108: Goodnight, Achilles

12:04 AM February 16th, 2020.

I have completed The Illiad.

Please take a moment to silently appreciate my accomplishment before starting your rant on how a person could graduate from college with a BA in history in the 2010s without reading Homer.

Thank you.

I was about three pages from the end last night when I had an epiphany.

The Iliad is a book about Achilles.

Naturally, you’ll remember that The Iliad begins with an epic feud between Achilles and Agamemnon.

The upshot of this feud is that Agamemnon steal away the girl that Achilles himself stole, Briseis, and Achilles angrily drops out of the war. Which, by the way, is kind of morally questionable to begin with.

When Achilles best bud Patroclus bites the dust Achilles decide to reform from the error of his ways and do what he is supposed to do: kill lots of people. Achilles is still headstrong and angry, but after Patroclus dies he decides to tone down the arrogance a smidge.

When we leave Achilles at the end of this book he is asleep, and Briseis is sleeping next to him. Yep, that’s the chick he flipped out at Agamemnon over. It’s a beautiful bookend to the story, and very intriguing.There are basically two things that happen in The Iliad. First, lots of people die. Second, Achilles becomes slightly less arrogant. Achilles may be in the same place as he was at the beginning of the story, but he’s different as a person.

I think they call this a character arc.

After six hundred plus pages it’s a bold move to leave your hero asleep and the war at essentially the same place as it was on page one. But it’s a move that has served Homer pretty well for the better part of three millenniums, so it panned out pretty well for the guy.

On that three millennium subject, anything this age is going to have some parts that make you want to scratch your head a bit. Most blatantly, women are treated like shit. Like, first place in this race gets a woman and a pot, second place gets a horse, third a couple bars of gold. When Agamemnon gives Briseis back to Achilles he makes a big deal over the fact that he didn’t rape her. Good for you buddy, so proud.

I was very intrigued by Cath’s review of The Silence of the Girls. It’s a look at this story through the eyes of Briseis, and is high on my list of books to get to next.

From a reading perspective that thing that was most difficulty for me was the violence.

I like violence, but after so many brain or guts get spilled on the ground it just becomes a haze. Homer spends a page or two on some guy we’ve never heard of just so his head can get chopped off, or his brains ooze out of his helmet or his guts fall on the ground. Then when that guy is dead he introduces us to another character who suffers a similar fate.

Characters get introduced and killed off so much more quickly on TV and in the movies now days that it’s just more fun. I’m sure that when this was first written those pages and pages of brutal violence were what the kids loved, but how is print supposed to hold up to Quentin Tarantino?

Not to say that Tarantino is a better storyteller than Homer, he just has different tools at his disposal. If he’d been alive Three Thousand years ago Quentin would have written something very similar to The Iliad.

So that’s all folks.

Goodnight Homer, goodnight Achilles, goodnight people with your brains spilled out, goodnight Agamemnon, goodnight Briseis, goodnight violence everywhere.

Gonna catch up on some other reading before I dive into The Odyssey.


Photo by Rok Romih on Pexels.com



21 thoughts on “108: Goodnight, Achilles

  1. Great balls of fire – you make me feel like a pile of shit. I’ve never read the Iliad – so that’s a challenge. I have a Masters from the ’80s in English Reformation Lute Music. Which explains why now I’m so rich because everyone has been tripping over each other trying to employ me. Anyway, I think you’ve challenged me to up my reading a little. So thanks for that.

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  3. Pingback: 430: Top 10 Books of 2020 | Dumbest Blog Ever

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