Iliad 9, 225-227

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Victor
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by Victor » Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:25 am

Qimmik wrote:A number of years ago there was an article in the magazine that my undergraduate university puts out for alumni about an alumnus who memorized the entire Iliad and Odyssey in Greek. He is (or was) an accountant by profession. Maybe if and when I retire . . .
I heard this very man giving a recitation in person at a grammar school local to me (in the UK), when he was over on a visit from the States. A special evening was dedicated to his performance. The year was 1995 or '96. In addition to reciting large chunks he'd chosen himself, he was able to recite specific passages on request, though I'm not sure he was able to do this with equal facility for all of Homer. He had certainly achieved a prodigious feat of memory, all the same.

I'm sorry to say the evening was not a very pleasurable experience. His recitation style was hurried, mechanical, monotonous, and utterly devoid of drama or emotion, as far as I remember. In the end I stopped trying to make out the words and heard only the rattle of the dactyls, going on ceaselessly and unmusically like one of those wind-up toys that are a novelty for a second or two and then can't wind down soon enough.

He was in at least his late sixties in '95/'96, so he may have taken Homer with him to another world by now.

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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:29 am

"His recitation style was hurried, mechanical, monotonous, and utterly devoid of drama or emotion, as far as I remember."

Well, he was an accountant after all. (I should talk, right?--I'm a lawyer.)

And you have to remember Dr. Johnson's words about the dancing dog (actually, he said that a female preacher is like a dancing dog--but of course I can't say that today): the wonder is not that it's done well, but that it's done at all.

Here I am in my late 60s too (I turn 68 next week), and all I will take to another world is about the first 20 verses of the Iliad, a few of the Aeneid, the first two or three stanzas of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard and part of Don something or other's monologue from Le Cid. What a wasted life!
Last edited by Qimmik on Wed Jul 09, 2014 2:25 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 2:17 am

The resolution of Achilles' refusal to grant Agamemnon's plea to re-enter the battle in Book 9 occurs at the very end of the Iliad, when Achilles manages--with great difficulty and almost in spite of himself--to bring himself to grant Priam's plea for Hector's body, and their mutual discovery of each other's humanity. For me, nothing beats the utterly surprising conclusion of the Iliad in Book 24, the greatest, most powerful thing I've encountered in Homer, in all Greek literature, in all literature.

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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by mwh » Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:45 am

Does Achilles really have “foreknowledge of his impending death if he goes back into battle”? What he says Thetis told him is not what she had in fact told him in bk.1, and we have to register the discrepancy. (No use saying Well maybe she told him on a different occasion.) He’s making it up, to suit the occasion (much as Homer himself does). It’s in his rhetorical interest to play up the risk to him involved in rejoining the fighting, to present his choice as between dying and living—which we know doesn’t jibe with Thetis’ revelation of his fate. His purporting to opt for living (at the cost of glory) demonstrates just how angry he is. He doesn’t seem to anticipate being killed in the event that Hector approach the Myrmidon encampment, nor does he betray any awareness subsequently, either before or after Patroklos’ death, that he is fated to die at Troy.

There’s a chance of it, obviously; that’s in the lap of the gods, as always (while being at the same time quite predictable). But I don’t myself see his actions here or later as determined or affected by an alleged knowledge that he will die if he accedes to the pleas. I think there’s a danger of reading too much in, and over-psychologizing. Any gifts from Ag would be rejected, because he is very very angry, and he is very very angry (irrationally so, as he himself eventually acknowledges) because of Ag’s dishonoring of him. He’s an intense sort of guy, with one thing on his mind. And then of course there are the demands of the plot, which needs to defer his return.

Anything that’s fated, of course, happens. But what is fate? It’s what happens. In poetic terms it’s put back to front. Events determine fate rather than the other way around. What Ach ought to know is that his life will be short. An audience will have no difficulty in foreseeing he will die (though not until he’s killed Hector)—it’s clearly the culmination towards which the entire poem is headed. They might well be surprised when it doesn’t actually happen.

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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by Bart » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:16 am

Ameis-Hentze-Cauer is always very keen to indicate discrepancies or improbabilities in the Homeric text. Regarding Phoenix, who makes his first appearance in line 168 of book IX during the assembly of Greek leaders in the tent of Agamamnon, it remarks dryly in a footnote -> Φοινιξ, der Erzieher des Achill, tritt hier zu erst auf. Wie es kommt, dass derselbe trotz des innigsten Verhältnisses zu Achill und obwohl er diesem die Berechtigung seines Grolles ausdrücklich zugesteht (523), nicht etwa nur vorübergehend in Agamemnons Zelte verweilt, sondern sich von Achill getrent hat, wird nirgends erklärt.

Old Ameis has a point, of course, but as a literary device, Phoenix is highly effective.

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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:19 am

I agree with Qimmik's views above and also I think I share mwh's reservation about Agamemnon's sincerity, or the lack of it. As to Achilles' foreknowledge of his death, I have no opinion, it's too long since I read the relevant passages.

Anyway, I don't think Homer's characters or his audience were so concerned about sincerity as we are. I think that's a modern idea that goes with our obsession with individuality. Think for example how suspicious we are about arranged marriages, which were the norm then (and actually still are for the majority of the world). What really mattered was appearances; and since (in mwh's words) Achilles is very very angry, no gift in the world from Agamemnon could win him over at this stage, nothing could make up for humiliation he had suffered from Agamemnon. The distinction between bribes and sincere gifts is a modern one. In the Odyssey this ancient obsession with gifts is even more evident and pretty surprising at times too. Though if Agamemnon really had humiliated himself – which was totally contrary to his nature – by grasping Achilles' knees in public or the like, then perhaps it might have been different. But even then, I think it's more the external appearances that count.
Bart wrote:Old Ameis has a point, of course, but as a literary device, Phoenix is highly effective.
If you are excited by remarks of this sort, you should consider reading M.L. West's book The Making of the Iliad – whether you believe his theories or not, it's a thrilling modern attempt to explain these problems.

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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:37 am

About concordances: there's a nice online concordance at Chicago Homer that includes Homer, Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns.

For those of you who have used the Prendergast-Dunbar concordances: do they have some clear advantage over Chicago Homer? I've seen one of the two at a local antiquarian bookstore a couple of years ago, and I'm sure he still has it. I'd like to support him for having such great books that no one wants anymore, if there's any sense in getting the book...

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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:00 am

Well, you are probably right about Achilles' foreknowledge--and his angry rhetorical exaggeration. When Achilles kills Hector, even after Hector has specifically told him that he is going to die at the hands of Paris and Apollo at the Scaean Gate, this is what Achilles responds to Hector's dead body is (22.365-6):

τέθναθι: κῆρα δ᾽ ἐγὼ τότε δέξομαι ὁππότε κεν δὴ
Ζεὺς ἐθέλῃ τελέσαι ἠδ᾽ ἀθάνατοι θεοὶ ἄλλοι.

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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:15 am

I find the hard copy concordances easier to use than an on-line search engine, but the Chicago Homer site includes Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns, so you don't need to "liberate" the LfgE, fascicule by fascicule.

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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Post by mwh » Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:46 pm

Qimmik wrote:Well, you are probably right about Achilles' foreknowledge--and his angry rhetorical exaggeration. When Achilles kills Hector, even after Hector has specifically told him that he is going to die at the hands of Paris and Apollo at the Scaean Gate, this is what Achilles responds to Hector's dead body is (22.365-6):

τέθναθι: κῆρα δ᾽ ἐγὼ τότε δέξομαι ὁππότε κεν δὴ
Ζεὺς ἐθέλῃ τελέσαι ἠδ᾽ ἀθάνατοι θεοὶ ἄλλοι.
Quite so. Of course that sort of thing is only said by characters who are doomed, and pretty well know it, though they have to score what points they can, and they cling to the slim chance that a supportive god will step in, as Apollo did to save Croesus from the pyre or Artemis to save Iphigeneia from the altar (not to mention Aphrodite Paris in Il.3). The audience knows that won't be the case with Achilles. These finals words of Ach to Hector point forward to his death no less than do Hector's final words to him.

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