Nearly three thousand years ago, Achilles marched out of Larisa, and into the multiple dimensions of one of the greatest poem’s in literature. The Illiad.
By the power of his words and ideas, Homer breathes life into Achilles’ soul and into far away scenes.
It does not matter if you are a nurse or a doctor battling with tiredness, difficult patients, surly superiors, or a parent battling through rush hour traffic to get to school on time, the Illiad has a tip for you on how to deal with conflict and stress.
Achilles is so rounded and so real, in fact,that pyschologists in the USA even use the Illiad to help Vietnam and other veterans come to terms with their own experiences of combat.
And next Saturday, one of the greatest poets of English literature is coming to visit Larisa. The local library is going to hold a special event to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
I look forward to a change from the same old, same old court case, to going along to meet an old acquaintance and find out what the local children make of Ο Ουίλλιαμ Σαίξπηρ as he is named in the lingo of Homer.
His contemporary, George Chapman, made the first ever translation into English of the Illiad. That means the Shakespeare might even have read about Achilles in his native tongue.
Caroline Alexander is the latest of about eighty people to translate the Greek epic into English.
“Rage,” The Illiad begins.
Homer doesn’t tell us about the past life of the hero or why he came to be in Troy.
The Illiad focuses, instead, on the state of mind of the main character. For it is our states of mind that determine the course of our lives. It doesn’t matter what we have done in the past. The key factor is what we think and feel right now. That is why I believe it is so important for us to set any disappointments aside and make a fresh start every morning and think in terms of a glorious future. Sooner or later what is most glorious will materialize for each of us in the real world.
Homer focuses on the rage of Achilles and specific conflict that drives the whole story, namely the hero’s conflict with his arrogant superior Agamemnon, who has taken from Achilles by force, Briseïs, Achilles’ prize. As their personal conflict escalates, the background of a far bigger conflict, the Trojan war, emerges. On an even greater scale, gods materialize from time to time, helping now one, now the other side, only to vanish again into another world.
Like the children pouring over picture books of the Illiad in Larisa library, we can also recognize that, like Achilles, there is something magical, great but mysterious about the fact we exist at all and have come into being…
And we don’t have to stop with rage and with Achilles. The world’s great writers like Shakespeare have given us a treasure trove of characters and stories to stretch our imaginations and experience many different lives, and so come to experience real life ourselves. For life is the end result of a long process, and we can only attain it with effort, effort to expand inwardly.