The dark came swirling down across his eyes
April 29, 2004 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Click -- MeFites, click the link of Wolfgang's new endeavor,
murderous, doomed, that cast as Achaeans countless actors,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
blonde-tressed, open-helmed *. Will careers be made carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
as the time of Bush is moving toward its end?
Begin, crows, when the trailers first were aired,
Agamemnon, some guy, and Brad Pitt, Achilles.

[a wee bit more inside]
posted by mwhybark (53 comments total)
*(helmet design changes were needed so's we plebes c'n, like, see Brad's purdy face).

Apologies to Robert Fagles.

I didn't know i was excited for this film until I saw the longer trailer, and the hair on my neck enstooden itself at the sight of the black ships upon the strand.

It should be noted that Benioff clearly states that the movie covers the whole span of the war, while the Iliad is only about a subsection of the tale. So you could say he's aiming high. I hope so.
posted by mwhybark at 3:50 PM on April 29, 2004

You know, you could just tell us what your post is about instead of making me try to wade through all that crap.
posted by angry modem at 3:51 PM on April 29, 2004

Very good post. I enjoyed wading through it.
posted by malpractice at 3:55 PM on April 29, 2004

... and so the first two champions met upon the beach between the towers and the ships.

posted by mwhybark at 4:04 PM on April 29, 2004

I think he's talking about the new Troy film, based on the Iliad. But I can't be sure.
posted by waxpancake at 4:05 PM on April 29, 2004

I too could have used a lot less linkin' and little more 'splaining.
posted by fenriq at 4:05 PM on April 29, 2004

Well let me cast my vote for artistic posting. I enjoyed this.
posted by ChasFile at 4:07 PM on April 29, 2004

Clever but unreadable.

In other words - whatchu talkin' bout Willis?
posted by torquemaniac at 4:09 PM on April 29, 2004

I thought the movie "Troy" was a biopic for Mr. McClure.
posted by wendell at 4:10 PM on April 29, 2004

I hope the movie is good. It could be independence day just sent in Ancient Greece. I liked the post, for what it's worth.
posted by zpousman at 4:11 PM on April 29, 2004

So, will the costumes be altered so we can see Pittachilles' purdy face making the sweet Greek love to Patroclus?

Prolly not, as imdb lists the actor playing the part beneath (heh) everyone else, including "Old Spartan Fisherman".
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:13 PM on April 29, 2004

Good post. If you didn't know what it was about by the end, you need to get yourself some of those newfangled paper books.
posted by stonerose at 4:28 PM on April 29, 2004

Well, I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition.

But here:
Rage -- Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.
That's the first stanza of the Fagles translation of the Iliad. It might ring a bell.

The links are what all I googled up out of curiosity after I saw the trailer, seeking to answer timeless questions that have plagued scholars for centuries, such as, "Why so many blonde Greeks?" and "Now, who is it that's playing Agamemnon again?"

WolfDaddy: There's always Alexander.
posted by mwhybark at 4:29 PM on April 29, 2004

Hey, at least it's in sort of in Iambic Pentameter. Good job.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:33 PM on April 29, 2004

Why are they blonde? I've always wondered. I am reading In Search of the Trojan War but the author fails to answer this very important question.
posted by malpractice at 4:35 PM on April 29, 2004

This was a good post. But the movie is going to be aggravating for any fan of the Iliad (Lattimore translation represent!) because they are so willingly sacrificing historical "accuracy" (nebulous term to use for a siege that didn't actually happen) for box office bank.

But fuck me, Peter O'Toole's presence in the trailer does deserve my 9 bones. You can almost hear his eyebrows moving.
posted by Hildago at 4:43 PM on April 29, 2004

H: do you maybe mean something like 'literary accuracy,' like keeping to the way the Iliad presents the story?

I think it will be interesting to see if Benioff has deliberately kept lines and language from any or all the translations. Hopefully someone will be nerdy enough to keep track.
posted by mwhybark at 4:55 PM on April 29, 2004

"That's the first stanza of the Fagles translation of the Iliad. It might ring a bell."

Some of us went to public school, thank you very much.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:09 PM on April 29, 2004

I blame Gladiator. if that fucking movie hadn't been a hit, we wouldn't have to deal now with Hollywood people trying to make a buck off of literature of such beauty and complexity as to ...
OK, rant mode off.
anyway, I'm pretty sure that MeFi Classics buffs would be better served reading this book -- it's brand-new Plato, of all things -- there's new textual material from Coptic, Arabic and Hebrew translations.
I also hear George Clooney is in talks to play the lead in Prisoners of the Cave. Bruckheimer production, Michael Bay's directing, Greek dialogue with subtitles. there'll be probably some nudity, I read in Variety. and the happy ending is guaranteed.

oh, mwhybark -- good post, unusual but fun. semel in anno licet, I'd say
posted by matteo at 5:11 PM on April 29, 2004

But the movie is going to be aggravating for any fan of the Iliad (Lattimore translation represent!) because they are so willingly sacrificing historical "accuracy" (nebulous term to use for a siege that didn't actually happen) for box office bank.

Lattimore translation in the hiz-ouse, Hildago. I think the concern isn't so much with period accuracy (I couldn't care less whether ancient Greek helmets were open or closed, frankly), but, as mwhybark implies, fidelity to the story's narrative arc. Homer's narration begins with Achilleus' anger at Agamemnon and it ends with the funeral of Hektor. This structure works--I think it makes the story more humanistic and personal than a broad historical treatment would--and it seems the height of arrogance to fuck with a narrative arc that has stood the test of so much time.

That said, I'm curious to see what they do with the gods. It would be a pity to leave them out entirely, but a literal representation could come off as cheesy. I'd also like to hear some epithets in the dialog.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:35 PM on April 29, 2004

There's a comic book version of the Trojan war, entitled Age of Bronze. I'm not sure where the latest episode leaves off, but imho it's quite excellent. Achilles is drawn to be a lot more hunky than Pitt (and hey, do we get to see him dress up as a girl?).
posted by beth at 5:40 PM on April 29, 2004

When my brother and I were kids (early '70s), we read these great cartoon versions of classic literature. I'm pretty sure that Homer was represented. Anyone else remember these?

Oh, and matteo: another Gladiator hater here. My God what an awful movie.

If the movie is as violent as the book (loving descriptions of face/head blade wounds) they'll make money.
posted by crunchburger at 6:04 PM on April 29, 2004

Hey, there's sequel potential too!
posted by crunchburger at 6:07 PM on April 29, 2004

I love you guys.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:15 PM on April 29, 2004

I second Beth's recommendation of Age Of Bronze. I hope that the movie sparks some interest in this excellent work.
posted by JDC8 at 6:28 PM on April 29, 2004

H: do you maybe mean something like 'literary accuracy,' like keeping to the way the Iliad presents the story?

Yes, I guess I'm thinking more of literary accuracy, but here's what is really bugging me in the back of my mind:

I don't see any indication that they're including the gods. IMDB doesn't list anyone playing them, and they weren't in the trailer I saw, anyway. And if they're not following the plot of the Iliad, then they must sort of be doing this as a period war movie. But since there was no actual Trojan War to tell the history of, what exactly are they doing? Seems like they are trying to pass a mythological story off as a history, by just bowdlerizing certain elements and calling it their own.

Maybe I should just mind my own beeswax.
posted by Hildago at 6:34 PM on April 29, 2004

Translation? Who uses translations.. The Illiad always did make me fall asleep whether reading it in English or Greek though (please don't hurt me).

The question I'm itching to know is whether the dialogue will be in good old greek. I haven't heard any ancient greek since back at school.

Hey, if they forgot to put it in the Passion..
posted by Mossy at 6:38 PM on April 29, 2004

There's also a wonderful (and very funny) Troy story in Morrow's Bible Stories for Adults
posted by amberglow at 6:46 PM on April 29, 2004

Deftly sidestepping the eternal debate about popularizations of classics/myths/whatever, let me just lend my support to complex and rich post styles. If you don't have time to figure it out, just move along...and really, if your time is in *that* short supply, should you be browsing the Blue?

Besides which, three mouseovers pretty much gave it away even if you don't recognize the structural reference. Cheers mywhybark, good stuff.
posted by freebird at 6:48 PM on April 29, 2004

I dunno who this Fagle guy is you keep on mentioning, but his name makes me laugh. Hehehehe Fagle.

It should be noted that I also attended public school.
posted by graventy at 7:05 PM on April 29, 2004

It should be noted that I also attended public school.

Cue British/American misunderstanding about meaning of 'public school' in 3...2...1...
posted by stonerose at 7:10 PM on April 29, 2004

Re: Mossy's comment:


I would love to have sufficient Greek to simply read Homer. We really concentrated more on Attic than Homeric Greek; but we did translate a portion of Iliad. But I sucked at Greek so badly—it's probably my greatest academic humiliation. It was good for me in a roundabout way, though, prolly.

I had a crotchety old tutor who, on discovering that most of the class had failed to memorize a Euclid definition as requested, launched into a harangue about how in his day, they were required to memorize the first book of the Iliad in Greek; and that our failure to memorize a trifling Euclid definition was a celebration of sloth and was well-nigh insufferable. On another occasion he announced that our class had managed to accomplish what no other class in his forty years of teaching Euclid had managed—to rid it of all interest whatsoever.

God, I loved that man.

But, anyway, I think I am more frightened than excited by a Hollywood depiction of the Trojan War. We'll see.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:15 PM on April 29, 2004

Is it just me, or do classics teachers take eccentrism to the very limits? Bless their completely insane hearts.

I could never get the hang of english -> greek for some reason, I kept forgetting the silly rules.. This is still the greatest greek translation ever, I'm envious..

I do miss my Latin and Greek - I'm still undecided about seeing the Passion though.. My classicist friends (I'm at Oxford, the place is crawling with them) have been spewing invective about for quite some time.

Urgh, back the mathematics.. Sigh..
posted by Mossy at 7:34 PM on April 29, 2004

It's completely bizarre that Gibson includes a lot of Latin but no Koine Greek. I seriously doubt that many of the Romans were speaking Latin, even to each other. I think this reflects Gibson's pre-Vatican II agenda. But, yeah, this alone made me seriously question his desire for "accuracy". Bah.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:44 PM on April 29, 2004

And, mwhybark, this was a very good post and I, for one, greatly appreciate the effort you obviously put into it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:54 PM on April 29, 2004

OK. You guys want to break out the school ties and the rulers? I'll throw down - I don't have any Greek, but I took my English language classics courses from W Arrowsmith.

e bligh - my brother is a medievalist, and he was very contemptuous on that same point. Pilate and Christ would have only been able to converse in some type of demotic Greek, according to him.
posted by crunchburger at 8:20 PM on April 29, 2004

I'm envious, Crunch1. Here's a nice essay about Arrowsmith.

I realized how little I really knew about the Classics, as a discipline, when I learned of the Satyricon.

1 Well, sorta. Where I went to school, profs weren't profs, but tutors; and they didn't profess. A good tutor mostly stayed in the background, with a light (but wise) hand on the rudder. I liked it that way.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:20 PM on April 29, 2004

Arrowsmith was the greatest man I had ever met at age 19, and the finest teacher of arts and letters I studied under. He was only at my school for a couple of years - he went back to Boston College before passing.

I remember he once taught a seminar for graduate students, and advanced undergrads, in the Art of Translation. You could do a project in like two dozen languages: Classical, Modern Greek, Germanic, Romance, Russian and Slavic families, Sanskrit, Western, Chinese, Native American - he knew all their literature.

I remember him divesting himself of some books - he was giving away thousands of dollars in art books and rare volumes to his students, because he said he hadn't much time left and wouldn't be re-reading those volumes.
posted by crunchburger at 9:41 PM on April 29, 2004

Thank God for people like that. They are treasures.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:51 PM on April 29, 2004

Hidalgo: In that Beeb interview with the writer, he lays it out: No gods onscreen.

I can see his perspective, actually - in the interactive sections, where so-and-so comes down from Olympus and guides this sword arm and that spear thrust, the language is literal but the implication is clearly metaphorical, clear evidence of a nuanced and reflective view of religion in my book.

Of course, that does make the odd turn of fate rather more random seeming, I guess.

I used Fagles because it's the version I most recently read. I was moved to do so by a brilliant stage adaptation of the Odyssey that used his language all the way through. I saw it here in Seattle about five years ago. It was beautiful and profoundly moving, and bestirred me to dust off my Classics books.

In the slaughter of suitors, red ropes of cloth came down from the ceiling to each suitor, who stood in tableaux. Athena walked among them, handing them the end of their rope and setting them to twirl, and the rope would pour down about them, spilling in a pool at their feet. Once they were all spinning, one by one, in the order she touched them, the ends of the ropes came down upon the actors and each fell in a heap.

It was the coolest thing I've ever seen on stage and just remembering it still brings tears to my eyes. Fagle's direct American English was perfectly suited to this inventive, emotional play and made me into a giant fan.
posted by mwhybark at 10:03 PM on April 29, 2004

Aha, a thread about the Iliad. Finally an opportunity to point out one of my favorite books. A view of the Trojan war from a very seldom seen perspective. In the end, I could only say, Yeah, he had it coming.
posted by MetalDog at 1:11 AM on April 30, 2004

crunch's brother is a wise man -- he's right, of course.

I seriously doubt that many of the Romans were speaking Latin, even to each other

especially because most of the (thuggish) grunts in Rome-occupied Palestine weren't actually Roman (like their chiefs), but Syrian (plus other ethnic Middle Eastern groups). why should they taunt Jesus in Latin like Gibson suggests, of all things, baffles me.
but yeah, they would have had reasons to want to kick the "King of the Jews" ass with a really bad flogging,m Gibson's right on that point -- Syrians just hated the Jews' guts, even back then (not that the Romans liked them, by the way).
one imagines they wouldn't have much sympathy for their King, too.
posted by matteo at 5:02 AM on April 30, 2004

Re the post: I like it. Nice formatting.

Re the movie: no gods = no Homer. I don't need to see them onscreen (though Ray Harryhausen did a great job with them), but if they're not referred to as the ultimate movers of the action, it's not the Iliad, it's just more Hollywood muscle porn.

matteo: I'm delighted to hear about the new Plato edition, but what is this REMPUBLICAM business? Why is the title in the accusative? That just looks bizarre.

Speaking of Harryhausen, check out this tribute. It should surprise and amuse you.
posted by languagehat at 8:34 AM on April 30, 2004

yo, L-Hat:

Platonis Rempublicam recognovit
brevique adnotatione critica instruxit
posted by matteo at 8:58 AM on April 30, 2004

But since there was no actual Trojan War to tell the history of, what exactly are they doing?

Paving the way for roughly 29 gazillion disposable books and "documentaries" with titles like Lost Secrets of Troy, Troy: What Really Happened, Troy: History's Forgotten War, The Trojan Code, Management Secrets of Agamemnon, etc.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:32 AM on April 30, 2004

not to mention the unavoidable X-rated San Fernando Valley spoof:
Jenna Jameson as Helen, Peter North as Achilles, Asia Carrera as Hecuba. (and I don't want to think about the horse scene)
sponsored of course by Trojan
posted by matteo at 10:34 AM on April 30, 2004

matteo: Yeah, I get the grammar. I just don't get the decision to do it like that. It's like titling an English book
author is Homer, and this translation is by Robert Fagles

As far as translation goes, I'm a Fitzgerald man myself. But I always tell people to learn enough Greek to get the sense of it in the original -- Homeric Greek is much simpler than Attic, and there's all that repetition, so you make progress quickly. And the feel of the verse is incomparable.
posted by languagehat at 1:07 PM on April 30, 2004

But since there was no actual Trojan War to tell the history of, what exactly are they doing?

Troy VIIa was destroyed by fire, probably during a war. Not that it was necessarily the Troy of the Iliad, upon which topic the lecture notes below expound:

Troy VII and the Historicity of the Trojan War

Here is a VR reconstruction of Troy VII from Hissarlik.

TroiaVR - Troy VII Reconstruction

and then, this -

Homer's Iliad and the City of Troy

The presentation of this post is quite excellent.
posted by y2karl at 1:41 PM on April 30, 2004

I can't say about Iliad, since I haven't read his translation, but Fitzgerald's Odyssey is the best, I think.
posted by Hildago at 2:54 PM on April 30, 2004

y2karl, certainly at various times the historical city of Troy was destroyed by fire, but nobody, as far as I can tell, seriously puts forth a theory that the Iliad describes actual discrete events, is what I meant.

Watching TLC, I thought that Troy VIIa was thought to represent Homer's Troy, but my Classics professor pretty much told us we were idiots if we believed that, and people would laugh at us. So, not wanting to be laughed at, I toe the line!
posted by Hildago at 2:57 PM on April 30, 2004

I like Fagles' translation because it reads the most like Robert E. Howard.

Jorn Barger once floated this wild hypethesis about a historical source for Homer's Ilium. It was not well recieved. But I was entertained by it since it sounds like a caper out of Herodotus. He still has his Troy page up which still has lots of links most of them live.
posted by wobh at 5:10 PM on April 30, 2004

L-Hat: Online resources for the larnin' of yon old-skool phonemes? Or a nice seminar for good monkeys? ;)

wobh: nice! love the Howard joke, love the kookery!

y2k: the post was directly inspired by parts of your style. I'm mildly critical of the relative wit of some of my links, and left out your titling. But I accept your praise with thanks.

This here was FPP numero uno, btw. Glad it's worked out, and a hearty round of the backslaps to each and every one of yez. Hoist the krater!
posted by mwhybark at 12:27 AM on May 1, 2004

Man, I am I a space cadet. This was actually #2, sorry.
posted by mwhybark at 2:56 PM on May 1, 2004

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