The Iliad and The Trumpyssey
Re-reading the Iliad, Lattimore's rendering this time, a bit dated, but compelling still. The timing is intentional - the situation seems to call for it, I'd say. We are, after all, going to witness that most Greek of tragedies, hubris. And as throughout the Iliad, and the later Odyssey, and even the Epic Cycles themselves, we see the primary daemons at work - Greed, Lust, Power, Revenge, and every sort of mighty defeats. Though perhaps this time the victor who writes the later Chronicle will be a bit more even-handed in the rendering.
The interesting outfall from taking this track to better comprehend the current madness has been witnessing the profound parallels involving Greed. It is not unreasonable to consider Greed the Primary Sin, or at least, the Primary weakness in human character. Under its wings are subsumed Lust, Theft, and Rage. Murder and Chaos are the eventual outfalls of those. Greed, as the underpinning of the failings that follow, destroy both their targets and their recipients, and must, simply due to the nature of time and generations, meet destruction eventually. Greed is Empire, is Power, is Destruction. Greed shows up in all ancient literatures, human beings seem so prone to never knowing when enough is enough we are left to wonder at the origin of such a failing, and even more at how such a profound failing has not evolved in the slightest. Yes, the anthropologists are all over this, but in this re-reading of Homer I am struck again and again how much the work seems little more than a well-constructed screenplay. Lattimore's take is very nearly this, though he does not say as much directly. His allusions, however, are unmistakable.
That Homer is telling this tale as some significant remove from the events, that the authors of the Epic Cycles apparently write of the events before those described by Homer, as well as afterword, smacks a bit of a writer's circle, mostly. And though to our ears and minds now so much of this is overly arcane and perhaps now too ancient to matter, whether this is more fiction than ancient oral history makes little difference, especially as we seem on the verge of becoming the first post-literate culture to descend from the Pantheons, hardly seems worth caring about anymore. Yet, fiction or pre-factual, the story is what must compel us to look with an even more steady gaze at the tragedy unfolding before us now, the pulse of Greed raining Destruction on us all. For what is Troy but the Golden City on the Hill, already just beneath the the level of Olympus, from the distance between it and us. And what is the seat of Great Power on this planetary Empire but the Office of the US Presidency?
Both are objects of endless Greeds and Lusts, where Power seeks ever-deeper and broader levels of dominion over all each surveys. And always come suitors, thieves, raiders of equal demands on that Power and Wealth, and the many are driven to the waysides and the graveyards, fodder and slaughter justified by the Central Demand - Greed. The innocent are never truly such, given how acquiescence to power results in both enforced and willful ignorance, even when truth stands in front of their eyes. To be of the demos, one must accept the responsibility inherent within its very definition. It is even less surprising to see the Iliad as the pre-democratic state of the (then understood) world while we appear to be entering the post-democracy of nearly pure nihilism masquerading as Greed Unending. Perhaps the question we need to ask is, who is the modern Achilles, and when will she appear in the narrative? Hubris, after all, requires a divinely-empowered actor to initiate the Fall. The gods always did prefer using mortal agents to prevent their own hands from becoming soiled. Man, talk about Privileged.