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Back to the Classics: Homer

June 23, 2010

With my studies taking me deep into ancient Greece and its history this semester, I thought it would be appropriate for me to revisit Homer, through both the Iliad and the Odyssey. I chose to listen to them in audio format thanks to recommendations for Blackstone Audio’s version as read by Anthony Heald. No, I don’t really have the time to add another set of books to my auidio queue, but because I seem to enjoy making things more complicated all the time, I went ahead and did it anyway.

And I’m glad I did because that opening argument between King Agamemnon and Prince Achilles was a great way to wake me up on a Wednesday morning!

Then Agamemnon said, ‘Achilles, valiant though you be, you shall not thus outwit me. You shall not overreach and you shall not persuade me. Are you to keep your own prize, while I sit tamely under my loss and give up the girl at your bidding? Let the Achaeans find me a prize in fair exchange to my liking, or I will come and take your own, or that of Ajax or of Ulysses; and he to whomsoever I may come shall rue my coming. But of this we will take thought hereafter; for the present, let us draw a ship into the sea, and find a crew for her expressly; let us put a hecatomb on board, and let us send Chryseis also; further, let some chief man among us be in command, either Ajax, or Idomeneus, or yourself, son of Peleus, mighty warrior that you are, that we may offer sacrifice and appease the anger of the god.’

Achilles scowled at him and answered, ‘You are steeped in insolence and lust of gain. With what heart can any of the Achaeans do your bidding, either on foray or in open fighting? I came not warring here for any ill the Trojans had done me. I have no quarrel with them. They have not raided my cattle nor my horses, nor cut down my harvests on the rich plains of Phthia; for between me and them there is a great space, both mountain and sounding sea. We have followed you, Sir Insolence! for your pleasure, not ours—to gain satisfaction from the Trojans for your shameless self and for Menelaus. You forget this, and threaten to rob me of the prize for which I have toiled, and which the sons of the Achaeans have given me. Never when the Achaeans sack any rich city of the Trojans do I receive so good a prize as you do, though it is my hands that do the better part of the fighting. When the sharing comes, your share is far the largest, and I, forsooth, must go back to my ships, take what I can get and be thankful, when my labour of fighting is done. Now, therefore, I shall go back to Phthia; it will be much better for me to return home with my ships, for I will not stay here dishonoured to gather gold and substance for you.’ – Iliad, Book 1 Excerpt

[Update: As far as a great book in my hand goes, Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven continues to really hit the mark! More on it in future posts.]

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