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Meanwhile, Back at the Gates of Troy
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There hasn't been much to write about. We've been snowed in for almost as long as the seige of Troy. Yes, you guessed it, I've been reading The Illiad. For the first time.

In college I tried to battle my way through a few short excerpts and ended up falling down with my armor rattling on the ground. For years I had paperbacks of both the Illiad and the Odyssey on my shelves. More than once I opened the covers, however those books were as impenetrable as Scott's Ivanhoe, or Proust or James Joyce's Ulysses. (I guess Odyssess must have been a really difficult kind of guy. Can't someone write something simple about him?)

Recently though I ran across an online translation by Professor Ian C. Johnston that strikes me as approachable. Actually it's a pretty exciting story, filled with memorable characters. (Yeah, no kidding....) And with the Gods constant intervention it has the feel of a fantasy novel. Or maybe an ancient version of Upstairs, Downstairs.

Okay, so I don't read classics in the right frame of mind. I clicked away from Diomedes tusseling with Hector to the sports pages and saw where Shaquille O'Neal is liable to miss the rest of the regular basketball season, but hopes to be back for the playoffs. Cleveland obtained his services specifically to battle Orlando's powerful young center Dwight Howard who single-handedly overwhelmed Cleveland last year. In other words, without Shaq the Cavs are pretty much like the Achaeans without Achilles.

Then there's Homer's famous (or so they say...) catalog of ships listing the various contingents of Achaeans who sailed to Troy. It names each leader, describes his home city, and gives the number of ships he led. 1186 ships in all. No, I didn't try to add them up but they did here.

Academics have proposed various reasons for the list, such as demonstrating the memory of the storteller. I'm thinking maybe it served the same purpose as when the rock star comes out on stage and yells, "Hello Poughkeepsie!" (Is there a suitable venue in Poughkeepsie? I've never been there?) Anyway, how I figure is that at some point, wherever the Illiad was being performed, the city would be mentioned along with its celebrated heros.

"Soldiers came from that well-built fortress Athens."

"Yay Athens! Athens! Athens! Athens!" goes the crowd.

Naturally the crowd would go wild because, well, being noticed by Homer. How cool is that?

Of course Homer wrote a sequel about the post-war adventures of one of the commanders, Odysseus, but I wonder about all the others. Do you suppose local bards catered to local tastes, with epics about their own hometown Homeric heros? Perhaps in Doulichium a storyteller recounted the adventures of warlike Meges, while in Pherae by Lake Boebea liseners were regaled by tales about Eumelus. I would rather like to hear what happened to Nereus from Syme who was more handsome than any but Achilles but only brought three ships, poor fellow.

Actually, Nereus might have been killed at Troy. Don't tell me. I haven't finished the book yet.

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