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Reading book VI

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Reading book VI

Postby Bart » Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:24 pm

Right at the beginning of book VI are these lines:

Ἄξυλον δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔπεφνε βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης
Τευθρανίδην, ὃς ἔναιεν ἐϋκτιμένῃ ἐν Ἀρίσβῃ
ἀφνειὸς βιότοιο, φίλος δ᾽ ἦν ἀνθρώποισι.
πάντας γὰρ φιλέεσκεν ὁδῷ ἔπι οἰκία ναίων.
ἀλλά οἱ οὔ τις τῶν γε τότ᾽ ἤρκεσε λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον
πρόσθεν ὑπαντιάσας, ἀλλ᾽ ἄμφω θυμὸν ἀπηύρα
αὐτὸν καὶ θεράποντα Καλήσιον, ὅς ῥα τόθ᾽ ἵππων
ἔσκεν ὑφηνίοχος: τὼ δ᾽ ἄμφω γαῖαν ἐδύτην.

I like the obituaries in the Iliad and this is the most touching so far. I would very much like to know more about this Axylos of Arisbe. It is partly the combination of detail and vagueness that makes these little asides so fascinating, as when Homer mentions the first Greek casualty, poor Protisilaus, killed while jumping ashore, leaving behind a wife and a half built house. This completely non-relevant detail stirs up the imagination, mine at least.

Translationwise φιλέεσκεν could both mean 'love' or 'receive as guest' I guess, and perhaps has shades of both.

What is striking in this particular obituary for Axylos is the sense of the loneliness of dying, on the battlefield or elsewhere, and the injustice of a good man not getting what he deserves.

The translator of the new edition of the Iliad in Dutch speaks of Homer as an anti-war poet, and though I think that's clearly projecting our own sensibilities into a different age, there's no denying that Homer offers no straightforward glorification of war. The death of Axylos is one of the many instances showing his (or her) sensibility to the suffering it inherently brings.
Last edited by Bart on Sun Jun 15, 2014 3:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Jun 14, 2014 9:56 pm

"I would very much like to know more about this Axylos of Arisbe."

You would, wouldn't you...? And that's the point, I think. That's why it's so touching. Without looking anywhere I doubt this Axylos had any existence except in these lines. Homer gives him a history and then he has him killed. But perhaps if we knew more about Axylos, he wouldn't stir our imaginations so much. This makes me think about Star Wars. I loved the first films, because they presented us with a whole mysterious universe – but I hated the new trilogy, because it tried to explain everything that was so intriguing in the first films.

I think φίλεω should be translated "treat well" or the like most of the time, rather than "love". There might well be exceptions to this, but most of the time it's about the way of acting rather than inner sentiments.

About the Iliad being an anti-war poem... I disagree. The Iliad isn't anti-war or pro-war. I think for Homer the whole question would have been absurd. For him, war was a fact of life. I don't think the idea of a world without war ever crossed his mind – that's a modern idea. For him, war was a source of great suffering and also of great glory, and he shows both these aspects of war better than anyone else. Or better than almost anyone at least.

These are just my thoughts... Anyone is free to disagree!
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby mwh » Sun Jun 15, 2014 3:08 am

Well said Paul (except he has him killed and then gives him a back-story).

Alice Oswald makes very powerful use of the Iliadic deaths of VIPs and non-entities alike in her poem Memorial, in which she presents each death in the order of its occurrence in the narrative but cuts out the narrative itself, the deaths being interspersed with similes. As in Homer, some have mini-obits, others are just names in a quick-fire list. You lose the Homeric sense of sequentiality (the Sarpedon-Patroklos-Hektor-[Achilles] chain, for instance), but what might seem little more than a gimmick really works. The pathos is immense.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Bart » Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:58 am

I think φίλεω should be translated "treat well" or the like most of the time, rather than "love". There might well be exceptions to this, but most of the time it's about the way of acting rather than inner sentiments.


Are you sure? The first entrance for φιλέω in Cunliffe is 'to hold in affection'. 'Treat with kindness or hospitality' or 'entertain hospitably' comes only fourth. LSJ also gives 'welcome or entertain a guest' as in ξεῖνον ἐνὶ μεγάροισι φιλέωμεν (Od. 8,42). If I had to make a choice I would translate as 'welcome as a guest' here. Luckily enough I haven't.

About the Iliad being an anti-war poem... I disagree. The Iliad isn't anti-war or pro-war. I think for Homer the whole question would have been absurd. For him, war was a fact of life. I don't think the idea of a world without war ever crossed his mind – that's a modern idea. For him, war was a source of great suffering and also of great glory, and he shows both these aspects of war better than anyone else. Or better than almost anyone at least.


Sure, Homer is no peace activist who wants to ban war. It's hard to imagine him in a boat hoisting the rainbow flag to block the Greeks in Greenpeace style from landing on the Dardanelles. I don't think however that's what Patrick Lateur (Homers' latest translator in Dutch) had in mind. That something is an inevitable fact of life doesn't mean one cannot have a negative or positive opinion about it. Disease and disasters for example are bad things and generally depicted as such in art. When stating that Homer is anti-war I think Patrick Lateur has in mind that he had a very bleak view on war and its effects on humans. Sure there's glory and courage and honour, but in the end Homer regards war as a bad thing. Necessary perhaps, but evil. According to Lateur at least.
Now I'm far from certain if I agree. And anyway, I'm not entitled to an opinion before I've finished the book in the first place. But it got me thinking: does Homer ever use an epitheton with a positive meaning when referring to war or its derivatives? I don't think I've seen one yet. Have to check though.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Jun 15, 2014 9:09 am

Bart wrote:I think φίλεω should be translated "treat well" or the like most of the time, rather than "love". There might well be exceptions to this, but most of the time it's about the way of acting rather than inner sentiments.

Are you sure? The first entrance for φιλέω in Cunliffe is 'to hold in affection'. 'Treat with kindness or hospitality' or 'entertain hospitably' comes only fourth. LSJ also gives 'welcome or entertain a guest' as in ξεῖνον ἐνὶ μεγάροισι φιλέωμεν (Od. 8,42). If I had to make a choice I would translate as 'welcome as a guest' here. Luckily enough I haven't.

Perhaps I was too categoric. But I've seen the word so many times translated "love" in places where clearly it was more about the outward expression than the sentiments themselves. Of course the word often/usually has connotations of both. I agree "welcome as a guest" is the right choice here, since "treating well" is what it's all about.

I checked some of the examples in the first entry in Cunliffe. I'm not sure he means that these examples are to be taken to mean exclusively inner sentiments – "hold in affection, favour" in my opinion imply good treatment, it's not just about what the person feels inside. I agree that in some examples "feelings" are more relevant (e.g. Od. 1.264) but for example Od. 4.171 is clearly wrong, if it is taken to mean just "love":
ὢ πόποι, ἦ μάλα δὴ φίλου ἀνέρος υἱὸς ἐμὸν δῶ
ἵκεθ’, ὃς εἵνεκ’ ἐμεῖο πολέας ἐμόγησεν ἀέθλους· (170)
καί μιν ἔφην ἐλθόντα φιλησέμεν ἔξοχα πάντων
Ἀργείων, εἰ νῶϊν ὑπεὶρ ἅλα νόστον ἔδωκε
νηυσὶ θοῇσι γενέσθαι Ὀλύμπιος εὐρύοπα Ζεύς.
Menelaus would have "treated" ("favoured") Odysseus very well – that's the point.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:20 pm

There's often some poignant irony in the Iliadic obituaries--unfulfilled promise, benevolent generosity rewarded by early death (as here in Axylos' case), unheeded warnings. If I'm not mistaken, there are several sons of seers, for example, whose fathers warned them not to go to Troy, but who went anyway.

Patroclus' story is perhaps an expanded version of this theme--he's the most likeable figure in the entire Iliad (although in the heat of battle he proves himself as savage as the rest), and it's his inability to implacably harden his heart at the sufferings of his fellow Greeks (unlike Achilles) that leads to his death.

I agree with Paul: the Iliad is not an anti- or, for that matter, pro-war poem--war is just a fact of life with no moral or ethical significance. Ethical significance lies the actions of the individual participants.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Bart » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:31 pm

Btw, the Cambridge commentary by Graziosi is interesting so far. Ameis-Cauer-Hentze or Steadman are no doubt superior in their linguistic help to the intermediate student, but Graziosi offers some nice background information. I especially appreciated the introduction, a short overview of the most important aspects of the Homeric epic: language, transmission, history etctera. Although I was already familiar with most of it through the posts on this forum by Qimmick and Paul.
In one respect Graziosi is a real eye-opener: I did not realise till now of how many words in Homer the meaning is debated or unknown. Ameis gives definitions, but fails to notice that in many cases these are just one of several possibilities or, in the worst case, wild conjecture.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Bart » Thu Jun 19, 2014 8:04 pm

With the exception of the battle scenes at the beginning and Hector's rallying speech, book VI is basically about a series of 'difficult encounters', as Graziosi calls them. First Diomedes and Glaukos, than Hector and Hecuba, followed by the meeting between Helen, Paris and Hector in Helen's bedroom, and finally Hector joining Andromache on the tower. The strangest to me is the one between Diomedes and Glaukos. I'm not sure at all what the function is of this rather long episode in the story. Graziosi doesn't seem able to make head nor tail of it either, suggesting that it shows that 'nothing momentous happens on the battlefield while Hector is away.' First of all, that's pretty lame, more than 100 lines in which nothings happens and secondly: why this particular episode? Glaukos -quite a minor hero- makes one of the most protracted speeches of the entire epic. That suggests that something important is going on. Is it about the value and mutual obligations of guest-friendship? Or about enemies finding common ground in a kind of shared humanity (anticipating the encounter between Achilles and Priamos)? But if so, why does it end as it does, with Diomedes clearly getting the best out of their exchange of gifts, and Glaukos being duped it seems, giving gold for bronze. It puzzles me.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Qimmik » Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:19 pm

You are not the first reder to be puzzled by the Glaukos - Diomedes exchange. It seems to end in some sort of joke -- Glaukos is a fool for exchangign his gold armor for bronze armor (if I remember correctly) -- but no one seems to understand the joke.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Qimmik » Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:21 pm

Glaukos is not a minor hero. He is the companion of the most important warrior on the Trojan side after Hector--Sarpedon--and when Sarpedon is slain by Patroklos in Book 16, Glaukos is right by his side, although he is unable to prevent Patroklos from routing the Trojans and the Lycians and stripping Sarpedon's armor.

One needs to read the entire Iliad to put the events in the early books in perspective. They introduce the main characters on both sides, and, over a long stretch, trace the decline of the Greeks' fortunes from dominance on the battlefield (as in Diomedes' aristeia) to the desperation at the end of Book 8 that prompts Agamemnon to send the embassy to Achilles in Book 9. It has been suggested that the early books encapsulate the entire history of the war up to the point where the Iliad begins--surely the teichoskopy in Book 3, where Helen identifies the major Greek heroes for the Trojan elders from the walls of Troy would have occurred early in the war, not in the 10th year. And the duel of Menelaus and Priam seems like an event that would have occurred early in the war.

Also, these books are an example of the Homeric technique of expansion discussed in the thread on Odyssey 5, as well as retardaton. In the context of the Iliad as a whole, they build up expansively to the dramatic events later on, when things go really badly for the Greeks, the Trojans breach the Greek wall and begin to set the ships on fire, Patroklos dons Achilles' armor, and Hector slays him.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Bart » Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:59 am

mwh wrote:Alice Oswald makes very powerful use of the Iliadic deaths of VIPs and non-entities alike in her poem Memorial, in which she presents each death in the order of its occurrence in the narrative but cuts out the narrative itself, the deaths being interspersed with similes. As in Homer, some have mini-obits, others are just names in a quick-fire list. You lose the Homeric sense of sequentiality (the Sarpedon-Patroklos-Hektor-[Achilles] chain, for instance), but what might seem little more than a gimmick really works. The pathos is immense.


Thanks for bringing this up. I found this review and ordered a copy. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/o ... ald-review

Qimmik wrote:One needs to read the entire Iliad to put the events in the early books in perspective.


Quite so. I hope you'll forgive me for rambling on. It helps to put some order in my thoughts about what I've just read -I seem to think about hardly anything else than Homer these days-, and if I'm lucky I am proven wrong and corrected by fellow Homer readers who are much more knowledgable than me, and I learn something new.

Qimmik wrote:You are not the first reader to be puzzled by the Glaukos - Diomedes exchange. It seems to end in some sort of joke


I'm not sure it's exactly a joke, more like a sudden change in tone and register, that pulls the rug from under our expectations of how the scene will end. First there is this strange but moving scene of two heroes putting ancient bonds of hospitality above their current state as enemies and making solemn pledges to eachother. You would expect some kind of lofty conclusion. Instead we get this sudden turn in three laconic lines, that proves one of them if not duped than at least badly mistaken.

Graoziosi mentions a famous essay by Friedrich Schiller (Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung) in which he discusses this particular scene. Schiller sees it as an example of Homer being non-sentimental. And indeed there is a kind of dry, matter-of-factness to this sudden ending.

I will add a quite long quote from Schiller, in which he contrasts this scene in Homer with a comparable scene in Ariosto, because I think it's very interesting and an example of inspired literary criticism.

By the way, this is one of the wonderful things abut reading Homer, that one enters a community of readers, as Martin Mueller puts it, that reaches back 2500 years.

So zeigt sich z. B. Homer unter den Alten und Shakespeare unter den Neuern: zwei höchst verschiedene, durch den unermeßlichen Abstand der Zeitalter getrennte Naturen, aber gerade in diesem Charakterzuge völlig Eins. Als ich in einem sehr frühen Alter den letztern Dichter zuerst kennen lernte, empörte mich seine Kälte, seine Unempfindlichkeit, die ihm erlaubte, im höchsten Pathos zu scherzen, die herzzerschneidenden Auftritte im Hamlet, im König Lear, im Macbeth u. s. f. durch einen Narren zu stören, die ihn bald da festhielt, wo meine Empfindung forteilte, bald da kaltherzig fortriß, wo das Herz so gern still gestanden wäre. Durch die Bekanntschaft mit neuern Poeten verleitet, in dem Werke den Dichter zuerst aufzusuchen, seinem Herzen zu begegnen, mit ihm gemeinschaftlich über seinen Gegenstand zu reflektieren, kurz, das Objekt in dem Subjekt anzuschauen, war es mir unerträglich, daß der Poet sich hier gar nirgends fassen ließ und mir nirgends Rede stehen wollte. Mehrere Jahre hatte er schon meine ganze Verehrung und war mein Studium, ehe ich sein Individuum lieb gewinnen lernte. Ich war noch nicht fähig, die Natur aus der ersten Hand zu verstehen. Nur ihr durch den Verstand reflektiertes und durch die Regel zurecht gelegtes Bild konnte ich ertragen, und dazu waren die sentimentalischen Dichter der Franzosen und auch der Deutschen, von den Jahren 1750 bis etwa 1780, gerade die rechten Subjekte. Uebrigens schäme ich mich dieses Kinderurtheils nicht, da die bejahrte Kritik ein ähnliches fällte und naiv genug war, es in die Welt hineinzuschreiben.
Dasselbe ist mir auch mit dem Homer begegnet, den ich in einer noch spätern Periode kennen lernte. Ich erinnere mich jetzt der merkwürdigen Stelle im sechsten Buch der Ilias, wo Glaukus und Diomed im Gefecht aufeinander stoßen und, nachdem sie sich als Gastfreunde erkannt, einander Geschenke geben. Diesem rührenden Gemälde der Pietät, mit der die Gesetze des Gastrechts selbst im Kriege beobachtet wurden, kann eine Schilderung des ritterlichen Edelmuths im Ariost an die Seite gestellt werden, wo zwei Ritter und Nebenbuhler, Ferrau und Rinald, dieser ein Christ, jener ein Saracene, nach einem heftigen Kampf und mit Wunden bedeckt, Friede machen und, um die flüchtige Angelika einzuholen, das nämliche Pferd besteigen. Beide Beispiele, so verschieden sie übrigens sein mögen, kommen einander in der Wirkung auf unser Herz beinahe gleich, weil beide den schönen Sieg der Sitten über die Leidenschaft malen und uns durch Naivetät der Gesinnungen rühren. Aber wie ganz verschieden nehmen sich die Dichter bei Beschreibung dieser ähnlichen Handlung. Ariost, der Bürger einer spätern und von der Einfalt der Sitten abgekommenen Welt, kann bei der Erzählung dieses Vorfalls seine eigene Verwunderung, seine Rührung nicht verbergen. Das Gefühl des Abstandes jener Sitten von denjenigen, die sein Zeitalter charakterisieren, überwältigt ihn. Er verläßt auf einmal das Gemälde des Gegenstandes und erscheint in eigener Person. Man kennt die schöne Stanze und hat sie immer vorzüglich bewundert:
O Edelmuth der alten Rittersitten!
Die Nebenbuhler waren, die entzweit,
Im Glauben waren, bittern Schmerz noch litten
Am ganzen Leib vom feindlich wilden Streit,
Frei von Verdacht und in Gemeinschaft ritten
Sie durch des krummen Pfades Dunkelheit.
Das Roß, getrieben von vier Sporen, eilte,
Bis wo der Weg sich in zwei Straßen theilte. [Fußnote]

Und nun der alte Homer! Kaum erfährt Diomed aus Glaukus', seines Gegner, Erzählung, daß dieser von Väterzeiten her ein Gastfreund seines Geschlechts ist, so steckt er die Lanze in die Erde, redet freundlich mit ihm und macht mit ihm aus, daß sie einander im Gefechte künftig ausweichen wollen. Doch man höre den Homer selbst:
»Also bin ich nunmehr dein Gastfreund mitten in Argos,
Du in Lykia mir, wenn jenes Land ich besuche.
Drum mit unseren Lanzen vermeiden wir uns im Getümmel.
Viel ja find der Troer mir selbst und der rühmlichen Helfer,
Daß ich tödte, wen Gott mir gewährt und die Schenkel erreichen;
Viel auch der Achaier, daß, welchen du kannst, du erlegst.
Aber die Rüstungen Beide vertauschen wir, daß auch die Andern
Schaun, wie wir Gäste zu sein aus Väterzeiten uns rühmen.
Also redeten Jene, herab von den Wagen sich schwingend,
Faßten sie Beide einander die Händ' und gelobten sich Freundschaft.«

Schwerlich dürfte ein moderner Dichter (wenigstens schwerlich einer, der es in der moralischen Bedeutung dieses Wortes ist) auch nur bis hieher gewartet haben, um seine Freude an dieser Handlung zu bezeugen. Wir würden es ihm um so leichter verzeihen, da auch unser Herz beim Lesen einen Stillstand macht und sich von dem Objekte gern entfernt, um in sich selbst zu schauen. Aber von allem diesem keine Spur im Homer; als ob er etwas Alltägliches berichtet hätte, ja, als ob er selbst kein Herz im Busen trüge, fährt er in seiner trockenen Wahrhaftigkeit fort:
»Doch den Glaukus erregete Zeus, daß er ohne Besinnung
Gegen den Held Diomedes die Rüstungen, goldne mit ehrnen,
Wechselte, hundert Farren werth, neun Farren die andern.«
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:06 pm

I have a speculative theory for the meaning of the puzzling end of the Glaukos – Diomedes exchange. The Homeric heroes are obsessed about gifts and possessions and their relative value. This is perhaps even more evident in the Odyssey. Consider for instance the importance attached to the gifts Odysseus received from the Phaeacians. When Odysseus finally arrives to Ithaca in book 13, he is more concerned about the safety of his gifts than his own physical security. The point is that valuable objects are as much a symbol of heroic status as the heroic deeds themselves. For Odysseus, it is not really important whether he got his valuables from Troy or as status gifts, provided he had them when he came back home after 20 years (but getting them by trade would have been unacceptable). If he had come back without those gifts, he would really have been the beggar he disguised himself as. But as it is, he had now more gifts than he ever got spoils at Troy. For Homer, that makes a world of difference.

In the Glaukos – Diomedes episode, we know that Diomedes is the uncontested favourite if the two warriors should fight. In proposing that they should refrain from fighting and adhere to the code of guest-friendship, Diomedes is basically giving up a certain victory. However, he makes up for it by "winning" the gift exchange. When Glaukos gives Diomedes an armour that is 11 times more valuable than what he got himself, he is basically acknowledging how much greater a warrior Diomedes is. This is just another triumph for Diomedes, worth no less than those he got by actually fighting, and after long boastful speech, Zeus has cheated Glaukos into a humiliating himself.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Bart » Sat Jul 12, 2014 8:18 am

Your interpretation made me go back to Graziosi. She gives a succinct overview of the different opinions on this episode, both ancient and modern. Briefly summarised:

-Unequal outcome in which Glaukos loses because Homer wanted to please a Greek audience
-Glaukos was no fool; he was trying to emulate Belerophontes' generosity
-Glaukos should not be blamed because he gave away something valuable, but because gave something he needed, i.e. his armour (Aristotle)
-They were both foolish. Under no circumstance take off your armour on a battlefield
-Glaukos is the loser; Diomedes intimidates him into an unequal exchange
-Glaukos knew what he was doing. In giving the more valuable gift he was trying to compensate for a perceived status imbalance
-Diomedes was the real fool. He is misguided about the relationship between human beings and the gods and he is taught a lesson in book 8 when the Hektor-Zeus-combo puts him to flight

So we have a wide array of different interpretations with no agreement even on the seemingly most obvious fact that Glaukos is the loser in this episode. I like yours btw.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Jul 12, 2014 10:21 pm

It's a mysterious scene indeed and puzzled the ancients just as much as us. Most of these explanations seem far-fetched to me. The one thing that I think is certain is that Zeus crazed Glaukos' wits, that's clear in the text. So we have a paradox: although the gift-exchange almost certainly saved Glaukos' life, Homer calls him a fool for accepting it. I had another look at the passage

Il 6.232ff.
ὣς ἄρα φωνήσαντε καθ᾽ ἵππων ἀΐξαντε
χεῖράς τ᾽ ἀλλήλων λαβέτην καὶ πιστώσαντο:
ἔνθ᾽ αὖτε Γλαύκῳ Κρονίδης φρένας ἐξέλετο Ζεύς,
ὃς πρὸς Τυδεΐδην Διομήδεα τεύχε᾽ ἄμειβε
χρύσεα χαλκείων, ἑκατόμβοι᾽ ἐννεαβοίων.

What does αὖτε exactly mean here? Graziosi-Haubold proposes that it just marks a shift of focus. But maybe it should be understood with a stronger sense "in his turn"? Perhaps Homer sees it as two stage process: first Diomedes loses his wits and gives up a certain victory (this is only implied) and then Glaukos loses his wits in his turn (αὖτε) and accepts the unfavorable bargain – but the being fool part only applies to the fact that he accepted it on such bad terms.

I don't know, really. And how could I, if even Aristotle come up with such a poor explanation?

I finally read the passage from Schiller, btw. Thanks for that! Although I read German, I'm not very good. Short notes like Ameis are ok, but I get disheartened when faced with longer texts, because I need to use a dictionary a lot. Schiller wasn't difficult though.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby mwh » Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:59 am

Toο subtle, I think, to read αυτε as implying that Diomedes had lost his wits. I reckon it just marks the next stage in the sequence of events, with a shift of focus as always.

Dispiriting to read interpretations that contradict the unequivocal authorial statement.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Bart » Sun Jul 13, 2014 8:39 am

mwh wrote:Dispiriting to read interpretations that contradict the unequivocal authorial statement.


Which is?
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby MiguelM » Sun Jul 13, 2014 11:19 am

Just a quick note on the Iliad as a war poem, reading this I thought of the beginning of an essay by Rachel Bespaloff called From Troy to Moscow, which reads thus:

Homer and Tolstoy have in common a manly love and a manly horror for war. They are not pacifists, they are not bellicists, rather they know and they tell war for what it is. Their perpetual oscilation between a flagrant humanity which consumes itself in the joy of violence and the detachment of sacrifice where the return to the One is condensed. You would look in vain in the Iliad or in War and Peace for an explicit condemnation of war as such. You can wage war, suffer it, revile it or praise it — just not judge it. Only silence answers — or rather the impossibility for words as such — and that disillusioned look that the dying Hector at last casts at Achilles, or which Prince Andrew seems to project beyond his own death.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby mwh » Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:19 pm

Bart wrote:
mwh wrote:Dispiriting to read interpretations that contradict the unequivocal authorial statement.


Which is?

Which is that Zeus deprived Glaukos of his frenes.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Bart » Sun Jul 13, 2014 5:44 pm

mwh wrote:Which is that Zeus deprived Glaukos of his frenes.


True enough, but not the whole story. It is Homer that makes Zeus deprive Glaukos of his frenes. So, though the statement about Glaukos and his frenes is unequivocal enough, it still leaves questions and room for interpretation. For example, why does Homer end such a curious episode in such a curious way? Is it a joke, as Qimmik suggests, or something else. But yes, I agree that most of the explanations I mentioned seem far-fetched.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Jul 13, 2014 9:36 pm

MiguelM wrote:Just a quick note on the Iliad as a war poem, reading this I thought of the beginning of an essay by Rachel Bespaloff called From Troy to Moscow, which reads thus:

Homer and Tolstoy have in common a manly love and a manly horror for war. They are not pacifists, they are not bellicists, rather they know and they tell war for what it is. Their perpetual oscilation between a flagrant humanity which consumes itself in the joy of violence and the detachment of sacrifice where the return to the One is condensed. You would look in vain in the Iliad or in War and Peace for an explicit condemnation of war as such. You can wage war, suffer it, revile it or praise it — just not judge it. Only silence answers — or rather the impossibility for words as such — and that disillusioned look that the dying Hector at last casts at Achilles, or which Prince Andrew seems to project beyond his own death.

That seems a very eloquent way to put it. But I hadn't thought about Tolstoy's War and Peace that way. I have read the book once, as a teenager. The way I remember it, I thought there were pacifist overtones, but apparently either I got it wrong then or my image got distorted later on. But one important thing is that Tolstoy's personality evolved quite a lot during his life and he became quite radical later on. Maybe you could call Tolstoy a pacifist in his later years? That's how I remember Hadji Murat at least. Maybe I'll read War and Peace again one day and see, but I'm not sure since it's so long.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby mwh » Mon Jul 14, 2014 4:09 am

Bart wrote:
mwh wrote:Which is that Zeus deprived Glaukos of his frenes.


True enough, but not the whole story. It is Homer that makes Zeus deprive Glaukos of his frenes. So, though the statement about Glaukos and his frenes is unequivocal enough, it still leaves questions and room for interpretation. For example, why does Homer end such a curious episode in such a curious way? Is it a joke, as Qimmik suggests, or something else. But yes, I agree that most of the explanations I mentioned seem far-fetched.

True enough, in turn. I was simply registering dismay at apparent attempts to make Homer an unreliable narrator. The larger questions would need a more considered response than I’m capable of right now, or at all. But I’d say “something else” than a joke.

Thanks btw for the Schiller, which I think I read once but had quite forgotten. At times of course Homer can be very sentimental. Homer as Lorin Maazel?
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jul 14, 2014 12:03 pm

Homer as Lorin Maazel?
RIP.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Niedzielski » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:25 pm

Qimmik wrote:... surely the teichoskopy in Book 3, where Helen identifies the major Greek heroes for the Trojan elders from the walls of Troy would have occurred early in the war, not in the 10th year.


ars poetica est non omnia dicere

I appreciate the passage imagining the elders observing the absence of Achilles, engaging Helen indirectly to observe for herself what they see, as if it is below their dignity to reveal directly what they are about. Helen paints a pretty picture and does it psychologically realistically. She breaks the pattern of question and answer perceiving what Priam is about, continues with Idomeneus unprompted, and the exchange climaxes when, just before the heralds break in on the company, Homer has Helen say:

νῦν δ᾽ ἄλλους μὲν πάντας ὁρῶ ἑλίκωπας Ἀχαιούς,
οὕς κεν ἐῢ γνοίην καί τ᾽ οὔνομα μυθησαίμην:
δοιὼ δ᾽ οὐ δύναμαι ἰδέειν κοσμήτορε λαῶν
Κάστορά θ᾽ ἱππόδαμον καὶ πὺξ ἀγαθὸν Πολυδεύκεα
αὐτοκασιγνήτω, τώ μοι μία γείνατο μήτηρ.

In this way, noting the absence of the pair - neither of which don't appear again in Homer's verses - starkly contrasts with the omission and absence of Achilles; it's an artful, clever woman's response to an old King's question he artfully put forth: Where is Achilles?, the red unifying thread of the poem, the very thread Helen is spinning yet again after swift footed Iris finds her:

τὴν δ᾽ εὗρ᾽ ἐν μεγάρῳ: ἣ δὲ μέγαν ἱστὸν ὕφαινε
δίπλακα πορφυρέην, πολέας δ᾽ ἐνέπασσεν ἀέθλους
Τρώων θ᾽ ἱπποδάμων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων,
οὕς ἑθεν εἵνεκ᾽ ἔπασχον ὑπ᾽ Ἄρηος παλαμάων

Poetic dancing. I'd like to go on, relating the significance of Antenor's anecdote of the embassy of Menelaus and Odysseus, but instead I'll change the pace and move on to some thoughts on Glaucos.

Not to pick on you, Oh Qimmik, most eloquent of Texkit users, but I'd like to quote you as an introduction:

Qimmik wrote:You are not the first reader to be puzzled by the Glaukos - Diomedes exchange. It seems to end in some sort of joke -- Glaukos is a fool for exchanging his gold armor for bronze armor (if I remember correctly) -- but no one seems to understand the joke.


I can't firstly help but point out, obvious though unobserved, that bronze is the material better suited to self defense. Theories about glory are nice and appreciated but the fact remains that bronze is the prudent choice being harder lighter and gleaming just as well.

This fact is curious when it is considered how the reader is introduced to Glaucos. No minor hero - as Qimmik shows - he is introduced last in the Catalogue, tersely, and immediately after Homer describes a son of Nomion as follows:

ὃς καὶ χρυσὸν ἔχων πόλεμον δ᾽ ἴεν ἠΰτε κούρη
νήπιος, οὐδέ τί οἱ τό γ᾽ ἐπήρκεσε λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐδάμη ὑπὸ χερσὶ ποδώκεος Αἰακίδαο
ἐν ποταμῷ, χρυσὸν δ᾽ Ἀχιλεὺς ἐκόμισσε δαΐφρων.

Authored by Homer or not, I think it's an interesting clue to consider nevertheless. On the other hand, Glaucos does not in the end escape the fates. Was his fine speech made in vain? I suspect Homer is making a point about - rhetoric. Get it?
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Qimmik » Wed Nov 05, 2014 9:05 pm

". . . bronze is the material better suited to self defense. Theories about glory are nice and appreciated but the fact remains that bronze is the prudent choice being harder lighter and gleaming just as well."

That's not what Homer says. He says that Glaukos was crazy to exchange gold armor worth 100 head of cattle for bronze armor worth 9 (6.235-7):

ἔνθ᾽ αὖτε Γλαύκῳ Κρονίδης φρένας ἐξέλετο Ζεύς,
ὃς πρὸς Τυδεΐδην Διομήδεα τεύχε᾽ ἄμειβε
χρύσεα χαλκείων, ἑκατόμβοι᾽ ἐννεαβοίων.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Niedzielski » Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:02 pm

It seems I have to take back the title of Most Eloquent of Textkit users, Dearest Qimmik, if you are so smitten to ignore that it is not so much what Homer says, but what he does not say.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Niedzielski » Wed Nov 05, 2014 11:23 pm

I do want to clear one thing up. I described Helen as a clever woman; I mean clever Homer, of course. The longing for her kin induced by Iris is a poetic ploy. The reader is pathetically lost and forgets the cold realities of life. King Priam and his companions by him, conscious men of understanding, men of war of times long past, are not desiring to hear a roll call of Achaean Heroes. They are doing what such men can only possibly be imagined to be doing, there on the tower before the plains where two armies have met, and that is: weighing the tactical advantages each side has. They see Achilles and his Ants are absent. Would not then King Priam be hopeful of the tactical advantage the Trojans were having? For ten years they were held back, and now the strongest of the Achaean army are absent. Helen comes on to the wall, and Priam plays the part of the old man, tells her to relate what his old eyes can just barely make out: victory so close?

The heralds come, they check Helen from relating Achilles is absent; they tell King Priam a truce will be cut, that the outcome of the war will depend on a contest between Menelaus and Paris, fighting near one another with the spear. King Priam shudders.

The realities of war - if I may take up the thread myself: Who here when they read the third book did not wonder, when Menelaus agreed to the conditions of Paris, how Agamemnon, most greedy for gain of all men, feels about this situation?; as if the Trojan War really is about - Helen?! There's a suspicion Menelaus is elated with ecstasy, and he does not need to consider what the King of Men has to say about this: the war is over Helen, and here is the end of it. A good Greek reader, still you are swept off your feet. Homer really insists this is about Helen? Ambrosial Iris sweeps us off our feet, but cold Greek calculation brings you home. King Priam, Homer, they are men of reality. Not a ploy to weave the faces of heroes before us, to admire their glory and consider our own, but a ploy to make us forget - and was it not wondrous while it lasted? - to make us forget the cold realities of life. At last you are roused, and see King Priam there considering the tactical advantage. Multitudes of men he saw before, yet this army here - held back for 10 years - is sure to lose now to him and his allies. Then, hope is shattered, and no one is deluded: Paris is a dead man, and King Agamemnon will fight the Trojans when they do not recompense him for the war to his greedy heart's content.

I haven't gotten to the part yet when the god intervenes, please no one spoil it.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby mwh » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:21 am

But shouldn’t what Homer says count for something? Earlier in this thread I registered “dismay at apparent attempts to make Homer an unreliable narrator.” Seems I have to do that once again.

“Imagining” that the teichoskopia is about the absence of Achilles, just like imagining that Glaukos gets the better of the deal, means ignoring what Homer says and substituting what he does not say. I don’t think that’s a good strategy for appreciating the poetics of the Iliad.
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Re: Reading book VI

Postby Niedzielski » Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:39 am

You must be playing a funny joke with me, mwh. You are cross that you yourself did not receive that title I granted to Qimmik, and now you're mocking me, purposely being the least reasonable of all men; but if you were to earnestly maintain that it's not true that by accusing me of ignoring Homer and of substituting what he does not say, you are ignoring me and substituting what I do not say, then may I for ever ignore mwh, because in no way am I ignoring Homer, and because I am naturally complementing what I do not ignore with what the poet restrains himself to say.
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