Homer’s Iliad

Pushing through this all-time classic today for my Mythology course in the classics department.  Quick thought: How awesome is it that basically all these guys live to do consists in little else than

  • Killing other men in order to enjoy their wives
  • Telling stories around the fire (upon which a bunch of spits of lamb are roasting) about killing other dudes and taking away their wives
  • Talking about your divine lineage
  • Battles.

Yep, life seems pretty great if you’re a Greek warrior in ancient times.  But seriously, I love the Embassy that Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax make to Achilles.  The Greeks are outnumbered and staring defeat in the face; their boats will be burned by the morning if Achilles does not join the battle.  They offer him riches beyond imagination, the best women of Troy behind Helen herself.  And Achilles looks at them and says:

“Now that I don’t want to fight him anymore,
I will sacrifice to Zeus and all gods tomorrow,
Load my ships, and launch them on the sea.
Take a look if you want, if you give a damn,
And you’ll see my fleet on the Hellespont
In the early light, my men rowing hard.

With good weather from the sea god,
I’ll reach Phthia after a three-day sail.”

Particularly interesting about this passage is its reference in Plato’s Crito.  Crito begs Socrates to allow him to bribe the prison guards and steel him away from Athens to a safe haven, so that he is not executed by the Athenians, who seem to have unfairly imprisoned him and sentenced him to execution.  He says:

Crito: What was your dream?
Socrates: I thought that a beautiful and comely woman dressed in white approached me.  She called me and said: “Socrates, may you arrive at fertile Phthia on the third day.” 

I thought it was so interesting that I read from both of these two works in the same day.  Doubly interesting is the prophecy that Achilles would live on happily yet without glory if he were to return home from troy.  If he stayed and fought, however, he would live on in glory but would die in battle.  It’s so interesting that Socrates makes an allusion to a life lived to its fruition yet without glory in his dream that is presumably about his own death.  So does this mean that he thinks he will die and be forgotten or that (Irony) he will live on throughout the ages for staying at Athens and facing execution?  I’m a bit too muddled at the moment to make a clear analysis of the matter, but the whole discussion and reference is just so interesting.

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