So after plowing through Fagels’ translation of the Iliad, I am struck by a few things.
1. Very visual, which makes sense if this was first an orally presented poem spoken to an audience. Helps them imagine it better. It really puts you in the sand and the blood in front of Troy.
2. Gory as hell. (And atomically accurate.) There are modern war films that are not as gory as this. This borders on horror-film levels of violence.
3. Homer names every single person on the battle field, and their father, and sometimes grandfather, even if they are just showing up to die. (And there seem lot of human-nymph marriages, so really, if you have a problem with mixed marriage now, the ancient Greeks weren’t even afraid to mate outside their species.)
This could be Homer’s way of humanizing the victims of war. But it puts me in mind of Le Morte d’Arthur in which Mallory seems to take every single “local boy makes good” legend in all of Britain, and possibly Brittany, and marry them all together in one story. (My personal favorite is Sir Tor, who shows up at Arthur’s wedding asking to be made a knight, gets sent on a quest to get a some lady’s dog back, gets made a knight and then disappears until he gets killed in when Lancelot rescues Guenevere.)
4. Achilles is a wanker. O.K., sit in your tent to prove a point, but sending Patroclus out in his place, in his armor, was a douche move.
5. Needed more Odysseus.
6. Everyone waxes on about Achilles when Ajax was the real lynch-pin/greatest warrior of the Greeks (and *without* any help from the Gods, I might add). Next to him, Achilles is a punk.
7. I now know where J.K. Rowling got the name “Scamander.”