War Stories

One of the most powerful war books I’ve ever read is Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a collection of semi-autobiographical stories based on the author’s Vietnam experiences. The collection is notable for boundary crossing. The stories are not fiction, exactly, but they’re not essays either. Rather than deferring to the usual categories, O’Brien differentiatesContinue reading “War Stories”

The Odyssey’s opening stanza, Part 2

“Sing to me of the resourceful man, O Muse, who wandered far after he had sacked the sacred city of Troy. He saw the cities of many men and he learned their minds. He suffered many pains in the sea in his spirit, seeking to save his life and the homecoming of his companions. ButContinue reading “The Odyssey’s opening stanza, Part 2”

War as topic vs. setting

“It is a pretty poem, Mr Pope, but you must not call it Homer.” Richard Bentley If I had to pick one favorite statement about translation, Bentley’s would be it. The beauty of Pope’s translation—as with others’ from his time up to ours—can be intoxicating. In Pope’s case, the translation’s beauty inspired generations of Englishmen,Continue reading “War as topic vs. setting”

Understanding that we do not understand

“[Agamemnon] has sent the best men to you to supplicate you, choosing them out of the Achaian host, those who to yourself are the dearest of all the Argives. Do not make vain their argument nor their footsteps, though before this one could not blame your anger. Thus it was in the old days also,Continue reading “Understanding that we do not understand”

Iliad 23 and conflict resolution

“Antilochus, I will now give way and leave off my anger against you; you were never wild or thoughtless before this, though this time youthful spirits overcame your judgment; another time be careful to avoid deceiving your betters. No other man of the Achaeans could easily have won me over, but you have endured muchContinue reading “Iliad 23 and conflict resolution”

Immortality and its Discontents

“But the other gods who live for ever went off to Olympus, some of them angry, and some mightily triumphant, and sat down beside the father, god of the dark cloud, while Achilles continued to slaughter the Trojans and their single-hoofed horses” (Iliad 21.518-521, trans. Anthony Verity). One of the most captivating aspects of theContinue reading “Immortality and its Discontents”

The Shield of Achilles

“Sing, Muse,in a clear voice,sing of Hephaestoswho is famous for his skill. With Athena of the gleaming eyes,he taught human beingsall over the earththeir glorious crafts, people who beforeused to live in cavesin the mountainslike wild beasts.”—Homeric Hymn to Hephaistos, trans. Jules Cashford I can’t talk about Achilles’ shield without talking about the god whoContinue reading “The Shield of Achilles”

Authority in the Iliad

“Now when Zeus has brought the Trojans and Hector to the ships, he left the fighters beside them to endure toil and misery without ceasing, while he himself turned his shining eyes away, looking far off to the land of the horse-breeding Thracians, and the Mysians, hand-to-hand fighters, and the splendid Hippemolgi, drinkers of mares’Continue reading “Authority in the Iliad”