Sunday, January 02, 2005

Nature and Book 11

So here is my obligatory blog on nature and 'The Iliad.' I say obligatory because I was browsing around other blogs and see that many people have posted on the correlation between nature and the events, dialogue and narration in 'The Iliad.' So without further adieu, here are my thoughts:

I found that Book 11 had more than the usual allusions to nature. Take the stanza starting at line 73 and continuing for 10 lines. The narrator compares reaping wheat to the action on the battle field. I don't know if any of you have seen wheat being harvested by hand, but basically, people walk through the field with a big hooked knife (the scythe), and mow the wheat down. This paints a pretty gruesome picture if you replace the wheat with people. Imagine, a big open field where the battle is taking place, warriors are being mowed down, neither side retreating nor giving way and Strife looking on from the clouds, with a big grin on its face. Not very pretty.
Another example comes in 334th line when Hektor is rallying his troops; he is compared a hunter sending hounds to catch a lion or boar (see Prof. Kuin's Livejournal entry on boars and the new year) . The stanza continues by comparing the way Hektor's kills to an ocean gale! I haven't been caught in an ocean gale, but according to my uncle, who captains ocean going ships, I wouldn't want to.
There are many more examples, of course, but I think I will stop with these two.
I think the ancients were so concerned about nature because it was such a big part of their lives. They were at the mercy of weather. They didn't have central heating, they didn't drive their chariots to the local grocery store to buy food -- they may have gone to market, but they could only get was available locally. Many people, including great commanders and kings like Agamemnon, had their own flocks of sheep. In short, it was a do it/grow it yourself culture. This means that nature and its effects was the biggest factor in the ancients' lives. So no wonder the poem is filled with so many allusions and comparisons to nature!

P.S.: Hope Santa was good to everyone!


Blogger sue_sue said...

I truly think that it is rather funny that you decided to post an obligatory post on the Iliad! It is funny because I was just thinking that I should be doing the same very damn you for stealing my idea =)

I truly thank you for putting into context the image of the battle being like reaping wheat. I have lived in the city my whole life and have never seen harvest so would never have imagined that image to be as brutal as you have just explained. Though if I had actually taken a moment to put it into context and thought about it the correlation between harvest and the massacre of war would have eventually come to me.

I also think that you are right about why the Iliad and most ancient works for that matter deal with elements of nature. It is all that those people knew! There was no TV, XBox, the mall, or movies. There was the earth, the sun, the inclement weather, the interaction between people and the stories told about all of those things by poets and story tellers alike. I also think that these images are so prevalent because the people of the time can actually appreciate the beauty of what is being depicted. That is something that most of us have lost by living in the city and not taking the time to stop and immerse oneself in the awe and power of nature.


January 11, 2005 at 2:40 PM  

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