So for the past few months, I’ve been reading the Iliad on and off. Guys. This book is boring. There is definitely some awesome dialogue and some super cool character interactions (if you want to know how the gods really feel about each other, this is the epic to read), however, a lot of this book is just lists upon lists of names of men being slaughtered by the main characters, of which there are so many, I had to start making a list as they appeared and note which side they are on. And Ares started doing whatever the hell Ares wants and ruined my list. There’s also a lot of story telling and backtracking, and it’s really a tale meant to be told aloud over several sittings and it’s meant to be heard or read by people who just want to sit and listen to collections of stories. I just want to see what happens. I’m sure once I’ve read the book the first time, I’ll want to go back and re-read what I tried to rush through, but right now, not so much. Epics like this definitely warrant a second read.
The intro, which I never would have read before college, was really educational and really helped my understanding of the minds of the Greek gods. Because the gods don’t die, their battles cannot be won by killing each other or causing each other real physical harm. Instead, they threaten each others’ favorite cities or humans, or even cause them embarrassing injuries rather than deep-cutting ones. The gods are also bigger than humans, which evidently means they feel things with a lot more passion, and they act out on a much larger scale than a human is even capable of. They seem to be giant children poking each others’ buttons.
The heroes are roughly the same, but for one major different: they can die. So while Achilles and Helen have the egos of the gods, they all must come to terms with their mortality at some point. Helen sort of does this before the book even starts, regretting abandoning the husband she loves and her children. Achilles won’t do this for a while yet, but it’s with this realization that they become more human.
One of the coolest things about this book is Zeus, who I didn’t think I was going to care much about. He has this funny way of setting the gods in their places whenever they get to big for their britches. Aphrodite and Ares both get injured by Diomedes in book 5 and he pretty much sits on his throne and informs them that he does not care. To paraphrase, he tells Aphrodite that, “you shouldn’t even be in the fight, this is not your area of expertise.“ And then Ares: “you deserve that. I hate you. If you weren’t my child I’d drop you below the Titans in their dark hole.” He just does not care, and I find that delightful.