Textbook Leftovers

Sorry for the extreme delay. I have several good reasons, though! I am experiencing some health issues (not problems) that are making my life unpredictable. I’m also simultaneously working on a couple other projects, along with the normal work of, you know, Life.

I’m also trying to restructure my posts here. I am hoping to add pictures to future posts (and may even go back and add them to the old posts). I’m also planning to move back and forth between volumes of the Anthology, instead of plowing straight through. If you have any suggestions for improvements, please share them!

As always, you can add this blog to your RSS reader, or simply follow my Twitter account, to be updated the moment I get back in the saddle with this. Links are to the right. 🙂

When we left our tale, the Trojans were rallying and the Greeks were falling back without Achilles. In Book Nine, the Greeks are frightened by a storm and decide to man up and get Agamemnon to apologize to Achilles. Agamemnon (surprisingly) agrees, and waxes eloquent about the extravagant gifts he will give (it begins to sound sarcastic after a while). At the end of his list of gifts, he says he’ll give all this if Achilles will submit to him – now is it just me or is that not an apology at all? The other Greeks think this is a swell idea, and send Ajax and Odysseus to talk to Achilles. This goes about as well you expect.

Achilles tells them in no uncertain terms that he hates Agamemnon and hates this selfish war. He will have no part of this, not for all the prizes that the king will offer. He has decided to sail for home. They all take their turns to soliloquize, but Achilles will not budge. After this wordy interlude, the Greek army girds its loins to fight on, but fail pretty miserably. Agamemnon, Diomedes, and Odysseus are all wounded, and Achilles refuses to relent. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Four of the Iliad begins in a strange way. Two heroes, one from each side of the battle, meet in the no-man’s-land. They begin to taunt each other and it really begins to feel like a WWE match complete with ceiling-microphones. Each of the heroes ties his own heritage to legend, telling great tall tales about his forefathers. They end their verbal battle by acknowledging each other as friends and trading armor as a token of friendship (except one of them totally robs the other).

After that one-off scene, the Hero appears. Hector, Prince of Troy, enters the city. He asks his mother to beg Athena for mercy, and goes to find his brother Paris and tear him a new one. Read the rest of this entry »

Here we go with the Iliad! Norton includes selections from several of the books, with summaries of the omitted parts. Today, I’m dealing only with Book One.

It is fitting that the first word of this epic poem is Rage, because just about everyone in this part of the poem is mad as hell. I actually made an “Angry List” in my margins. The list of the pissed includes: Achilles, Agamemnon, the priest of Apollo, Apollo himself, Hera, and Zeus. And probably quite a few of the non-speaking roles, as well.

Now, if you don’t already know, the vast Acheaen (aka Greek) army, is currently waging war on Troy in retribution for the “kidnapping” of Helen (the wife of Menelaus, one of their kings). Read the rest of this entry »

After leaving the Bible, Norton moves on to the next big thing in ancient history: Greece!

It seems that, in the deep dark past of Greek history, there was a great deal of prosperity. The Minoan ruins on Crete, the great city of Mycenae, and the epic palace of Pylos show all the signs of a flourishing, wealthy civilization. But then, there was a great catastrophe. It doesn’t seem that anybody knows what exactly happened, but the entire civilization was nearly lost. Greece was illiterate for centuries. (The catastrophe has to be bad if the entire population forgets how to read and write.) Read the rest of this entry »

The Song of Songs (also called the Song of Solomon) is probably the most troublesome feature of the Old Testament for modern Christians. You see, it’s erotic poetry. And it’s right smack in the middle of the Bible.

Anybody who has ever been forced to endure a youth group session on this short poetic book (generally complete with a lesson on abstinence and courting, amirite?) will know that many Christian scholars try to explain that this is meant to be a metaphor for how Jesus loves us, or something like that.

No. Just … no. The poem is pretty explicit, and I don’t want to be thinking about Jesus during it. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve read a great deal of love poetry. A huge percentage of the Western canon of poetry is focused on love. I’m female and I spent half my adolescence thinking about luvvv. This is not a subject that I am unfamiliar with. And I have to say that these selections of love poetry from Ancient Egypt might be the best I have ever read.

There is something refreshing about the language of all these poems. They are so simple and straightforward and honest – even more amazing because of the complexity of some of the themes. Sexuality has been a taboo subject for so long in the West that it is astounding to read such unabashed treatment of attraction and sensuality. Read the rest of this entry »