With no real plan in place, other than the fact that we had reached Greek civilization and the Trojan War in history, S and I have been slowly reading Homer’s Iliad. It is my very first time, and as has happened so many other times over these last several years, I find I learn at least just as much alongside him.
We found this fantastic version for children and young adults retold by Alfred J. Church. Originally published in 1907, it retains the epic style without being cumbersome to a modern middle schooler.
Here is an example, which must be read aloud for the full effect.
But Poseidon came to the camp of the Greeks…First he spoke to either Ajax, saying, “Hold fast, men of might, that you may save the people. For the rest of the wall I fear not, but only for the place that Hector rages. Now may some god inspire you to stand fast and drive him back.” And as he spoke he struck each with his staff, and filled them with courage and gave strength to hands and feet. Then he passed from them even as a hawk that rises from a cliff, chasing a bird.
Chapter 16, p. 156
In the course of our readings together, we have learned mundane facts such as Ilium is the Greek name for Troy. Thus, the Iliad is ” the ballad of Ilium,” or the song about Troy. We have shared our disappointment in Achilles’ whining. We have laughed at Ajax’s grandiose and lengthy speeches in the heat of battle, while wielding both a battle axe and sword. “Just finish them off!” S jokes. “Focus, Ajax! Focus!”
We prided ourselves on our independent discovery of the epic simile. Although considering their preposterous length and preciseness, it is hard to overlook them. When a figure of speech extends six or seven lines into a paragraph it is impossible to be blind to it. Here is our favorite example.
As when two torrents swollen with the rains of winter join their waters in a hollow ravine at the meeting of the glens, and the shepherds hear the crash far off among the hills, even so, with a mighty noise and great confusion, did the two armies meet.
Chapter 6, p. 46
S and I have discussed and debated Greek virtues, and we have contrasted them with what is lauded today. We have questioned why (spoiler alert) Patroclus’ death was so grievous to Achilles, and whether or not that was more a reflection on the one rather than the other. We discussed the nature of the gods, and their limited powers against man. Overall, this has been a worthwhile read for us. I feel we have both received a solid introduction into the blind bard who purportedly founded Western literature. The Odyssey awaits.