Book Review: The Iliad by Homer

Book Review: The Iliad by Homer


The Iliad by Homer
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Hallelujah. It’s over. Well, at least The Iliad is, though the story continues in The Odyssey. I had forgotten how much the beginning of this epic sounds like a giant group of toddlers fighting over toys. These toddlers just happen to command warships and armies, and the toys happen to be women they view as war prizes. Frankly, it’s disgusting. If these idiotic “heroes” would just view women as actual people who can make their own decisions instead of pretty toys over which to wage war, every single event in this story could have been avoided. Had they just asked Helen who she wanted to be with and respected that decision, hundreds of lives would have been saved. The amount of bloodshed over the “taking” of this woman is just insanely wasteful, even if it’s fictional.

“Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

The gods are so incredibly petty. If Monopoly is the board game that ruins families, the gods of Olympus are playing something similar with cities and human lives. Men and women are literal pawns to them, game pieces and very little else. They claim to care about some of these people, but it’s a very shallow kind of care. Seriously, they’re terrible. And as 70% of Greek mythology is directly tied to Zeus’s inability to keep it in his toga and Hera’s rage over that fact, it can’t even be pretended that the gods cared about much outside of their own desires and fury.

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”

Honestly, this is a cast completely comprised of hypocrites. All of these men deeply believe they commit a travesty against another person but is then surprised and horrified if something similar is done to themselves or someone close to them. For instance, if the whole war is occurring due to the theft of a woman (more on that above), then why on earth would you take the “prize” of your greatest warrior because you’re feeling slighted? How did you think that was going to work out for you? And if your heart is set on desecrating the dead body of said warrior’s bestie, who isn’t even fighting in the war because of the aforementioned lady theft, why on earth would you be shocked that he decides to not only finally engage in the war but that he’s out for your blood and intends to disrespect your corpse in the same ways? Seriously, people. What the heck?

“Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.”

These warriors are also insanely self-absorbed. To a man, every single one of them act as if their feelings are the only ones that matter. Their mourning is the only true mourning. Their rage is the only true rage. This is doubly true for the divine beings that populate the story, as stated earlier. I seriously cannot fathom being this level of selfish, and I sincerely pray that I never become this wrapped up in myself. If I do, some one please punch me in the throat and snap me out of it, will you?

“Why so much grief for me? No man will hurl me down to Death, against my fate. And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it, neither brave man nor coward, I tell you – it’s born with us the day that we are born.”

Unrelated to anything, but I could also go the rest of my life without hearing anyone else referred to as “god-like” or their speech referred to as “winged words.” Those terms were exasperatingly overused. However, there are some truly beautiful lines mixed into the free verse, and those almost made up for the repetition mentioned. I know both of these observations are subject to change based on which translation you choose to read. I bounced between the Caroline Alexander translation and the Robert Fagles translation, both of which were lovely.

“No man or woman born, coward or brave, can shun his destiny.”

I respect The Iliad. I know it’s among the earliest literary pieces we have, and that it paved the way for countless stories that followed. But, as with the times I read this epic in the past, whether in part or entirety, I just can’t enjoy something that makes me roll my eyes this hard or groan this often. That opinion is incredibly subjective, and I know many people who disagree. But the abundance of wholly preventable violence, and the lack of anything else to break up said violence, just isn’t at all enjoyable for me. Thankfully, The Odyssey comes after this, and I know that it’s far and above more entertaining. I may not care for the tale of the Trojan War, but Odysseus’s return trip is wild and I’m eager to dive back into it.

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