Achilles Fights the River

It is interesting that the story of the Iliad is mostly told from the side of the Achaeans, but most of the Trojans are the more sympathetic characters.  So you literally watch good people die from the point of view of some pretty serious assholes.  I am referring to the upcoming death of Hector, who has a wife and child and who appears to be a pretty decent man.  But he is the one who struck Patroclus down, and so, of course, he is the one who must die.  I also refer to poor Lycaon, who was sold into slavery by Achilles himself, was freed by his purchaser, struggles to come back home to Troy, has only been there for twelve days, and then dies at the hands of an unmerciful Achilles because Achilles will not see a Trojan live if he has anything to do with it.

He does this because Patroclus has died at the hands of a Trojan prince, but refuses to acknowledge that it was his own stubborn behavior that led Patroclus fight in his stead, and eventually to his death.  I wonder if this detail will come up ever, or if Achilles is just going to keep flailing about how it was the Trojans’ faults until they’re all dead.  There is also the further lamentation to his mother that him nearly dying in the river was somehow his mother’s fault:

“…how she lied, she beguiled me, she promised me
I’d die beneath the walls of the armored Trojans,
cut down by Apollo’s whipping arrows…”

All I could think was, “well, sweetie this one’s kind of on you.  Did you really need to attack the river?  No you did not.”  Everything is everyone else’s fault, and perhaps that’s obvious throughout the Iliad itself, but this comes out quite a lot in this particular book, Book 21.

Apart from Achilles, though, this book is filled with some extremely entertaining god fights, all of which are over as quickly as they start.  The wounds are mostly superficial, but a wound making contact with a god is possibly a “lethal” strike to the god’s ego and so they must concede defeat, only to try again later.  Ares is taken out be a rock.  Aphrodite is boob-punched into the ground (both of these things are done by Athena).  Artemis has her ears boxed, which I looked up, and apparently to box someone’s ears is to strike both ears with the flat of your palms.  This essentially destroys the person’s balance, and can also cause damage to the eardrums (you know, if you’re not a god).  This part was especially hurtful to me personally because I always kind of liked Artemis (names my cat for her), and the next thing she does is to literally go cry in her father’s lap about the injustice of it all.

Hermes (named of my dog) makes up for it, though:

“But Hermes, the guide of souls and giant-killer
reassured [Artemis’s] mother, Leto, ‘Nothing to fear,
I’d never fight with you, Leto. An uphill battle it is,
trading blows with the wives of Zeus who rules the clouds.
No, go boast to your heart’s content and tell the gods
you triumphed over me with your superhuman power!’”


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