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Iliad II, 73-75

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Iliad II, 73-75

Postby Bart » Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:46 pm

Agamemnon speaking to his council:

πρῶτα δ᾽ ἐγὼν ἔπεσιν πειρήσομαι, ἣ θέμις ἐστί,
καὶ φεύγειν σὺν νηυσὶ πολυκλήϊσι κελεύσω:
ὑμεῖς δ᾽ ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος ἐρητύειν ἐπέεσσιν.

Quite a remarkable plan, to put it lightly. Is this a kind of trope or is this Homer depicting Agamemnon as a not very intelligent leader? Nestors' respons a few lines further on seems to point to the second possibility. He is uncharacteristically brief and blunt and says something like: 'if this was anyone but you telling us this, we would think him mad, but since it is you, the king, it is okay.' Strictly speaking he is talking about Agamemnons' dream, but nevertheless, he does seem far from enthousiastic.
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Re: Iliad II, 73-75

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 04, 2014 9:41 pm

It is quite weak, isn't it, after the sublime first book of the Iliad (which is one of my favorites, really - it's really a flawless composition!)? Wait until you get to the catalogue of ships! (Interesting maybe for a ethnographer, but for someone reading the Iliad for fun: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...)

The point is, I think, to show how uncertain Agamemnon is as a leader, when his experiment fails miserably and Odysseus collects the points. Agamemnon isn't a coward or a weakling, but somehow insecure of his ego and unpredictable. The sort of weak leader you might encounter in real life actually. If I remember correctly, not long afterwards he'll be rebuking Odysseus for almost nothing, while it was he who saved the day here.

Il. 2 especially has been a target of a lot of analytic critique because of the incongruity of what Agamemnon says and does in this book. In the 19th century they thought it was full of interpolations; now that sort of thing is out of fashion. But M.L. West, probably the greatest Homerist alive, thinks the incongruities are there because the poet himself changed afterwards what he had written before, by literally cutting and pasting the papyrus with new sections of text. Since he didn't properly rewrite everything, he left some incongruities. I think this is a minority view, but I find it very seducing.
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Re: Iliad II, 73-75

Postby Qimmik » Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:17 pm

Although maybe not very realistic, the test at the beginning of Book 2 serves to illustrate the poor morale of the Achaean army, Agamemnon's tenuous hold on command, Odysseus' resourcefulness (in contrast to Agamemnon's vaccillation), and introduces the Thersites episode (which the audience must have found comical). But it has long puzzled commentators. It seems like an episode inserted for its own sake, starting out with a very confident Agamemnon and ending with a near loss of control, and bringing out the characters of some of the protagonists. Perhaps it somehow was considered obligatory for Trojan War narratives. Agamemnon doesn't come off looking good in the Iliad.

You could skip the Catalogue of Ships--in fact, many mss. do, suggesting that over the centuries readers have left it out. But it isn't hard to work your way through it quickly. If you have a commentary with a map, you can follow the Tour de Grèce.
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Re: Iliad II, 73-75

Postby Bart » Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:28 pm

Okay, that makes a bit sense of an otherwise crazy plan.

Book I is terrific, western literature starting with a big bang. I'm playing with the idea of learning a considerable part of it by heart. If I find the time that is.

Willcock has a map that goes with the catalogue of ships. Hopefully that will make going through it a bit more interesting.
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