Monthly Meeting – Tuesday 9th June 2015
Talk by Chris Amery - Homer’s 'Iliad: The Angel of Achilles'
A reading and explanation by Chris Amery using a verse translation by Robert Fagles (1990) For this summary I have taken the liberty to plunder Chris's notes. There is no other way I can write about it. Those of you who did not come to this meeting missed a real treat.
Chris began his presentation by giving us notes to explain some of the complexities of the plot of this epic poem and fill in the background to his extract. The 'Illiad' was composed in Greece about 75BC. It is recognised as the first work of western literature, before nearly all of the Old Testament, and it is almost totally unique. It is not primitive, as early paintings and sculptures tend to be, but appeared fully formed with an incredible richness of plot and a sense of place and atmosphere. It would require 16 hours of non- stop reading to complete the 'Iliad', but Chris condensed a section of it into about 45 minutes, which was both riveting and enlightening.
I cannot explain everything about the plot; it would be too complex. The extract Chris read centred around the battles between the Greeks and the Trojans during the siege of Troy. However, there was bitter internal rivalry between Agamemnon, the Greek leader and Achilles, the great Greek warrior. On the Trojan side, the main hero was Hector. He kills Patroculus, Achilles close companion, who at the time was wearing Achilles armour and later Achilles kills Hector in single combat.
However, the Gods also take sides. The Greeks regarded their gods as proxy for the dark side of human nature and the gods reflect this in their Olympian rows and deceits, vendettas and jealousies, as well as their sexual shenanigans. They interfere in mortal affairs and use their powers to advance their favourites. Achilles also happens to be the grandson of Zeus, (the father of the Gods,), so although Zeus is inclined to support Troy in all this, he also supports Achilles in his disputes with Agamemnon. The plot(s) thicken... continuously.
Throughout the reading Chris carried us along with vivid descriptions of love, sorrow, vengeance, tragedy and humour as well as graphic violence. I am sure most of the audience could have listened longer and the local library will soon be out of copies of the translation as we will want to read more and find out what happened next.