Pondering the Iliad

While listening to Stone Temple Pilots’ first album, Core, tonight, I started thinking about the Iliad. You see, I have a habit of listening to certain music that fits a mood when reading a specific book I like. To me it enhances the mood a lot. It’s a habit of mine, but I found it really works.

The two may not seem to go together at first, but give it a try and you’ll see what I mean. The song “Wicked Garden” for example reminds me of the part when the Greeks (called the Achaeans) first marshall on the battlefield. I can imagine legions and legions of bad-ass Greek warriors lined up eager for battle. The song “Sin” reminds me later when the Greeks are hard-pressed by the Trojans and nearly routed.

I haven’t read the Iliad in a while, but I pick up the book once every couple of years and read it again. It still remains one of the best books I’ve ever read. The Odyssey is probably more well-known in American culture because of it’s more mythological nature, but I love the Iliad for the sheer human struggle and the wide array of characters. Out of the Iliad, I always liked Telemonian Ajax (the larger Ajax) because he’s the most consistent of the Greek warriors, and Nestor, who though old, can still fight well. The other Greeks had their moments of glory (called “aristeia” in ancient Greek), then were defeated or wounded. With Ajax he simply fought well and keep Greeks alive when their backs were to the ocean.

In a way though, I always sympathized with Hektor the most, given that his brother Paris (called “Alexandros” in the Iliad) stole Helen and brought the wrath of the Greeks upon Troy. Hektor fought bravely through most of the novel, but he was also human, and had his faults. He ran from Achilleus because he knew he could never face him and win, and he gloated over Patroclus’s death, even though Apollo helped smash his armor. Still, I always sided with the underdog, and I always felt bad for Hektor, who never had a real chance to save the Trojans, and simply tried his best to defend them.

Anyways, just some thoughts on the Iliad, nothing more. I love ancient epics, and this plus the Romance of the Three Kingdoms from China, and the Tales of Heike from Japan are among my favorites. If you enjoy epic stories, you can’t go wrong with the Iliad. I recommend the Lattimore translation, which has been my mainstay until recently when the book just fell apart.


P.S. Other notable book/song combos of mine:

  • Gibson’s Neuromancer – Gorillaz “Demon Days”
  • Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series – Alice N’ Chains “Dirt”
  • The Romance of the Three Kingdoms – Orgy’s “Blue Monday”