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"He's been in the black earth now for a thousand years"
July 30, 2014 4:48 PM   Subscribe

Deaths in the Iliad is an infographic by Laura Jenkinson presenting every death in Homer's Iliad. In her book of poetry Memorial Alice Oswald did something similar, writing about all 213 named men who die in the epic poem. You can read excerpts of the poem and listen to her read these excerpts at the Poetry Archive (1, 2). Or you can listen to her discuss Memorial on the Poetry Trust podcast (iTunes, mp3).
posted by Kattullus (19 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Take that GoT!
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:51 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:00 PM on July 30 [3 favorites]


the poem looks really good, thanks
posted by thelonius at 5:03 PM on July 30


Here's a pdf (automatic download) from the Poetry Book Society with a couple more excerpts.
posted by Kattullus at 5:04 PM on July 30


Note that Patroclus kills more than Achilles, once more showing that he's the actual hero of the book, not that spoilt brat. There's a deeper meaning to how Patroclus fights and dies incognito while saving the Greeks, but Achilles puts his self to the fore with his sulking at the ships and then later over-the-top desecration of Hector. War as a time for selfless sacrifice not personal tragedies.
posted by Thing at 5:09 PM on July 30 [3 favorites]


What, no one cares about Iphigenia?

I'm a little surprised that Hector killed more people that Achilles. Also, Patroclus was much more of a bad ass than I remember.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:21 PM on July 30


Iphigenia isn't in the Iliad. The Iliad starts nine years into the war; she died on the way over.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:32 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


My favorite death: Book V, Pedaeus, slain by Meges with a spear through the back of the neck, the point emerging through the mouth. "He gripped the cold bronze in his teeth, and death was a mist about him." Or some such.
posted by stargell at 5:37 PM on July 30 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile Achilles made his round of the huts and called all the Myrmidons to arms. They gathered like a pack of ravening wolves filled with indescribable fury, like mountain wolves that have brought down a stag with full antlers, and rend it with blood-stained jaws then go in a mass to drink, lapping the dark water with slender tongues, dripping blood and gore, the hearts in their chests beating strong and their bellies gorged. So the captains and generals of the Myrmidons surged around Patroclus, while Achilles stood among them, marshalling charioteers and infantry.


Literally everyone in the book is basically a bad ass and also they all mostly die horribly, hooray Iliad, but yes, Patroclus, total badass:
‘Boast, while you can, Hector, for Zeus and Apollo it was who gave you victory. They conquered me: they stripped the armour from my shoulders. If twenty men like you had faced me alone, all would have died at the point of my spear. But Fate the destroyer and Apollo, Leto’s son, have conquered: only then came Euphorbus the mortal, while you are but the third to claim my life. This I tell you: and go brood upon it. You indeed have only a little while to live, even now death approaches and your fixed destiny, to fall at the hands of Achilles, peerless scion of Aeacus.’


(Translation taken from here)
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:38 PM on July 30 [7 favorites]


Now do it for the mahabharata.
posted by goethean at 6:30 PM on July 30 [6 favorites]


The Iliad shows Achilles to have been a terrible war partner and the Odyssey shows Odysseus to have been a terrible leader, if you count the results (enemies slain, men brought home alive). Those Greeks: unmatched at looking bad news in the face.
posted by homerica at 6:52 PM on July 30


Look, very few of the Achaens were pleasant people. I admit it, I was GLAD that Agamemnon got an ax from Clytemnestra. Clytemnestra's grievance against Agamemnon were many, including the sacrifice of her daughter, Iphegenia, absence of years from the husband and no fool she, that Agamemnon would displace her with war booty. You do not think his words of how Chryses is better than the wife would not get back? I began questioning Athena's wisdom in being miffed over a damn apple and then restraining Achilles from killing Agamemnon in Book I. The greater tragedy was Hector. Who was more noble than Hector? His body desecrated and a sister, Polyxena, live sacrificed at Achilles' grave. The killing of his son and the treatment of the Trojan women followed that as well. There is nothing noble about a bunch of looting, killing, raping thugs from boats that are on your shores.
posted by jadepearl at 7:36 PM on July 30 [5 favorites]


Note that Patroclus kills more than Achilles, once more showing that he's the actual hero of the book, not that spoilt brat. There's a deeper meaning to how Patroclus fights and dies incognito while saving the Greeks, but Achilles puts his self to the fore with his sulking at the ships and then later over-the-top desecration of Hector. War as a time for selfless sacrifice not personal tragedies.

Wrong.

Achilles has killed so many by this point there is no sense in naming the dead because no one has that much time.

The Acheans did not really believe in an afterlife. I mean, there was the river Styx & all, but everyone becomes a shade.

No, a man's immortality is seized on the battlefield in the lifeblood of a worthy opponent. This is why Ajax is the first off the boats, because the prophecy is that "first off the boat dies first, but his name will be immortal". THAT was the only real immortality the Acheans believed in.

This was a war over a king's chattel that some poncey foreign prince made off with. Selfless sacrifice is the realm of the Trojans, not the Acheans. They're all there to rape and plunder a rich city. Selfless sacrifice is for those who failed to keep their city from being pillaged.

Who remembers Patroclus for anything more than dying by biting off more than he could chew while wearing stolen colors?

There are no heroes among the Acheans. Even Odysseus is there for the rape & plunder.

By Achean morality, honor MATTERS. And Achilles, greatest warrior of the Achean host, was DISRESPECTED by his king because the priestess Achilles wanted to rape got raped by Agamemnon instead. Today, we find that horrible. But that was the morality of the day.

This entire war is about honor and pride, not national defense. That's a modern sentiment that is not in operation in the Achean host.

Spoiled brat? He was a creature of his time, and the most excellent warrior of his age.

In 21st C modernity, Achilles is a self-absorbed git and a psychopath. But he is absolutely the Achean hero.

It's like The Hound said to Sansa in GoT: "I'm a killer. Your brother is a killer. We're all killers."

Achilles is the hero of the Iliad because he kills more effectively for his side. And he gets taken out w/ a cheap shot by the punk who started it all. End of story.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:45 PM on July 30 [7 favorites]


The Achilles in the Odyssey has a modified view of all that glory acquired on Illium's fields:
Glorious Odysseus: don’t try to reconcile me to my dying. I’d rather serve as another man’s labourer, as a poor peasant without land, and be alive on Earth, than be lord of all the lifeless dead.
But I will give this to him, he is a happy camper to know that his son has acquired battle glory.
posted by jadepearl at 8:19 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


There are some strange things in that list of deaths in battle that I did not remember, if I ever knew them in the first place; in particular:
Paris (T) wounds Diomedes (A), arrow in the foot (11.430)
This is strange because after the events directly narrated in the Iiiad, Achilles is also shot in the foot by an arrow from Paris and killed, though Diomedes lives.

Nor is this the only parallel the Iliad offers us between Diomedes and Achilles:
Second only to Achilles, Diomedes is considered to be the mightiest and the most skilled warrior among the Achaeans. He even got the better of Ajax, son of Telamon, in an armed sparring tournament, but the bout was called off prematurely. He vanquished (and could have killed) Hector (the greatest Trojan Warrior) on two occasions and Aeneas (the second best Trojan warrior) once.
...
Diomedes received the most direct divine help and protection. He was the favorite warrior of Athena (who even drove his chariot once). He was also the only person who attacked (and even wounded) Olympian Immortals. He was also given divine vision to identify immortals on one occasion.
All this suggests to me that Diomedes and Achilles are actually the same person in the sense that each was the hero in a different (oral) version of a tale of the events of the Trojan War, and that those two tales (and more, probably) were synthesized into a whole we know as the Iliad.

And Homer, whoever he was, seems to have been very much aware of the doubled nature of his story and his hero, and even has Achilles articulate it for us when Odysseus and the others are trying to persuade him to return to battle:
For my mother Thetis the goddess of silver feet tells me
I carry two sorts of destiny toward the day of my death. Either,
if I stay here and fight beside the city of the Trojans,
my return home is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting;
but if I return home to the beloved land of my fathers,
the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be a long life
left for me, and my end in death will not come to me quickly.[14]
Diomedes is not killed in battle, not covered in glory, but returns home to live out a life; Diomedes realizes the alternate fork of Achilles' doubled destiny.
posted by jamjam at 11:31 PM on July 30 [6 favorites]


This entire war is about honor and pride, not national defense. That's a modern sentiment that is not in operation in the Achean host.

Spoiled brat? He was a creature of his time, and the most excellent warrior of his age.

In 21st C modernity, Achilles is a self-absorbed git and a psychopath. But he is absolutely the Achean hero.


I'm told authorial intent is irrelevant, so I'm going to uphold that I'm right and Homer's wrong. After all, what good is a hero if you have to explain his morals?
posted by Thing at 2:20 AM on July 31


Achilles is the hero of the Iliad because he kills more effectively for his side.

Wrong. It is entirely misguided to read the Iliad as taking the honour ethic at face value. By the end of the poem, Achilles has realised that honour is empty, that the most terrible thing is to lose someone you love forever. But he realises this too late; he can give Priam a little bit of compassion, but he can't save Patroclus, and he can't opt out of the hero's life. Achilles knows he's a self absorbed git and a psychopath, but he also knows that there's nothing left for him to be. And then he shows up again in the Odyssey, lamenting his short, meaningless life. Homer is brutal about this stuff.
posted by Acheman at 4:45 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


What, no one cares about Iphigenia?

Iphigenia isn't in the Iliad. The Iliad starts nine years into the war; she died on the way over.

A deer dies in lieu of Iphigenia and she becomes a priestess of Artemis.
posted by ersatz at 6:20 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Regarding, Iphengenia, there are multiple versions of Iphegenia's final fate. However, it remains that even in those versions, where she is rescued deus ex machina, the Achaens believe that she has been sacrificed to appease Artemis.

I found Euripedes' Iphengenia (Aulis and Taurus) trying to rescue Agamemnon's reputation by having Iphegenia choose being sacrificed as the ultimate expression of filial piety, being rescued to become a virgin priestess of Artemis, and then a blessing figure of her matricidal brother, Orestes. It was a diminishment of a woman's anger at the death of her child and the seeking of vengeance. It is a reconciliation of savage, uncouth behavior of a hero to the modern society of the Hellenes.

Agamemnon is still batting a thousand as a dead shade talking to Odysseus:
Brought low by Aegisthus’ sword I tried to lift my arms in dying, but bitch that she was my wife turned away, and though I was going to Hades’ Halls she disdained even to close my eyelids or my mouth. Truly there is nothing more terrible or shameless than a woman who can contemplate such acts, planning and executing a husband’s murder. I had thought to be welcomed by my house and children, but she with her mind intent on that final horror has brought shame on herself and all future women, even those who are virtuous.” ...

“So don’t be too open with your own wife, don’t tell her every thought in your mind, reveal a part, keep the rest to yourself."
Not exactly a man into self reflection. Now, Odysseus, in the same section of the Odyssey, does point out that the doomed fate of the House of Atreus is how the gods use women as the means of punishment for the men's sins. Hmmm, makes me want to diagram things based on gender but for a later time.
posted by jadepearl at 5:09 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


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