On the one hand anger is closely connected to brutality
and a delight in vengeance for its own sake... On the other hand, not
to get angry when horrible things take pace seems itself to be a diminution
of one's humanity. In circumstances where evil prevails, anger is an assertion
of concern for human well-being and human dignity. ... Achilles' wrath,
sweeter than honey, brought thousandfold pains upon the Achaians; and
it led him to treat the corpse of his enemy in a base and dehumanising
manner. It is only when, with Priam, he puts aside his anger that he is
able to recognise the equal humanity of his foe.
Martha Nussbaum in her brilliant chapter on Anger in Public
The Therapy of Desire (1994)
Today in Boston, the Iliad is used in a therapeutic
program for disturbed Vietnam veterans suffering from postcombat stress
Martha Nussbaum, op.cit.
...as we in fact see in Homer, there is a kind of laxness
and lightness in the relationships of the gods, a kind of playful unheroic
quality that contrasts sharply with the more intense character of human
love and friendship...In heaven there is, in two senses, no Achilles:
no warrior risking everything he is and has, and no loving friend whose
love is such that he risks everything on account of his friend.
Martha Nussbaum, op.cit.
The true hero, the true subject, the center of
the Iliad, is force. Force as man's instrument, force as man's master,
force before which human flesh shrinks back. The human soul, in
this poem, is shown always in its relation to force: swept away,
blinded by the force it thinks it can direct, bent under the pressure
of the force to which it is subjected. Those who had dreamed that
force, thanks to progress, now belonged to the past, have seen the
poem as a historic document; those who can see that force, today
as in the past, is at the center of all human history, find in the
Iliad its most beautiful, its purest mirror.
Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or
thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first
it intoxicates. The truth is, nobody possesses it. The human race is not
divided up, in the Iliad, into conquered persons, slaves, suppliants,
on the one hand, and conquerors and chiefs on the other. In this poem
there is not a single man who does not at one time or another have to
bow his neck to force.
Simone Adolphine Weil L'Iliade ou la poème de la
RAGE is the first word of the Iliad, and so
Homer announces his theme - the rage of Achilles. But it is not just Achilles
who rages through the poem. For the poem is as Simone Weil said, a poem
about rage (or la force in French): it is rage that is its true hero and
real subject, the abstract power that working through the human hero makes
a thing of him and corpse of his victim. Death and horror of death stalk
the poem, and death is always violent, never peaceful. Into the general
horror of the war between the Trojans and the Greeks arrives a new horror
for the Greeks, the quarrel between Achilles as personification of rage
and his king Agamemnon. That quarrel leads to the withdrawal of Achilles
into his tent, while his companions are killed on the battlefield in a
multitude of lovingly described ways. Finally his dearest comrade Patroclus
can bear it no longer, and begs for the armour of Achilles, so that the
tide of battle may turn. Patroclus himself is killed in fair fight by
Hector, and the rage of Achilles is roused again to stalk the battlefield
hunting his victim. Hector is trapped outside the walls of his city and
hunted, to be tricked by the gods and left to the mercy of his hate filled
enemy: 'Ask for no mercy dead or alive, dog; I wish I had the stomach
to carve your flesh up and eat it raw, for what you have done: but nothing
shall keep the dogs from you whatever your people and parents may offer.'
But once his rage is slaked, even Achilles can sense the shame of old
Priam as he comes at night 'like a murderer seeking asylum' to beg for
his son's body; and at last his rage is stilled in the recognition of
the common fate of death.
And yet the poem is also transformed by moments of tenderness between
friends, between men and women, and by visions of a world at peace or
the eternal forces of nature.The horror of war and the longing for peace
are mirror images of the human condition; and this, the founding poem
of western civilisation, presents the reality of life as a whole in a
way that no other poem does. "
1. 11 November 2001 - Armistice Day! Two months since September 11 2001,
and a month since the bombing of Afghanistan began. And no change when
I checked the page again on 14 February 2003 - Valentine's Day, when the
Dr Blix reported to the UN on Iraq.
The word menis is normally reserved for the wrath of the gods.
Achilles is "god-like" inasmuch as he is childish and petulant: his tragedy
is that he thinks like an immortal, while being painfully aware of his
own mortality. More on what
it means to be immortal.
My Game is intended to guide you through the most important characters,
events and themes of the greatest poem ever written. The Iliad Game is
still the most sophisticated thing on the Classics Pages (five years after
I wrote it). It is ideal for use with a broadband connection, although
it's obviously possible without (broadband was unknown when I designed
The game is mainly text based (though there are some surprises later
on) - and you will win awards as you progress. There will eventually be
a quiz at the end of each book (still under development)
There are something like 200 pages in the Game - don't start unless you
have some time available (although you can pause - see the Help menu)
You need to know the answer to a question before the game will allow
you to move on. The menus will give you clues if you get stuck (see a
list of possible answers, in other words) - but the game isn't intended
for people who aren't already fairly well acquainted with the Iliad. A
copy by the computer for reference will occasionally be needed even by
You can use a variety of spellings - achilles, Achilles, ACHILLES, akhilleus,
Akhilleus and AKHILLEUS are all acceptable - in other words the common
anglicisations - Hector, Hecuba etc are acceptable alongside more accurate
Hektor, Hekabe etc. But mis-spellings are not allowed (Appolo Apolo and
Appollo will be rejected).