I think every generation reads The Iliad slightly differently and there are plenty of people who read it as anti-war because it’s so full of pity and sorrow for the victims of war, and for the young soldiers whose lives are cut short by war. And it has characters, notably Achilles, who clearly articulate the complete uselessness of war. At one point in the poem he says that he has two choices: he can go back home and live peacefully to old age or he can continue to fight and be killed as a young man. Whatever you choose you’re going to the same place, you’ll still end up dead: so what’s the point? Paradoxically, though, massive tracts of the poem are beautifully described battle scenes. And, like it or not, the poem does take a certain sort of pleasure in the glory of battle, which can be a bit unpalatable for modern readers.I probably don't have to work hard to convince anyone that ends up at this blog on the value of reading the classics. One of the interesting things, for me personally, about reading the Iliad was how clear the folly of war came through for me. I don't know if that would have happened even ten years ago, much less twenty.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
On Love and Greats
Charlotte Higgins, the arts writer for the Guardian was asked to recommend five books and her choices will be largely familiar to readers of this blog. She includes Homer, Sappho and Catullus. This is her answer to whether or not Homer is anti-war: