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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thinking from The Iliad

"Life is a struggle each person will ultimately always lose; the question is, how one acts with that knowledge."

I came across that sentence (from Profesor Richard Martin) in a commentary on Homer's Iliad. It struck a chord within me. But immediately, I also realized that, as a Christian, it's only half the statement. Death is not THE end; it's a new beginning. And that knowledge should affect how you live.

If you've never read the Iliad, it truly is one of the greatest works of literature. It is what fired my imagination for swords and sorcery books and Dungeons and Dragons. It's truly an epic tale. If you don't know, Homer's The Odyssey is a direct sequel and Virgil's Aenied tells another part of the story after The Iliad ends. They form sort of a trilogy.

Now, the translation you get is important (this thing was written, in Greek, somewhere around the 8th century): at one extreme, it can be near incomprehensible. At the other, pure modern prose has none of the majesty of the original poem.

I recently came across the Robert Fagles translation and it strikes a good balance between the original poetic form and being understandable. 

If the Brad Pitt movie Troy is the extent of  your familiarity with the Trojan War, go ahead and read the book. It is much, much, much  better.

Achilles battles Hector. It's kind of a big scene...

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