Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Iliad: Books 23-24

Today's the day, going to the discussion. The professor has a page on The Iliad here. In the tradition of my alma mater, I prefer not to read introductions or outside materials beforehand. It's between my brain and the book.

Our professor is Walter Englert. I was curious about what his students would have to say. I take it with a grain of salt.

Book 23: Funeral Games for Patroclus

And when sleep seized him, loosenlng the cares of his heart, being shed in sweetness round about him — for sore weary were his glorious limbs with speeding after Hector unto windy Ilios— [65] then there came to him the spirit of hapless Patroclus, in all things like his very self, in stature and fair eyes and in voice, and in like raiment was he clad withal; and he stood above Achilles' head and spake to him, saying:“Thou sleepest, and hast forgotten me, Achilles. [70] Not in my life wast thou unmindful of me, but now in my death! Bury me with all speed, that I pass within the gates of Hades.
I know he killed person after person who lined up for the privilege, but his efforts hardly compare Ajax, Diomedes, or even Hector, do they? He prophecies Achilles' have several others in the story:
Aye, and thou thyself also, Achilles like to the gods, art doomed to be brought low beneath the wall of the waelthy Trojans. And another thing will I speak, and charge thee, if so be thou wilt hearken. Lay not my bones apart from thine, Achilles, but let them lie together, even as we were reared in your house, [85]
While Achilles would have the dogs eat Hector, but they won't. "Aphrodite daugher of Zeus beat off the packs, day and night, anointing Hector's body with Achilles could not rip the prince's skin as he dragged him back and forth." (Fagles 215)

There's no doubt Patroclus was Achilles' closest companion.
Blaze, Agamemnon's mare, and his own stallion Brightfoot,
Anchises' son Echepolus gave Agamemnon Blaze,
A gift that bought him off from the king's armies. (Fagles 340)
Old as the hills...the rich buying their way out of wars and death. The poor fighting whether they want to or not.

The Games
What a way to have a funeral...honorable and celebratory.
  • Chariot races: Antilochus is the crazy driver. Diomedes wins with a little help from Athena. Menelaus sour at Antilochus, who gives the man his prize, and Mennie gives it back, kiss kiss.
  • Fist fight: Instant knockout. Epeus overf Euryalus
  • Wrestling: Ajax vs Odysseus; Brawn vs Brain; Achilles calls it a tie
  • Foot race: Athena trips Ajax with and into a pile of shit. Odysseus wins. Antilochus last, gets the consolation prize.
  • Full battle gear lance fight: Ajax vs Diomedes. Diomedes wins; friends feared for Ajax.
  • Throwing iron: Polypoetes beats out Ajax, Epeus, Leonteus
  • Archery: Did they pray to the Archer Apollo. No? Teucer, master archer, you lose. Yes? Meriones, you win, piercing the dove in flight.
  • Spear throwing: no contest...Achilles gives it to Agamemnon, 2nd prize to Meriones. Aggie gives the ummm prize to his herald Talthybius.
Book 24: Achilles and Priam

Achilles' treatment for insomnia from grief? Drag Hector's body around.

The gods tell Pram to take a ransom, and Achilles to accept. This happens. Hermes escorts Priam in disguise. Achilles gives Priam 10 days for mourning. For once everything goes as promised. Well. I should note Cassandra on the hill. I seem to recall some legend about her warnings and no one listening. This is all we get here:
She screamed and her scream rang out through all Troy:
"Come, look down, you men of Troy, you Trojan women!
Behold Hector now--if you ever once rejoiced
to see him striding home, home alive from battle!
He was the greatest joy of Troy and all our people!" (Fagles 830)

Hector was dear to Patroclus with Briseis, he looked out for her and smoothed her time among distrustful family (~900)

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