The Iliad by Homer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I listened to the audiobook read by Derek Jacobi and he did such a wonderful job. I wonder why it’s no longer available on Audible.
I really enjoyed listening to The Iliad. It was more the story of Achilles than I had ever know before. This year is a foray into reading Epic Poetry and this was a good follow-up to Gilgamesh. Comparing Gilgamesh and Achilles as characters could be a productive and interesting project. Both physically strong, sons of goddesses, run by their emotions, warrior kings. Yes, there could be many comparisons drawn.
This was also the story of Hector, who seemed the best man in the whole piece, although he too had flaws. Is he the mirror of Achilles as Enkindu is to Gilgamesh? What if Hector and Achilles had met as brothers rather than as bitter enemies?
The taming of Gilgamesh through the work of Enkindu is different here in the Iliad, but no less striking. Zeus intervenes, finally, and gives Achilles a command he cannot refuse. But, his mercy and pity are met in Priam and he becomes more human toward his enemies. The holding off of battle for 12 days for the funeral of his enemy was a shocking condescension. That he was gentle with Priam because of his father was beautiful.
I loved the snapshots from the characters around Achilles and Hector. The view of Hector’s wife was particularly poignant in both of her scenes. Hecuba, too. I don’t know that I would’ve paid as close attention had I not read The Trojan Women last year, but I’m glad I did. The side losses were articulated and were more developed in the other piece.
The war council and conciliatory council of Agamemnon give us a view into the psychology of the Atreans. The ships and walls were nearly characters in themselves. Patroclus was easy to grieve because he was so well cast.
I wondered if there was some city/metropolis vs the agrarians going on here. Was Troy the sophisticated, glamorous city and the kings of the other Greek city-states lush with farms were tired of being perceived as backwards?
There are many questions I’ll save for my next reading – a reading not a listening. I determined to listen to these poems and am excited to begin The Odyssey (I’m going with Emily Wilson’s new translation) next.
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The Iliad by Homer