Posts Tagged by Iliad
|January 3, 2017||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2017.01.03 | By Gregory Nagy
The Homeric Iliad as we have it refers at least two times directly and two times indirectly to the tomb of Achilles, while the Odyssey refers to it one time directly. In the direct references that we see in the Iliad, it is made clear that this tomb starts off as a small-scale structure, located at the same place where a funeral pyre is constructed for the cremation of the body of Patroklos, and that the original function of this tomb is to enclose the bones of that hero after his body is cremated. But it is also made clear, in both the direct and the indirect references as we see them in the Iliad, that this same tomb will in a future time enclose the bones of Achilles as well, which will then be mixed together with the bones of Patroklos inside a golden jar. In this future time, when Achilles too is dead, it will be his own body that will need to be cremated at the same place and then entombed in the same structure. For this new entombment to happen, however, the small-scale structure that had enveloped the bones of Patroklos will now grow into a large-scale structure, exponentially larger than the original. Such is the tomb of Achilles as pictured in Odyssey 24.
|December 31, 2016||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2016.12.31 | By Gregory Nagy
The Iliad ends with the funeral of Hector, not of Achilles. And it is Hector, not Achilles, who is lamented at the end. But it is Achilles who makes it all happen, since he has transcended his rage and has shown mercy to an old father. The tears of Priam had made Achilles think of his own old father, of his own ancestors—and of Patroklos, who embodied the glories of the ancestors. Achilles was looking bad at the beginning of Iliad 23 and even at the beginning of Iliad 24, but he looks very good by the time Iliad 24 comes to a close.
|December 30, 2016||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2016.12.30 | By Gregory Nagy
The funeral that Achilles arranges here for Patroklos in the Iliad is in some ways a preview of the funeral that the Achaeans will arrange for Achilles himself beyond the time-frame of the Iliad. A high point of the funeral in Iliad 23 is a spectacular cremation, meant by Achilles as a perfect tribute to his dearest friend Patroklos. But the cremation of Patroklos is far from perfect: it is in fact polluted, and the pollution will make Achilles look bad, at least for the moment. The polluted thoughts of the hero, as evidenced by his dragging the corpse of Hector behind his speeding chariot, will drive him to extremes that will challenge the cosmic order, But the Master Narrator of the Iliad will remedy the pollution, and the remedy will take the form of actually narrating the grim story. In the process of this narration, a great lesson will be learned about life, death, and a hoped-for recovery of life.
|December 24, 2016||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2016.12.24 | By Gregory Nagy
The time has come for Hector to die at the hands of Achilles, and his final moments of life are singularly grim. Achilles shows him no mercy, expressing the most brutal thoughts even before he vengefully finishes off the killer of Patroklos. Hector is forced to know in advance, before he loses consciousness to the death blow from Achilles, that his executioner intends to mutilate his corpse instead of allowing for a proper funeral. And the form of this mutilation is particularly horrific and morally shocking: attaching the body of Hector to the back of his chariot, Achilles will drag it around the walls of Troy for all to see the humiliation of his hated enemy. Is there any hope, then, for transcending such degradation? Only divine intervention, in the story yet to be told, could prevent the disfigurement of a heroic body’s beauty in death. But the story of transcendence must wait. For now, the focus is on the horror and the sorrow of a heroic death as seen through the eyes of Hector’s lamenting widow Andromache.
|December 16, 2016||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2016.12.15 | By Gregory Nagy
The momentum of Achilles continues to heat up. The Trojans are now retreating as fast as they can, heading back toward Troy to find safety there within the sacred walls of that ancient citadel. In their hurry to get away from the field of battle, their hasty retreat has quickly turned into a chaotic and humiliating rout. Achilles is right behind them, in hot pursuit, slaughtering the fleeing Trojans left and right. The hero seems unstoppable. But Achilles meets his match when he provokes the river god Scamander, whose clear streams he has polluted with the gore of countless Trojans that he slaughters while they are desperately attempting to ford the god’s river.
|December 9, 2016||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2016.12.09 | By Gregory Nagy
By now Achilles has a new set of armor, and he is ready to fight the Trojans. But his first major opponent seems to be a distraction. At least, our initial impression may lead us to think that there is a distraction going on here. The first major opponent of Achilles in Iliad 20 is Aeneas, hero of epic traditions that eventually became absorbed into the Aeneid of Virgil. Is this hero, we may ask, a truly worthy opponent of Achilles? Are the epic traditions that figure this son of Aphrodite / Venus truly worthy of the epic that is the Homeric Iliad? Once we examine more closely the oldest Greek epic traditions of Aeneas, it will become clear that this hero is indeed a most important opponent of Achilles, in that he represents ancient Greek epic traditions that are different from and antithetical to the epic tradition that prevailed in the Homeric Iliad as we know it. Not only does Aeneas challenge Achilles: even the epic traditions that figure Aeneas will challenge the epic traditions that figure Achilles. To say it another way, Aeneas represents a proto-Aeneid that challenges the proto-Iliad of Achilles. What makes Aeneas and his Aeneid—or, better, Aeneids—such a formidable challenge to Achilles is the enormous political prestige of the epic tradition that backs up Aeneas. By virtue of being the son of Aphrodite/Venus, Aeneas possesses a genealogical and dynastic political charisma that threatens to overshadow the purely epic charisma of his Iliadic opponent Achilles.