|A trip to the beach would not be |
complete without my knitting and
The Iliad. Ooh, toffee meringues ...
Where better to start than a classical classic: Homer's Iliad. This blogpost is for MatthewVett, who shares my appreciation of classical literature and Asian women.
I'm reading The Iliad very slowly, sometimes only a few lines at bedtime before the little eyelids drift shut. Yesterday I had a great opportunity as I had to take the train on a four hour journey into mid Wales. I managed to get a whole chapter tucked away! Book Fourteen. It was a real corker, so I shall recount bits of it here for your delectation. (BTW, I'm reading Richmond Lattimore's translation into poetry rather than prose cuz I actually love epic poetry. I got a second hand copy which has a loved air about it.)
A lot of The Iliad consists of Alpha males standing up and telling each other what a bunch of wooses they are for wanting to go home to their wives and families when things look unpromising. (They of course don't call each other poofs, cuz they were all chumming up to each other, lovers in arms.) Meanwhile lovely-haired women who have been captured in some previous battle [insert long description of previous battle] pour the wine and hand round snacks.
There are also gruesomely detailed accounts of fighting, like this one of Peneleos topping off Ilioneus, "whom above all men/of the Trojans Hermes loved" (told you they were all at it):
This man Peneleos caught underneath the brow, at the bases
of the eye, and pushed the eyeball out, and the spear went clean through
the eye-socket and tendon of the neck, so that he went down
backward, reaching out both hands, but Peneleos drawing
his sharp sword hewed at the neck in the middle, and so dashed downward
the head, with helm upon it, while still on the point of the big spear
the eyeball stuck. He lifting it high like the head of a poppy,
displayed it to the Trojans and spoke vaunting over it
|Thank you Terrae Antiquae for this piccie|
There isn't much sex in The Iliad, so this next passage is all the more pleasing, like a cool drink of water after some hot sweaty knocking off of Trojans. I like how sexy Homer makes the putting on of clothes - including a veil. (Nota Bene - fans of the Hot Arabic Chick thread.) In it, he describes the perfidious wife of Zeus, Hera, seducing her own husband! She does it so the Achaians can have a quick bash at the Trojans - whom Zeus is protecting - while the old gaffer has a post-coital snoozle.
|Thank you Goddess of the Month blog|
had built for her, and closed the leaves in the door-posts snugly
with a secret door-bar, and no other of the gods could open it.
There entering she drew shut the leaves of the shining door, then
first from her adorable body washed away all stains
with ambrosia, and next anointed herself with ambrosial
sweet olive oil, which stood there in its fragrance beside her,
and from which, stirred in the house of Zeus by the golden pavement,
a fragrance was shaken forever forth, on earth and in heaven.
When with this she had anointed her delicate body
and combed her hair, next with her hands she arranged the shining
and lovely and ambrosial curls along her immortal
head and dressed in an ambrosial robe that Athene
had made her carefully, smooth, and with many figures upon it,
and pinned it across her breast with a golden brooch, and circled
her waist about with a zone that floated a hundred tassels,
and in the lobes of her carefully pierced ears she put rings
with triple drops in mulberry clusters, radiant with beauty,
and, lovely among goddesses, she veiled her head downward
with a sweet fresh veil that glimmered pale like the sunlight.
Underneath her shining feet she bound on the fair sandals.
Anyway, no prizes for guessing that her nefarious purpose is achieved; with a bit of trickery and pimping one of the Graces to Sleep, she manages to screw Zeus, and while he's snoozling, poor old Hektor gets a bit of a bruising.
|Knitting on board the train. |
Ooh - prawn cocktail crisps ....
There is one hilarious passage in this Book, when Hera arrives in all her glory. In order to get her even more excited, that old goat Zeus starts telling her how much he fancies her (his own wife!); much more than this woman he slagged off with, and that one he adulterously seduced, etc etc. Homer doesn't describe it but can't you just picture Hera's face! I laughed out very loud at this macho boasting, to the surprise of the other passengers travelling by Ariva Train Cymru. It's clever because it makes you feel a lot less sympathy for Zeus.
I remember reading Auerbach's Mimesis and the brilliant first chapter comparing a passage from The Odyssey to one from The Bible. Auerbach comments on the poetically embroidered descriptions in Homer's writing, and the way that the sparse undecorated text of The Bible makes us take it for truth rather than as a story.