Friday, July 6, 2007

Aggressive bees

I'm half way through Odyssey, and I much prefer Iliad, to my surprise. I was expecting to like Odyssey more because of the themes. It could be because I spent much more time with Iliad, some parts I read three or four times, so Odyssey might well grow on me.
Iliad has a lot of extended similes, which I love, in which some horrific visceral battle scene is compared to a tranquil, domestic event. This I find incredibly effective, as when Patroklus spears an enemy riding in a chariot through the cheek, and with his own strength flings the man out of the chariot. This is compared to a fisherman catching a salmon.
I found out the first simile of Iliad is a comparison of the Achean troops to bees, and funnily enough it directly follows a dream. Zeus sent king Agamamemnon a false dream to persuade him that victory is at hand, and to muster the troops for an ill-advised massive assault on the walls of Troy. There is a big debate over whether the assault is a good idea or not. Old man Nestor stands up to persuade the generals.
"My friends, chiefs and leaders of the Argives, if any other Achaean had told us such a dream, we would declare it quite false, dismiss it. But now the man who has a claim to be the greatest of Achaeans has witnessed it. So come, let's find a way to arm Achaea's sons."
So Nestor spoke. Then he began to make his way back, leaving the council meeting. The others stood up, all sceptre-bearing kings, following Nestor's lead, his people's shepherd. Troops came streaming out to them. Just as dense clouds of bees pour out in endless swarms from hollow rocks, in clusters flying to spring flowers, charging off in all directions, so from ships and huts the many clans rushed out to meet, group after group. Among the troops Rumour blazed, Zeus' messenger, igniting them. The assembly was in uproar.

I read a really funny review of it: "I believe this was originally passed down orally (much like herpes), so there’s lots of repeating lines to make it easier to recite. I can deal with that, but it gets tedious. The bloodshed and eviscerations and the hurting (OH MY!) make it sound like it’s just begging to be made into a big budget Hollywood movie. I cannot tell you how many people get killed by having a spear go through their nipple. There’s also lots of beheadings and eye sockets being gouged. It’s gory, but fun. Homer seemed to make up about 5 new and interesting ways to die in each battle...Bottom Line: It’s a good read with a disappointing ending. Most people will probably find it too dry to spend time on (most people are stupid). It will, however make people think you’re smart if they see you reading it. In the month or so it took me to read this, I carried it everywhere. People gave me looks like, “Ah, he must be cultured” and “What an intelligent young man” I also started dating since I started reading it. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

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