Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reviewing the Iliad

I’ve been listening to the Librivox recording of the Iliad during my household chores. I’m really enjoying it, despite the unevenness of the readers (Pete Darby, yay! Hugh Mac, your talents lie elsewhere).

I can’t help but compare it with that other great work of the ancient world, the one with which I am much more familiar. You know, the Hebrew Bible. There’s really very little in common between the two, except for one episode: 2 Samuel 2:12-32 feels reminiscent of the Iliad, what with the fighting, the spoiling, the speeches in the midst of battle.

But anyone who thinks of “the Old Testament God,” or of the Old Testament itself, as bloodthirsty . . . well, one wonders if they’ve examined the competition.

The Iliad, like the Bible, also uses a lot of stock phrases: So-and-so kills such-and-such, “and his armor rang rattling around him as he fell heavily to the ground.” There are maybe a half dozen of these phrases that Homer cycles through to describe somebody biting the dust (actually, “he bit the dust” is used now and then in the text—yes, there was a time when this wasn’t a cliché). I enjoy this stable of phrases, but some people apparently find them irritating. (Scroll down to the review entitled “One of the most important works of literature ever - and a damned good read too” for some unintentional humor.)

Last night the idea for a game based on the Iliad came to me in a dream. I still haven't perfected my game based on the wars of Alexander the Great's successors, but the Iliad one is simpler . . . I know what I'll be working on over Thanksgiving.

No comments: