Monday, 2 May 2011

The Iliad: Book One

Book one is called "The Rage of Achilles" however there's a lot of angry bods at the start of The Iliad. It's like picking up a book that's number five in a series and wondering what's going on. Fortunately I know some of the cast already:

Zeus – Top god, none of the other gods really want to talk to him about the war as he's got a bit of a temper.

Apollo – God of sun, prophecy, etc, etc, angry at Agamemnon. Likes a good sing-song and is good with a bow and arrow.

Hephaestus - Disfigured husband of Aphrodite, last time Zeus got angry with him, he got thrown off a cliff.

Hera - Wife of Zeus, doesn't fancy standing up to him either.

Agamemnon – Commander of the Achaean army, has managed to piss off Apollo.

Achilles – Dangled into the river Styx as a babe and therefore invincible except for his heel. Good at running and archery. I don't think the heel myth is covered by The Iliad though.

Thetis - sea nymph and mother of Achilles.

Achaeans – they'd be what we'd call the Greeks, backed by Hera.

Trojans – the other army, defending the city of Troy (otherwise known in Latin as Ilium).

We're well into the Trojan war at this point and the Greeks aren't doing so well. The gods do like to meddle in the lives of men and with all that anger going on, Apollo has unleashed a plague against them.

I knew this before I started; there's just too many characters in The Iliad. Homer had a tendency to talk about people via who their parents were which can either work for or against you. I just find I'm not sure who's talking or being talked about already. I hope this is just because it's the start...

So there's your introduction.


  1. When I first read the Iliad, I *hated* the fact that Homer just assumed we'd know everyone's family history. When I got a bit older and thought about the ideas of cultural currency, it made a lot more sense. Everyone would have known the canon of gods and goddesses, just as we know (at least the names) of prime ministers and celebrities. Once I finally made that realization (I never claimed to be swift on the uptake), I could enjoy the book a lot more.

  2. That's it exactly. I'm sure his original audience would have hated it if he'd spent book one explaining who everyone was...just as we'd feel patronised if an author did the same to us with celebs.

  3. Oh and I'll add, the edition I'm reading had a HUGE introduction which I skipped. It probably explains everything!

  4. I loved your recap of book 1. Like you I knew a bit of what was going on before hand otherwise I might have been confused (thank you Dan Simmons). I skipped the intro too. The one in mine isn't that long but after reading half a page I got bored and just wanted to start the story.


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