Iliad – Homer

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And as soon as the flush of dawn appeared in the heavens, they boarded the ship and launched her. Apollo sent them a favoring breeze, and they raised the mast, and they hoisted the white sail aloft, and it bellied out with the wind, and on either side of the ship’s prow, the deep blue water sang out as the ship flew over the waves to her goal.



“Son of Atreus, why are you blaming us this time? What more do you want? Your huts spill over with bronze and are stocked with women to serve you, whom we Achaeans gave you as prizes whenever we plundered a town.

Do you want more gold, which some terrified Trojan father will bring front the city as ransom to save his son when I or another soldier has dragged him here—or one more beautiful girl to screw in your hut?

It isn’t right that you lead the Achaean army back to this wretched war, for your own selfish goals.

It’s actually amazing after thousands of years, we humankind is repeating the same mistake that leads us to desolation and tragedy for the sake of empty glory and honor that will be eroded over time.



This made Athena glad; she was eager to act, and down from the topmost peak of Olympus she flew. As Zeus hurls a shooting star across the wide heavens and it blazes forth with a stream of sparks in its wake—an omen for sailors or for an army encamped: just so did Athena plummet, flashing, to Earth and into their midst.



He fell to the ground in the dust like a stately poplar that has grown up in a broad meadow beside a marsh, and its trunk is smooth, but small branches grow from its top : and a wheelwright cuts it down with his gleaming iron and bends it into a rim for a handsome car, and it lies on the bank of a river and dries in the sunlight.

That’s right, Iliad is a poem.



Meanwhile Pallas Athena infused Diomedes with strength and bravery, so that he might surpass all the Achaeans and win himself glorious fame. She caused a bright light to flare from his shield and helmet, like the star of late summer that rises out of the Ocean to shine in the night sky, most brilliant of all the stars.



Then Glaucus spoke out in answer to Diomedes, “Son of Tydeus, why do you ask who I am? Men come and go, just like the leaves in their seasons. The wind scatters one year’s leaves on the ground, but the forest bursts with new buds as soon as springtime arrives, and it is the same with men: one generation comes to life while another one passes away.

Maybe behind these heroes and soldiers who have chosen to desert their own life for honor, there is a desperate attempt to give meaning to their fragile and temporary existence.



The sun was just now beginning to light up the fields as it rose from the slow, deep-flowing stream of Ocean to climb the sky, when the armies met on the plain. It was hard to know whom the corpses belonged to, covered with gore as they were and mangled, until the soldiers with buckets of water washed off the clotted blood; and they lifted them onto the wagons, shedding hot tears. But Priam had told the Trojans not to lament, so they heaped their dead on the pyre, inwardly grieving, and when they had burned the bodies, went back to sacred Troy. And also on their side, the Argives heaped their dead on the pyre, inwardly grieving, and when they had burned the bodies, went back to their ships.

Do we put up with this catastrophe for an idea or greed?



The man who arouses conflict in his own people is clanless, lawless, and homeless among all men.



‘My child,’ he said, ‘Athena and Hera will grant you strength if they wish, but you must keep your heart’s passion within your breast; good fellowship is much better. And do not pursue a quarrel; in this way the Argives, both young men and old, will honor you even more.’ That was your father’s advice, which you have forgotten. So stop; let go of this rage that consumes your heart. It isn’t too late. Agamemnon is willing to give you full compensation if you will abandon your anger.



 Achilles, listen to me. Conquer your pride; do not have such a pitiless heart. Even the gods will sometimes bend, though they are far greater than we are in excellence, honor, and strength; and yet when someone has gone too far and done wrong, that person can move them and turn their anger aside through his humble prayers, his libations, and the sweet savor of burning flesh.

Prayers of repentance are daughters of mighty Zeus; they are lame and wrinkled, their eyes are always averted, and they make it their business to follow the steps of Madness. Now Madness is strong and fast, and so she outruns them, and she damages men in every country on earth; but Prayers come hobbling behind and bring healing with them.

When a man, though offended, shows the proper respect to these daughters of Zeus when they draw near, they help him greatly; but when a man hardens his heart and turns them away, they go to their father and beg him to order Madness to follow that man, and he pays for it with his sorrow. Therefore, Achilles, give these daughters of Zeus the kind of respect that causes even the strongest of minds to relent.

We all have been in Achilles’ place. We try to rise above our anger, yet it is never easy. But we must learn to open our hardened hearts, so we don’t make the same mistake as Achilles and give in to madness.



But first he went over to Glaucus and spoke these words: “Glaucus, why is it that we two are held in the greatest esteem in Lycia and honored with pride of place, the choicest meat, and our wine cups always refilled, and all men look up to us both, as if we were gods, and we each have a large estate on the banks of the Xanthus, beautiful tracts of orchards and wheat-bearing farmland?

It is so that we may now take our stand in the front ranks and lead our army into the thick of battle and fight with courage, so that the soldiers will say, ‘These men who rule us in Lycia are not unworthy. They may dine on fat sheep and drink the best of the wines, but they are strong, too, and brave, and they fight in the front ranks.’

Dear friend, if the two of us were to survive this war and could live forever, without old age, without dying, I wouldn’t press on to fight in the front lines myself or urge you into the battle. But as it is, since death stands facing us all in ten thousand forms and no mortal can ever escape it, let us go forward and either win glory ourselves or yield it to others.”

Only if today’s leaders were as brave and wise as Sarpedon.



With this he breathed a tremendous strength into Hector. Just as a stabled horse who has fully eaten breaks his tether and gallops across the plain, eager to have a swim in the fast-flowing river: so quickly did Hector run up and down as he urged on the charioteers, in obedience to the god.

As when farmers have set their hunting dogs on a stag or a wild goat, but it flees and escapes to some cliff or shadowy wood, since they were not destined to catch it, then, stirred by their shouting, a great bearded lion appears and sends them all running away in spite of their courage: just so had the Argives kept charging in mass formation until then, thrusting their swords and double-curved spear points; but when they saw Hector striding again through the ranks, they were terrified, and their hearts sank down to their feet.



But however fiercely he fought, he could not break through; they closed ranks in tight formation and stood their ground. They were like a steep cliff at the edge of the restless sea, which stands firm against the swift paths of the whistling winds and the swollen waves that keep pounding against the shore: just so did the Argives withstand the fierce Trojan onslaught.

But Hector charged in among them, blazing with fury, and fell on the mass of men like a towering wave whipped up by a storm, which crashes over a ship and hides it in spray, and the violent blast of the wind howls against the mast, and the hearts of the sailors tremble with fear as they try to move out of death’s reach: just so stirred up was the heart of every Achaean.



But you are impossible to deal with, Achilles. I hope I am never seized with such anger as yours. What good is your excellence? How will it benefit others, now or in times to come, if you hold it back and refuse to save the Achaeans? Your father cannot have been Lord Peleus, nor can Thetis have been your mother : the rough sea bore you, the harsh cliffs fathered you, since your heart has no pity.



So Automedon brought the horses under the yoke, the immortal Xanthus and Bálius,who could fly with the breezes; they were sired by Zéphyrus, the west wind, out of the storm-mare Podárge as she was grazing beside the Ocean.



‘You are hard, Achilles; your mother nursed you on bile not milk, so unfeeling you are. You keep us, your comrades, here by the ships, not letting us go into battle. It would be much better to sail home at once, since this wretched anger has utterly taken over your heart.’



When he saw them weeping, Lord Zeus was filled with pity, and he shook his head and said to himself, “Poor fools, why did we give you to Peleus, a mortal man, when you are unaging and deathless? Was it to let you share in the wretched sorrow of humankind? For there is nothing so miserable as humans among all the creatures that live and breathe on the earth.



Many of you have criticized me for this matter. But it really isn’t my fault; the blame belongs to Zeus and fate and the Fury who walks in darkness. They put the savage madness into my mind on that day when I seized Achilles’ prize for myself. What else could I do? At such moments, a god takes possession. It was Madness, the eldest daughter of Zeus, who deceived me. She deludes all mortals. Her step is soft, and she doesn’t walk on the ground but hovers above men’s heads, damaging them and ensnaring one after another.

When God was a norm, we were conveniently off the hook. We could blame Gods for our flaws and misdeeds.



Zeus answered, “Shaker of Earth, you already know what I am thinking and why I called you together. I am concerned: so many of them will die. But now I will sit here at ease on a ridge of Olympus where I can watch, to my heart’s delight, as you others go down to join the Trojan or Argive forces and help the side that you favor, whichever it is.

But also we were pawns or marionettes who can’t escape their fate in God’s game. Reminds me of Squid Game.



As he was speaking, Hector urged on his troops: “Take heart, you Trojans, and have no fear of Achilles, I too could face the immortal gods if the fight were of words alone; but spears are a different matter. Believe me, Achilles will never accomplish all that he says he will, for even the greatest man accomplishes some things, while others he leaves unfinished. Now I will take him on, though his hands are like fire, and his courage like gleaming iron.”



Apollo said, “Earthshaker, I would be out of my mind if I fought with you for the sake of these wretched mortals, who are like the leaves: for a short time they blaze with life, then wither and fall to the ground.” So let us withdraw from the battlefield now, and let them do their own fighting.”



“You are sleeping, Achilles, you have forgotten me now. You were always attentive to me when I was alive, but now I am dead, you neglect me. Bury me quickly, so I can pass through the gates of Hades. The spirits—the phantoms of those who have died—are keeping me out; they won’t allow me to cross the river and join them.

Give me your hand, I beg you, for never again will I come back from Hades after I have my burning. Never again will we sit apart from our comrades in intimate talk. The fate that was mine at birth has opened its jaws around me and swallowed me up. And you, Achilles—you too are fated to die under the wall of Troy. But there is one more thing that I have to ask, and I hope you will do it. May my bones not be buried apart from your bones, Achilles. May they lie together.


Achilles answered, “Dear friend, why have you come here and made these requests? But I will do everything you asked me to do, exactly as you have stated. Come closer now. Let us embrace, if just for a moment, and take a small bit of comfort in grieving together.”

He reached out but could not touch him. The spirit vanished like smoke and flew underground, squeaking. At this Achilles awoke from his sleep in astonishment and cried out, “So something exists then, even after we die! All night long the spirit of poor Patroclus stood at my side, weeping and mourning, and told me what I must do. It was wondrously like himself.” With these words he stirred in them all the desire for weeping.



The Myrmidons stayed there and built up huge piles of wood and made a pyre of a hundred feet on each side, and with grief in their hearts they placed the body upon it.

In front of the pyre they slaughtered, skinned, and dressed many plump sheep and lumbering bulls. And Achilles took the fat from them all and covered Patroclus from head to toe and heaped the bodies around him, then put some two-handled jars of honey and oil there leaning against the funeral bed, and with groans he slaughtered four horses and threw them onto the pyre.

Patroclus had nine pet dogs that he fed at his table, and Achilles took two of them, killed them, and threw their bodies onto the pyre, and with butchery in his heart he ordered his men to bring the dozen young Trojans, and he slit their throats with his knife, one after the other, and threw them onto the pyre and lit the wood so that the flames would spread and consume it all. He uttered a groan and called out to his dear comrade, “Go well, Patroclus, even in Hades’ realm. I have brought to completion everything I promised. The dozen young Trojan captives are on the pyre, and the flames will consume them together with you. As for Hector, not fire but dogs will lick the flesh from his bones.”


This was his threat. But no dogs took care of Hector. Aphrodite kept them away from him day and night, and every dawn she rubbed him with an immortal oil of roses, so that he would not be torn to shreds when Achilles dragged him around the city. And Apollo brought down a cloud from the sky and shaded the ground where the corpse was, so that the sunlight would not shrivel the flesh around his limbs and his sinews.



Instead, you favor Achilles, that ruthless man whose heart is devoid of all decency. He will never bend; he rages as savagely as a lion who, giving in to his arrogance and his power, goes out to feast on the flocks of mortals: just so Achilles has lost all pity, all sense of shame. He is not, after all, the first man to have a friend die: men have lost loved ones before, who were even closer than this man was—a brother, perhaps, or a son, and they wept and mourned for their dead, and then it was over, since the Fates have put an enduring heart in mankind.



Priam walked in, unseen, and went to Achilles. He clasped his knees, then he kissed his terrible hands, the deadly hands that had slaughtered so many of Priam’s sons. As when a man who is gripped by madness murders someone in his homeland and escapes to another country and then seeks refuge in the house of some lord, and all who look on are astounded: just so was Achilles astounded when he saw Priam, that godlike man.


Then Priam spoke to Achilles in supplication: “Remember your father, Achilles. He is an old man like me, approaching the end of his life. Perhaps he too is being worn down by enemy troops, with no one there to protect him from chaos and ruin. Yet he at least, since he knows that you are alive, feels joy in his heart and, every day, can look forward to seeing his child, whom he loves so dearly, come home.

My fate is less happy. I fathered the bravest men in the land of Troy, yet not one remains alive. I had fifty sons before the Achaeans came here, nineteen from a single woman, and all the rest were borne to me by other wives in my palace. Most of my sons have been killed in this wretched war.

The only one I could truly count on, the one who guarded our city and all its people—you killed him a few days ago as he fought to defend his country: Hector. It is for his sake that I have come, to beg you for his release. I have brought a large ransom. Respect the gods now. Have pity on me; remember your father. For I am more to be pitied than he is, since I have endured what no mortal ever endured: I have kissed the hands of the man who slaughtered my children.”

With these words he stirred in Achilles a wild longing to weep for his father. Taking the old man’s hand, he gently pushed him away. And each of them sat there remembering. Priam, crouched at Achilles’ feet, sobbed for Hector; Achilles wept now for his father, now for Patroclus. And every room in the house rang with the sound of their mourning and lamentation.



The immortals have spun out the thread of life for us human beings so that, however we can, we must learn to bear misfortune like this, but they live free of all sorrow. There are two urns in the house of almighty Zeus, one of them filled with evil, the other with blessings. If Zeus pours gifts for a man from both of these urns, he sometimes encounters evil, sometimes good fortune. But when Zeus pours gifts from the urn of misery only, he makes a man hate his life, and a ravenous hunger drives him restlessly over the shining earth, and he wanders alone, despised by both gods and mortals.


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2 thoughts on “Iliad – Homer

  1. It has to mean something when a book that was written thousands of years ago and whose characters are so different from us can still speak so much to our heart and soul.
    Have you read the Odyssey, too? I think it is even more timeless than the Iliad.

    Liked by 1 person

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