Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

On Mitchell’s Introduction to The Iliad

“The ancient epic poems by Homer and Virgil, the medieval French epic The Song of Roland, Shakespeare’s Henry V, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22— each of these works takes war as a mirror of human nature, in all its fear and hope. But of all great literature about war, none concentrates more fiercely than Homer’s ancient Greek epic The Iliad on the dark, pointless brutalities that are part of human combat.”

Catch-22 is an interesting inclusion.

However much The Iliad concentrates on “pointless brutalities” I don’t think Mitchell is claiming it is anti-war in the sense we might think Aristophanes’ Lysistrata was.

“Legend has it that he was blind, but there is no actual evidence to support this.”

The idea of being blind, of course, meant he could really see.

“…blindness in Ancient Greek culture. Deprivation of light is almost as undesirable as death, yet blindness bestows a status of distinction in a culture where choice between light and honor is difficult.Blindness is punishment for breaking the limits of human knowledge, yet it is also the means to insight (truth-vision of metaphysical light). The (polluted) blind seers and poets enjoy the highest religious, social and political powers.”    http://www.bernidaki.eu/resources/263_reviews_book_gr_en.pdf

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