Homer, The Iliad

8th century BC

The reason this the blog started was because I didn't read The Iliad in college. I took a course on literature pre-500 AD, and had the crustiest old professor. He was exactly the kind of guy you would think to have as a classics professor. I tried very hard to read that poem, but I couldn't get into it. I remember days of sitting on my back on the couch trying to start it and my brain not letting me read the words on the page. It just got away from my little baby brain.

I've read many other books since then, but time turned The Iliad into my white whale. If you're interested in The Iliad, don't be afraid of it's oldness, that doesn't mean it's unreadable. The book starts "in media res", meaning "in the middle of things". You've probably heard that phrase before if you've taken an English class.

What you need to remember is if something starts "in media res", you're not going to understand what's going on until 30 pages go by. That's how they get you.

The most important piece of advice I would give to someone trying to read something that scares them, is just to let the text wash over them. If a sentence or a passage doesn't make sense, let a few pages go by. Also, it's natural to feel fear while reading (at least I'm hoping it is). Books are always more fun in retrospect when you're gently remembering instead of battling against fear.

The Iliad is an action movie. Every book you've read and every movie you've seen (including Bridge to Terabithia) is based on The Iliad. Only The Iliad is better.

Homer describes scenes of deaths of soldiers in succession that will go on for fifty pages, and you too will be yearning for the sweet release of death. But, six months later, after you've finished it, you'll only remember the ships and the sun, and the meat, and how good it must feel to stab your knife through someone's thigh muscle and watch dark blood pour out. Homer's world is without morality, it is almost animal, yet it will start to feel more real than any life you have ever experienced.

The most important thing to know is that everything is based on The Iliad. It is the foundation of Western literature and philosophy, and may be the greatest text of all time. Not only were the men and Gods in the poem better than you, but so were the poets that passed it on to you. Before it was written down, the text was passed down orally for generations. This is a 16,000 line poem that takes 23 hours to recite.

If you only had time to read one more thing in your life, I wouldn't recommend The Iliad, because it's greatness stands in relation to everything you'll read after.


⚖️ Expectations vs Reality

They try to make The Iliad and The Odyssey seem so exciting in school. They overhype it.

🍻 Would I get a beer with the author?

I would sit in warm shade, covered in oils, drinking dark wines with the author, of course.