Category Archives: Homer

Dawn (Iliad Book XXIV)

The games of Book XXIII of the Iliad have not been enough to let Achilles sleep. He tosses and turns,

yearning for the manhood and valorous might of Patroclus, thinking on all he had wrought with him and all the woes he had borne, passing through wars of men and the grievous waves. (lines 6–9)

It occurs to me to ask: Is that what we call a description? It is a “setting down in words”; however, if it is a “verbal portrait,” this only goes to show what a remarkable power we have, to know what somebody is thinking by how he looks.

Small white flowers among leaves and vines
Atatürk Kent Ormanı
Tarabya, Sarıyer, İstanbul
May 11, 2023

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History (Iliad Book XXIII)

Square stone column with faucet at the bottom and Ottoman writing in Arabic script at the top, below the capital; road, buildings, and trees behind

Ottoman fountain
Harbor of Tarabya (Θεραπειά) on the Bosphorus
Sarıyer, Istanbul, May Day 2023
The bay was called Φαρμακία by Medea
according to Dionysius of Byzantium (2nd century c.e.)
in his Anaplous (“sailing up”) of the Bosporos
Rough translation by Brady Kiesling:

§ 68 Immediately following is the bay call [sic] Pharmakias, from Medeia the Colchian, who deposited coffers of drugs here. It is, however, a very fine and commodious place for fishing and ideal for beaching ships. For right up to the edge of the beach it is deep and very safe from the winds. A multitude of fish are attracted here. The forest, however, is dense, with a deep wood of every species, and meadows, as if the land were competing with the sea. Its circumference is shaded by a forest overhanging the sea, through the middle of which a river descends noiselessly.

Still water below a row of small boats, one with a mast; behind them, on the far side of the harbor, three large boxy buildings, with trees around and above them

Along the coast to the left
towards the Sea of Marmara
is the Pitheci Portus
again according to Dionysius:

§ 66 Beneath this prominent coast follows a bay in which is Harbor of Pithex, whom [sic] they say was a king of the barbarians who lived here who together with his sons led Asteropaios in the crossing to Asia. From here the shore is broken and steep.

Achilles slew the ambidextrous Asteropaeus in Book XXI of the Iliad
He will be giving away the spoil now, in Book XXIII

Topographical map of a section of the Bosphorus, with many points labelled with their Greek names in Latin letters

Map source: Richard Talbert, editor
Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World
Princeton University Press, 2000

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Grief (Iliad Book XXII)

The fascinating moments in the Iliad are when somebody has to make a decision.

  • Achilles is a killing machine in Books XX and XXI; but back in Book I, enraged by his commanding officer, Achilles could nonetheless decide not to slay him.
  • At the end of Book XXI, Agenor was tempted to hide from Achilles, somewhere away from the walls of Troy; instead he served as a decoy to draw Achilles away from the city gates.
  • Now, in Book XXII, the other Trojans are running in through those gates like fawns. Hector is having trouble deciding whether to join them.

Wall assembled haphazardly of rubble, dressed stone, brick, and tile; weeds grow out here and there
Wednesday morning, April 12, 2023
Akarsu Sokağı (“Runningwater Street”)
Tarabya, Sarıyer, Istanbul

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Fishes (Iliad Book XXI)

In Book XVII of the Iliad, Zeus pitied the immortal horses, Xanthus and Balius, as they wept for the slain Patroclus: “For in sooth there is naught, I ween, more miserable than man among all things that breathe and move upon earth.”

Stylized image of a shark on the door of a truck parked nose to nose with a taxi; foliage beyond
Monday morning, April 17, 2023
Sarıyer, Istanbul
Kefeliköy / Δικαία Πέτρα
(There exist a map and memoir of this settlement)

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Words (Iliad Book XX)

“The feeling of helplessness and humiliation in the face of an abuse of power is an awful one.” That’s what Achilles found out, back in Book I of the Iliad; however, the words themselves, dated April 11, 2023, are by Claire Berlinski. Her Agamemnon is Elon Musk.

Two cats sit facing one another on a narrow ledge below one window and above another
“And when they were come near, as they advanced one against the other, then first unto Aeneas spake swift-footed goodly Achilles: ‘Aeneas, wherefore hast thou sallied thus far forth from the throng to stand and face me?’ ” (Iliad 20.176–9)
Kireçburnu (“Lime Point”)
Κλειδὴς καὶ κλεῖθρα τοὺ Πόντου (“Lock and Key of the Pontus”)
Sarıyer, Istanbul
Sunday morning, March 26, 2023

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Responsibility (Iliad Book XIX)

Book XIX of the Iliad is all talk. This annoys Achilles, but is important for Agamemnon and Odysseus, and they should know better—Odysseus even says so.

Two corpulent dogs lie at the bottom of two slides in a children’s playground; one has started to raise himself
Achilles gets ready to fight while Patroclus lies dead
(or, one of two well-fed street-dogs goes through the motions of defense)
Şalcıkır Parkı, Tarabya
Sarıyer, Istanbul
Sunday morning, March 26, 2023

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Reflection (Iliad Book XVIII)

Twelve Trojan warriors die, merely because Achilles shouts at them across the Achaean trench. That is all Achilles does, in Book XVIII of the Iliad, and no more deaths are reported—unless we count the ones depicted around the city at war, on the shield that Hephaestus forges for Achilles at the request of Thetis. (See note 1)

A beacon stands in front of the sea at the end of a street lined with trees and a cafe. We see the beacon between two bicyclists on the road that crosses the foreground
“Achilles, dear to Zeus, roused him,
and round about his mighty shoulders Athene flung her tasselled aegis,
and around his head the fair goddess set thick a golden cloud,
and forth from the man made blaze a gleaming fire.” (Iliad 18.203–6)
Kireçburnu (“Lime Point”)
Κλειδὴς καὶ κλεῖθρα τοὺ Πόντου (“Lock and Key of the Pontus”)
Sarıyer, Istanbul
Sunday morning, March 26, 2023

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Mind (Iliad Book XVII)

At the end of Book XVI of the Iliad, Hector

  • pulled his spear from the body of Patroclus,
  • took off in pursuit of Automedon, his victim’s charioteer, who was being drawn by Achilles’s immortal horses.

Around the mossy trunk of a plane tree, four chickens—two white, one brown, one black—scratch in the little dirt that has been left uncovered by the setts that pave a road through a settlement
Postacı Halil Sokağı (Street of Halil the Postman)
Tarabya (Θεραπειά), Sarıyer, Istanbul
Thursday morning, March 2, 2023

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Focus (Iliad Book XVI)

Book XVI of the Iliad is where Patroclus

  • comes out to fight in Achilles’s armor,
  • kills Zeus’s son Sarpedon,
  • pushes on to the walls of Troy,
  • is killed by Hector.

In 2019, I gave a fair summary of the book, saying the story was that of Icarus. This time, I shall look at some other details:

  • Achilles continues his struggle for equality.
  • His mother sent him off with a chest of warm clothes.
  • Boys have always taunted wasps.
  • As if he were a boy, Hera tells Zeus, “What if everybody else did the same thing?” when he considers saving his son.
  • Automedon’s response to a problem is not autonomic, but autonomous.
  • Glaucus has a personal relationship with God.
  • It is Zeus’s mind that takes our own off things we mean to do.

A squatting man aims his mobile at several crows who are confronting a cat on a concrete wharf. Beyond them is the Bosphorus, leading out to the Black Sea beneath a suspension bridge between Europe and Asia
Kireçburnu, Sarıyer, Istanbul, Friday, March 10, 2023
The cat whom the crows were harrassing soon walked off

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Masculinity (Iliad Book XV)

In Book XIV of the Iliad, Hera distracted Zeus while Poseidon helped the Achaeans fight off the Trojans. Now, in Book XV, Zeus takes control again. He tells Apollo to let the Trojans, under the leadership of Hector, come to the point of burning the Achaean ships.

On a billboard by the sea, a young man with bare shoulders thrusts as us a dark blue bottle of shampoo and shower gel. The background of the advertisement is black.
Sarıyer, European Istanbul, March 6, 2023

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