Wednesday, October 1, 2014

TFBT: Random Notes from Iliad XVI

I read Book XVI today; the Death of Patroclus. It rained buckets naturally so it wasn’t difficult to decided to stay inside and read. Very sad. This time my emphasis was on looking for similes and metaphors. Particularly after just reading Rhesus I noted how often the Achaians are compared to a pack of wolves 155-164,276,351-355 making Dolon’s choice of apparel even more untimely and inappropriate. Here also glorious Homer compares men to trees; 482-4,632-5,765-771.  I noted with sadness that Patroclus and Hector are compared to wild animals fighting and dying “over a little spring of water” (825)


till I (Zeus) have accomplished the desire of the son of Peleus, according to the promise I made by bowing my head on the day when Thetis touched my knees and besought me to give Achilles, ransacker of cities, honor.” Iliad 15.74  I just find that pretty


have you had news from Phthia?” Iliad 16.13  In recent discussions at Hour 25, Janet asked if there weren’t any trips back and forth to Greece in all those long nine and a half years.  Achilles question above makes it appear that such travel was conceiveable thing to the Achaeans before Troy.

Did I notice Homeric plagarism?  Preparing for a discussion tomorrow I re-read Book XVI of the Iliad and found;  “the mighty slayer of Argos was enamored of her as he saw her among the singing women at a dance held in honor of Artemis the rushing huntress of the golden arrows; he therefore – Hermes, giver of all good – went with her into an upper chamber,”  Iliad 16.181  Now compare to the Homer Hymn to Aphrodite 117 “But then, the one with the golden wand, the Argos-killer, abducted me, taking me from a festival of song and dance in honor of Artemis, the one with the golden arrows.”

They came swarming out like wasps whose nests are by the roadside, and whom silly children love to tease, whereon any one who happens to be passing may get stung – or again, if a wayfarer going along the road vexes them by accident, every wasp will come flying out  in a fury to defend his little ones- even with such rage and courage did the Myrmidons swarm from their ships, Iliad 16.259  Just another line of poetry I thought pretty. 


  1. I cannot quite understand Homer's attitude to war. Sometimes he is glorifying it, sometimes, as in the "wild animals" verses, he points out that it is not only devastating and futile but also dehumanizing.
    When (in another scroll) Hector wishes that his son would return victorious from the battlefield, I think I see Homer portraying (and lamenting) the intellectual limitation of heroes that doomed their civilization. But maybe these are just my thoughts, not Homer's.

  2. Maya,
    I thing I have noticed about Homer is his humanization of war. Those who die do not go down to Hades damp home un-named. Homer makes sure we know who they are, oftenwhere they are from and who their family is. Homer had to sing about a certain culture to a certain culture. His characters reflect those culture. They are the clay he must work with regardless of how we or he feel.


  3. He humanizes those who die in war. I am not sure, however, that he humanizes war itself.
    This is from Scroll 7, 420ff. Achaeans and Trojans have made a truce to collect the dead:

    "The sun was beginning to beat upon the fields, fresh risen into the vault of heaven from the slow still currents of deep Oceanus, when the two armies met. They could hardly recognise their dead..."

    Enemies are indistinguishable, and it is difficult to uphold any justification for the mutual killing.