When I was a boy, I was very interested in anything ancient. I used to read children’s versions of The Iliad and The Odyssey and other famous works. I remember that Growing up in Ancient Greece and Growing up in Ancient Rome were the first books I read, all the way back in grade 2, when I also first read the entire Bible in nine months, using the easy New International Version. I even remember kissing a picture of a very fetching Aphrodite that caught my eye. My parents encouraged me to read well and widely, but, unfortunately, my budding interest in the Classics was stopped around grade 7 by my dear father, a kind and gentle man, who was concerned about the level of violence in the Homeric works. In vain I protested that a book like Judges in the Bible has similar levels of violence, with a gang-rape scene, an episode involving dismemberment, a tale of genocide, and a mass-kidnapping of women, etc., but I did not prevail. Anyway, I obeyed dad’s wishes about Homer, and went on to read some Egyptian mythology, which includes a creation story beginning with the sun-god Re self-fertilizing by onanism and vomiting up Shu and Tefnut, from whom all the other gods were descended. Eventually, of course, I began to concentrate more on the narratives and poetry of the Bible, while I covered other areas through free reading. Ironically, some important scholarsly works in the area of Hebrew Bible have been done with an eye to Homeric scholarship (there are similar issues involving creation, redaction, and textual transmission, for instance), while the world of the New Testament has been greatly illumined by reading the Greek Classics, as well as Greek papyri that have been unearthed by archaeologists.
Thus I now come to the point where it is time to read “Homer’s” Iliad in a version not intended for children. The Iliad is, of course, on of the foundational texts in the western literary canon, a work which has been commented on by philosophers and historians, and alluded to time and again by poets and novelists for over two thousand five hundred years. And, after reading Bernard Knox’s sixty plus page introduction to the verse translation by Fagles, purchased at my local bookstore for less than about $8 CDN, I can say that it demonstrates tremendous insight into human nature. And, and, and…now it’s time to begin!
(In fact, I read book one the day before yesterday, and half of book two–I couldn’t put it down!)
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