Saturday, November 19

The Iliad- Book One

Dear Readers,

I have returned after a long absence. College has a way of reorganizing your priorities and not giving you much say in it. Well, I'm here to reclaim one of those priorities for my own.

I recently discovered that our school library has the complete set of "Great Books". This is a series of books that contain the great authors in Western Civilization. I have been starving to read more classics and I figure, "What better way than by reading through the Great Books?" This will undoubtedly take me long to do than I have time left at college, but I hope to save up money and purchase the collection for myself. Until that time, I have decided to start at the beginning and get as far as I can.

I also happen to be obsessed with taking notes over things that I read, so as I began my first book and started recording notes, I thought that maybe someone would profit from me posting my findings on my blog.

The first two volumes in the series are dedicated to forwards, indexes, appendices, etc. so I have decided to skip them altogether and begin with Volume III: Homer.

A note about Homer in a purely biographical sense. Homer is not a man known to have existed. It is hypothesized that Homer is the author of the Homeric poems based on similar quality and existence. It is not known whether Homer did author the Iliad and Odyssey though traditional attributed to Homer.

The Iliad: Book One

Brief synopsis of plot
  • After a battle, Agamemnon claims the captured Chryseis as his prize.
  • Chryseis' father, Chryses, a priest of Apollo begs him to return her and offers a vast ransom.
  • Agamemnon refuses and drives the father away.
  • Chryses prays to Apollo to rescue his daughter.
  • Apollo attacks the Achaians, plaguing them for ten days.
  • Achilles asks Kalchus, a soothsayer, to interpret what they have done to deserve such wrath.
  • Kalchus responds that it is Agamemnon who dishonoured Apollo's priest.
  • Agamemnon is infuriated but agrees to return Chrysies if another prize will be given him.
  • Achilles scoffs at him and swears to leave him but Agamemnon returns insult by claiming Achilles' prize, Breiseis as his own.
  • Achilles is about to fight Agamemnon when the goddess Athene intervenes and stays his hand.
  • Nestor, a wise counselor, stands to give calming words and succeeds in preventing a duel.
  • Agamemnon sends for Breiseis and Achilles weeps at her loss.
  • His mother, the goddess Thetis, hears and pleads his case to Zeus.
  • Zeus ponders the request, knowing it will plague his wife Hera.
  • Afterwards, Hera guesses his intent and questions him, provoking an argument.
  • Hera's son, Hephaistos comforts her and asks her to calm her anger against Zeus

My Analysis/ Interesting points:

  • The interplay of man and gods: In this time period of literature, gods were not as invincible or immovable as we think of them today. The gods were very involved in mortal struggles, helping or hindering one side or the other, and seemed as fickle as humans are. The only thing that seems to separate them from humans are their increased strength and/or wisdom, ability to transform between dimensions (Olympus and Earth), and immortality. They show the same emotions, thoughts and actions that humans do. The argument between Zeus and his wife Hera at the end of the book is a particularly humorous example of these distinctions.
  • Even with a difference in speech due to translation, the dialogue is interesting and easy to relate to. One can hear Agamemnon whining at losing his prize and peevishly demanding Achilles'.
  • The humans' reverence to the gods. They respect their gods (who are not all-powerful, all-seeing, or all-knowing) more than we respect our one true God who is everything those gods are not. Chryses devoutly and emotional prays for the return of his daughter, Achilles treats Athene's appearance with reverence, respect, and (importantly!) obedience and Achilles also weeps brokenheartedly to his mother, the goddess Thetis. If we communed with our God the way these characters did with their lesser 'gods', perhaps the world would be a different place.
  • The pride of the two main characters. Even a leader as great as Achilles has his sins. Agamemnon and Achilles both try to retain their prizes, threatening harm to their respective followers if the others' demands are not met. Achilles would pull away his troops from the battle and Agamemnon would take Breiseis with no thought to Achilles and lose his greatest soldier. Both of these men are willing to risk the war effort for their own personal gain. Sounds familiar to me. Maybe politics?

Alas, that is all for now. An interesting read, certainly. I will post the next book as soon as I am able. By next Saturday at the latest.

Farewell dear readers, I hope you enjoyed.