It’s been about four or five years since the last time I read The Iliad and The Odyssey, so I’m going through them again right now (via audiobook, at night, in bed). I finished The Iliad last night, and no matter how many times I’ve read it, it’s always a shot to my system at how abruptly it ends. For those who don’t remember, it ends not with Achilles’ death thanks to Paris’ arrow but with King Priam taking possession of Hector’s body and fulfilling the funeral rites. It came so abruptly that I crawled out of bed and pulled down every copy of The Iliad I own to make sure they all ended the same way. Sure enough, they do.
And sure enough, Hector’s name is the last one mentioned, on the last line of the text. I love the symmetry: The Iliad starts with a description of Achilles’ rage and ends with the final product of that rage. I’ve never read the Cliffs Notes or any other analysis of The Iliad, so I’m sure this isn’t an original thought of any kind, but: is it possible that the real tragedy of The Iliad is Hector’s death and the impending destruction of Troy and not Achilles’ impending death?
Every time I read (or listen to) The Iliad, I discover something new. This time my great discovery is three things:
- Everybody is a whiny bitch, constantly complaining about not getting whatever treasures they think they deserve, from Briseis being snatched away from Achilles at the beginning to the distribution of treasures during the games to honor Patroclus at the end. Everybody complains, and it makes them all seem like impetuous little children. Fuck the Achaeans.
- Everybody is always giving each other advice. Constantly. Constantly. So much talking about what other people should do. You can make a drinking game out of just this aspect of the text.
- I am not a big fan of W.H.D. Rouse’s translation. It’s way too British for my tastes.
Update: speaking of ancient Greek epic tragedies, how about this guy?