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C O U R S E 
Greeks at War: Homer at Troy
Robert Garland, Colgate University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Homer, the Heroic Code, and the Wastage of War
Notes taken on August 16, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
takes place as a series of individual encounters, not has a continuous narrative
monotonous for some modern readers
two warriors engage, one is hit, his limbs collapse, darkness descends, and then we're on to the next engagement
only once do we get a sense of the sweep of the battlefield
when Zeus holds up his golden scales to determine which side should prevail
the Trojan War comes across to us cumulatively
we see hundreds of vignettes of soldiers getting killed
yet it's as if we see a heap of corpses piling up as the poem continues
much seems artificial to modern readers
Aeneas, before engaging in fight with Achilles, delivers a 50-line speech about his genealogy
but this doesn't diminish what is highly realistic
the gods take sides and influence the course of action
deeply and personally committed to the outcome
Hera hates Troy because the Trojan prince Paris denied her the prize in the divine beauty contest between her, Athena, and Aphrodite
he awarded it to Aphrodite who bribed him with the promise of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen
Greek and Trojans all believe in the same gods
the principle shrine in Troy is a sanctuary of Athena
one might think that this would make the action less real
but the gods don't constantly intervene
many of their interventions are irrelevant or unnecessary
Hector and Achilles are fighting
climactic episode in poem
Athena disguises herself as a comrade of Hector to deceive him in the belief that he can win against Achilles
a way of saying that Hector was not thinking realistically about the situation
has psychological plausibility
Book 8: Zeus brings up his scales to see who will prevail that day
but he's not actually influencing the outcome of the battle
it doesn't indicate the Zeus is running the show
it is used to indicate that Achilles absence from the battle field is turning the tide
for some readers, the presence of the gods in the Iliad adds a layer of unreality
there are moments when the gods appear to be pulling the strings
Hera comes onto Zeus and makes love to him hidden within a golden cloud on the summit of Mount Ida
Zeus goes into a post-coital slumber and the battle goes in the favor the Greeks
but this is just Homer having a bit of fun, and is expressing a sense of humor
when Homer invokes divine intervention, he rarely departs from a human psychology
one can assume that homer's audience, for the most part, believed in the gods
there's no evidence of atheism or agnosticism in Greek society until the second half of the 5th century BCE, nearly 200 years later
the gods intensify human drama
immortality is a frivolous state of being
if you live forever, nothing matters in the end, because there is no end
whereas if you're mortal, every moment is deadly earnest
in book 1
Hera and Zeus get into an argument
resolved in a moment
the argument mirrors the argument that Achilles and Agamemnon had just had
results in the deaths of hundreds of men
in Book 21
Apollo refuses to fight with Poseidon
Apollo pro-Trojan
Poseidon pro-Greek
Apollo: "Oh, earth shaker, it would be plain folly for me to fight you for the sake of mere mortals, they're like leaves: they flourish, grow warm with life, and then they fade away and die. So let's abandon this quarrel and leave them to fight their own battles." And so they stop. The frivolity of the gods' world emphasizes the direness of human conflict.
what Homer offers us in the Iliad and the Odyssey is a critique of the heroic code
heroic code: winning fame is what life is all about
the tragedy the unfolds in the course of the Iliad is because of the fact that the heroic code doesn't actually work
what we get is an emphasis upon the pathos and the wastage of war and the plight of the innocent victims
Andromache, Hector's wife
Priam, Hector's father
it turns into survival at any price, and prefers to accept degradation in order to survive
Achilles he can choose his destiny
1. have a long life and die unremembered
2. have a brief life and be remembered forever
he chooses the latter
when Odysseus meets him in the underworld, it's clear that Achilles regrets his decision, "I'd rather be working for someone else", i.e. someone working as some with no social status whatsoever
the wastage of war is Homer's central message