I don’t know why I read this. It isn’t on The List (I guess because it’s technically a poem, not a novel), and it wasn’t assigned reading or anything. But for whatever reason, reading The Iliad was on my mental to-read list for a long time before I finally picked it up.
My first reaction: dude, this epic is epic. (thank you, I’ll be here all week) It’s full of dudes getting killed in really exquisite detail, dudes talking about killing or not killing dudes, dudes mourning dead dudes in a totally-not-homoerotic way, and dudes yelling at each other about the chicks who ruin everything. The battle sequences are long and action-packed, everybody is Zeus’s kid or nephew, the men are men and the women are decoration. It’s pretty awesome, is what I’m saying.
Second big reaction: I was surprised at how small the scope of this poem actually is. At the beginning, the Trojan War has already been going on for ten years, and the poem really only covers the last month or so. It’s really interesting, because the poem seems to be about how the stupid actions of a few powerful people can have far-reaching and horrible consequences. The whole driving force in The Iliad is this: Menelaus takes Achilles’s favorite chick Briseis (who, thanks to Movies in Fifteen Minutes, will always be known as Temple Babe in my head) for his own, and Achilles throws a massive snit fit and refuses to fight in the Trojan War until the king stops raping Achilles’s girlfriend and lets Achilles go back to raping her instead. Because of this, loads and loads of people die, and the gods are no help whatsoever because they’re all on different sides and keep messing things up.
That’s the whole story: a bunch of guys who are fighting a war because of some guy stealing somebody’s wife all die horrible deaths because some other guys are having a fight over somebody’s girlfriend. The lesson, of course, is that women ruin everything.
Normally this would be cause for me to get out my Feminist Rage Hat, except for the fact that the goddesses in this story kick so much ass I can’t even get that angry about how lame Helen and Briseis are. (even Andromache isn’t too bad, because she gets some really lovely scenes with Hector)
All in all, a pretty awesome, fast-paced action story with enough gore and bromance to keep everybody happy. I’m glad I took the time to read it.
(also if anyone’s curious, I read the Richard Lattimore translation and found it very readable and well-done)
Verdict: four out of five stars