Illiad – Homer


Finished reading Homer’s Illiad today. What a story! I read the prose translation by Martin Hammond. I started reading it few times and gave up due to its complexity. Remembering names and places was the most difficult part. The author sometimes uses ‘son of Peleus’ for Achilles. I can remember Achilles but not Peleus. Imagine that technique used throughout the book for almost each male character. Luckily I had read a Sinhala translation of Illiad as a schoolboy. It helped a lot.

What I dislike in Illiad is the inclusion of gods everywhere. Everything happens in Illiad due to gods’ interferences. Gods are not white characters either. They practice incest, very vindictive, jealous and destructive. They support the two parties according to their preferences. And the head god, Zeus is a faltering character too. He is an amorous person and has too many women and sired scores of children both in the divine world and the human world. Above all, he finds it very difficult to carry out godly duties due to his wife (formerly sister) Hera’s interferences. Gods in Illiad must be representing human feelings but if it were written devoid of gods it would have been more interesting. But we cannot expect a poet in the 8th century BC to throw out gods. (The recent movie Troy, based loosely on Illiad, totally did away with gods and presented a more reliable story.)

Story of Illiad is breathtaking. The poet Homer, though himself a Greek, does not show any bias to Greeks throughout the poem. He equally admires the Trojan heroes as well. The very adjectives he uses for heroes from both sides are equal. Both Achilles and Hector are equally honored. Sometimes one gets tired of the repetitive accounts of the fights between the Greeks and the Trojans.

The climax of the story for me is the fight between Hector and Achilles. Though Hector is aware that Achilles is a stronger fighter the former takes up the challenge. The most emotional part of the book is how Hector’s wife, Andromache weeps after the death of Hector.

Many believed Illiad was just a Greek myth. But archeologists have located the city Troy of late and this link will lead you to a better account of the historical evidences of the story.

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