Thursday, September 20, 2012
Classic Lit: The Iliad by Homer
Translator: Richmond Lattimore
Date: c.8th century BC (1961)
Read: for my Classical Mythology class
Reading time: interminable (or, really, about three weeks)
I'm guessing that most, if not all, of us are familiar with the basic premise of The Iliad. It's the tenth year of the Trojan War, and the Greek hero Achilles refuses to fight after being dishonored by the Greek commander, Agamemnon. What follows is a long description of battles and the petty actions of the gods as the Trojans fight the Greeks, with the ultimate goal of the Greeks losing and having to be dependent on Achilles so that he must rejoin the fight. Of course, *spoiler alert,* Achilles will eventually kill Hector, the Trojan hero, which leads into what is apparently left out of the book but which everyone already knows, that Achilles is then killed and the Greeks win the war through use of the infamous Trojan Horse.
My take: The Iliad is boring. I couldn't keep my mind on it at all, which meant I would read several pages and have only a fuzzy idea of what was going on and who was saying what. It seemed like just a lot of dense rambling on - this list of who killed who, this list of who's fighting on which side and what their great attributes are, this extended metaphor comparing a hero to some other creature. Snooze fest. With the exception of about two books in the middle, I zoned out most of the time. Sure, there were some really nice lines here and there, but mostly it seemed like just a lot of meandering around about nothing, drawing out things waaaay too far. My favorite part? I thought Hera boxing Artemis's ears was hilarious. The Classical Mythology prof kept saying this is the greatest piece of literature in the Western canon. Personally, I much preferred Beowulf.
For more of the world's epics, check out this list:
Beowulf trans. by Seamus Heaney
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight trans. by Marie Boroff
Sundiata by D.T. Niane, first and second read