My February pick for my 2018 Read a Classic a Month challenge was The Iliad by Homer.
The Iliad is one of the two great epics of Homer, and is typically described as one of the greatest war stories of all time, but to say the Iliad is a war story does not begin to describe the emotional sweep of its action and characters: Achilles, Helen, Hector, and other heroes of Greek myth and history in the tenth and final year of the Greek siege of Troy.
I may have cheated a little by starting this book in January, but I wanted to make sure this was finished up by early February! I broke my new-book buying ban for the year to order a gorgeous Limited Edition of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (which you can checkout on GOODREADS if you’re so inclined). It’s based off of the famous characters in The Iliad, and I promised myself I’d read the original before picking up the modern interpretation. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to it this month! After reading The Iliad, I can totally see where Madeline Miller and many authors before her (including Plato and Aeschylus) saw a relationship between Achilles and Patroclus.
This book is a classic for a reason, with a sweeping cast of characters spanning both the mortal and the immortal realms, it cannot be described as anything but “Epic.” The fight scenes were and all the name dropping did become tedious, but I understand that during the time the book was originally released the readers would know the heroes and lineages being mentioned. I ended up skimming paragraphs that were name-dense and I don’t think that it truly detracted from my reading experience.
To be completely honest, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about the storyline of The Iliad. Although I took Latin for four years and subsequently translated large parts of The Odyssey and The Aeneid, I covered only a little of The Iliad.
The only character I really liked throughout were Achilles and Patroclus. Everyone were just kind of…horrible. Or at least very flawed. Achilles himself has some MAJOR flaws, but I at least understood his motivation and commiserated with him. Agamemnon and Hector were both a bit full of themselves, although Hector is by far the preferable of the two because he at least shows some heroism in fighting valiantly for his side. If I had to choose to support a side in the war, it wouldn’t be strictly the Greeks or the Trojans cause they both have major faults. I’ll leave it to the Gods to play favorites ;).
This is definitely a book that I wanted to read in full before I died, and now I can say that I have. I’m not sure if I’ll ever pick it up again to reread the whole things, but I definitely will be reading certain scenes again.
Have you read any Greek classics? Feel free to comment with your thoughts below!