gods is actually fairly metal. I cruised through book 5, one of the bloodiest scenes ever recited.

Sep 3, 2019, 10:14 pm

>67 anna_in_pdx:

That was astonishing. Uncontrollable humans!

Edited: Sep 28, 2019, 11:48 am

Well, this is awkward. I had to return Alexander's translation and thought I'd get it back immediately but instead they sent me Samuel Butler's prose version. So until the Alexander comes back to me, I'm proceeding with the Lattimore... and it's not half as nice. Very dry and flat. I do prefer his version of the names, though.

Book 9

Desperation is gaining on the Greeks. Agamemnon agrees to send a delegation to Achilleus promising rewards and prizes and restitution of Briseis plus other women galore, everything down to the kitchen sink.

Short story: Achilleus says no, eff your regrets, I'll be leaving any moment now. The delegation returns to Agamemnon stunned and everyone goes to bed presumably expecting doom.

But a lot more is going on below the surface and a lot of it puzzling. For instance, Agamemnon's offer to make an oath that he hadn't slept with Briseis strikes me as bizarre. He's not really saying he hadn't slept with her, only that he will publicly declare that it was so. It seems highly unlikely that a pig like Agamemnon, upon snatching another man's woman (loot, to be precise), would postpone his piggish enjoyment, be it of the girl, in the further humiliation of the wronged man, or both.

So I'm putting this "oath" down as a lie, offered as a formal gesture of apology. But if it's a lie, then it would compound the insult by patronising Achilleus. Actually, even if true--and you'd first have to convince those raping bastards that something like that could be true--it still seems patronising. To Achilleus the very gesture of taking Briseis from him defiled her and humiliated him beyond repair.

Even if he's sincere, Agamemnon's offer of the oath seems miscalculated. Unless he IS calculating it as yet another insult delivered in the form of an apology. I'm putting nothing past that dickhead.

The delegation itself behaves oddly--Odysseus anyway. Nestor places the greatest hopes in him, his skill and eloquence, but in front of Achilleus Odysseus simply delivers Agamemnon's message (a word-for-word repetition of Nestor's) and does nothing more. The only real creative effort at persuasion comes from Phoinix, Achilleus' old mentor, who launches into a lengthy aria combining a personal flashback saga with a cautionary tale about Oineus, Meleagros, some boar, Artemis and god knows what. No wonder Achilleus pays no heed to that. But at least you can tell Phoinix cares.

Is Odysseus actually indifferent to Achilleus rejoining them? I doubt there's much love lost between those two; two more different characters are hard to imagine.

And Achilleus. There's only so much sympathy one can muster for this tremendous dick. First, why is he even still there, why hasn't he goddamn fucked off already if there's no way whatsoever he'll make up with Agamemnon and that's what he threatens. Would anyone seriously think him a coward? The whole song and dance is because he's known as the Greeks' greatest hero! He sheds tears comparing his past efforts on behalf of the Greeks to the mother bird toiling for her ungrateful chicks.

So, what, is he there to watch them get slaughtered by the Trojans and gloat? Ugh. What does he want? Perhaps Agamemnon should have crawled to him on his belly, offered kingship, and then slit his own throat. Seriously, I don't see what else would have placated him.

Agamemnon did what he could to turn the film back, even proclaiming Briseis "untouched".

But for all that, as Diomedes says, they only drove Achilleus "far deeper into his pride".

Mr. Glum, feeling terminally sorry for himself:

A man dies still if he has done nothing, as one who has done much.
Nothing is won for me, now that my heart has gone through its afflictions
in forever setting my life on the hazard of the battle.

(lines 320-322)

Nov 2, 2019, 3:43 pm

Hi Lola and perhaps Meredy? I am still plowing through. I’m reading Fagles which is lovely and lyrical. But you guys it’s just battle scene after battle scene! This is why I am not into action movies! The myriad names of the slaughtered and the slaughterers are not helping! I only know like ten characters, let’s see... Diomedes (he is my favorite, for attacking those gods and just his bravado level is off the charts), Agamemnon (greedy asshole) Achilles (geez Louise, I mean he had provocation but now he’s just being a total pill) Odysseus (the cheerleader of everyone else) Nestor (I’m old and wise and I use my age to shame the young’ uns) Hector (even more metal than Diomedes but not as adorable) Paris (always illustrating cowardice according to the Greeks which very much includes archery) Menelaus (whatever) the Ajaxes (they are both kind of likeable) and of course the behind the lines people like Helen, Priam, Andromache. And the gods but they do not count as characters. Their actions make zero sense! They just seem to do everything out of pique!

Nov 2, 2019, 4:27 pm

I just picked up Alexander's version from the library, however I must rush off again now--I hope I can find some reading time this evening.

Nov 4, 2019, 3:54 pm

Love ol' Agamemnon. " I did not touch that woman"

Lola, you have a wrong opinion about him.
Why should he have touched Briseis? He has already a harem of slavettes taking care of hem.

>70 anna_in_pdx: Their actions make zero sense! They just seem to do everything out of pique!
It's a boy's book

Nov 4, 2019, 4:09 pm

Why should he have touched Briseis?

So why did he take her then? Just to show Achilles who's the boss? Risk the whole enterprise for that? I'm not saying it's impossible, but if true, what a passive-aggressive little bitch.

Nov 5, 2019, 2:33 pm

So why did he take her then? Just to show Achilles who's the boss? YES, it is an Alpha male humiliating another Alpha male.

Risk the whole enterprise for that? EGO first, consequences later. It is just Trumpian behaviour.

Dec 12, 2019, 2:38 pm

pfffffft, alpha, beta--don't fall for that antiquated behavioristic mumbo jumbo, Mac, thataway lies nothing but confusion & sad inceldom.

Anyway, this made me recall and yearn for Homer--how EPIC is this?!--glorious mythical struggle! (vid on link)

Eagle v octopus: Canadians rescue bird locked in battle with giant mollusc

That's one sobered, wiser bird at the end.

Dec 24, 2019, 12:17 pm

>75 LolaWalser: that is epic! More epic than Achilles! I am on the part where he finally decides to fight after Patroclus is killed. The armor descriptions are fun. I have not taken this long to get through a story in a while, but I find reading verse can only be done in small batches - it took me forever to read Paradise Lost, too. Did you do that group read with us?

Anyhow, happy holidays to you! I am taking next week off work and hope to make it to the Sack of Troy for new year's. Happy destruction of all they held dear!

Dec 24, 2019, 1:43 pm

Happy holidays to you too, Anna!

I can't recall doing any group reads at all... it's not a splendiferous success, is it. Oh well. :)

Jan 6, 2020, 4:13 am

Iliad's modern greek translation (kazantzakis/kakridis) was a required reading in high school (age 14-15) here in Greece and I've read it once more as an adult afterwards.

Glad to see you guys making the effort.

Apr 20, 2020, 6:57 pm

Have you finished? Or given up?

Apr 20, 2020, 7:10 pm

Oh, my, there was a visitor...

>79 Selliers:

No to both! Funnily enough (but, you know, funny as in tragedy, given the underlying reason), I still have the library book with me.

Yeah, why not, let's take this up again.