Category Archives: Books

On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book IX

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

Book VIII of the Iliad is easily summarized. Chapman does it in four lines.

TO Agamemnon (vrging hopelesse flight)
Stand Diomed, and Nestor opposite:
By Nestors counsell, Legats are dismist,
To Thetis sonne, who still denies t’assist.

These lines hide a wealth of thought. To suggest some of the gems of the book, I expand the summary.

Dog and seaweed on shore opposite Lesbos, 2017.09.14


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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book VIII

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

In the eighth of the twenty-four books of the Iliad, the battle is even all morning, until Jove weighs out the fates of the two sides. The fate of the Greeks is heavier. They are driven back to the wall around their ships. Juno and Pallas try to help them, until warned off by Jove. The Trojans camp outside the Greek wall, lighting fires, at Hector’s command, so that they can see through the night whether the Greeks are trying to escape.

Altınova 2017.09.13

In the fourteenth of the sixteen chapters of the 1884 novel Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans (in the translation by Margaret Mauldon, Oxford World’s Classics, 1998/2009, from the French original, A rebours), the narrator describes a thought of the main and indeed only character that is connected to the aim of the present series of articles on the Iliad.

Many times had Des Esseintes reflected upon the thorny problem of how to condense a novel into a few sentences, which would contain the quintessence of the hundreds of pages always required to establish the setting, sketch the characters, and provide a mass of observations and minor facts in corroboration. The words chosen would then be so inevitable that they would render all other words superfluous; the adjective, positioned in so ingenious and so definitive a manner that it could not legitimately be displaced, would open up such vistas that for days on end the reader would ponder over its meaning, at once precise and manifold, would know the present, reconstruct the past, and make conjectures about the future of the souls of the characters, as these were revealed by the light of that single epithet.

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book VII

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

On the recommendation of his brother Helenus, Hector invites any one of the Greeks to single combat—as his brother Paris did, though this is not recollected. The proposed combat will not resolve the war, but may remove from one side, by death, its best man. No Greek takes the challenge until Menelaus offers to. Agamemnon stops him, since he is not good enough. Nestor chides the Greeks, recalling how he once took the challenge of fighting Ereuthalion and won. Nine Greeks now come forward. A lot being picked from Agamemnon’s helmet, Ajax Telemon recognizes it as his own. His combat with Hector ends not with death, but with night and exchange of gifts. In Troy, Paris rejects a suggestion that he return Helen to Menelaus, but he is willing to return her property, and more. This offer is rejected, but not an offer of a truce for burial of the dead. The Greeks build a wall around their burial site and themselves, offending Neptune by not making due sacrifices first. Jove says Neptune may raze the wall when the Greeks go back home. Meanwhile the Greeks enjoy wine purchased from a merchant fleet of Lemnos.

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book VI

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

Book VI of the Iliad may illustrate or test what I have also been reading, whose second title is Man, Society, Civilization and Barbarism. For the Greeks, the Trojan war is a fight for civilization, against the barbarism of stealing the wife of the man who has played host to you. In Book VI is the great exemplar of civilization: the meeting of Diomedes with Glaucus. Discovering that the grandfather of his Trojan enemy had once been a guest of his own grandfather, Diomedes urges that he and Glaucus must exchange gifts, be friends, and avoid meeting on the battlefield; and Glaucus agrees.

One flame of the Chimera, with my backpack, 2009

The Greeks are still some ways from civilization. For Collingwood in New Leviathan,

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book V

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

Book V of the Iliad is long and rich, with as many characters as War and Peace, and stories within stories. The main story is of Tydeus’s son Diomedes, who with Pallas’s help is able to wound both Venus and Mars—I follow Chapman in using the Roman names.

  • Mars agrees with Minerva not to interfere with the war, but she immediately breaks the agreement.
  • A skilled hunter is successfully hunted down.
  • An oracle is mentioned that the Trojans should not go to sea; the master builder of Paris’s ships is slain.
  • A man who can read the future in dreams is bereft of the sons he let go to war.
  • An old man loses his only sons, the offspring of his old age.
  • Pandarus, who broke the truce and shot Menelaus, had left his horses in Lycia, because he didn’t think they would eat well in Troy.
  • The story is mentioned twice of the horses of Aeneas, offspring of the horses of Jove.
  • Pandarus thinks the horses of Aeneas will respond better to his command than Pandarus’s.
  • Venus is not the first deity to have been injured by a mortal, and her mother Dione advices patience.
  • “He that fights with heaven hath never long to live”—or perhaps to have a faithful wife.
  • Dione can cure a wound without balm.
  • “The race of gods is far above men creeping here below.”
  • Sarpedon discusses justice and sets an example of it.
  • “Strength is but strength of will.”
  • To have self-confidence may be good, but not to tempt fate.
  • Pallas has a theory of just war.

At the beginning of the book, Pallas breathes on Diomedes, so that he shines “like rich Autumnus’ golden lampe” (line 6). This lamp is “Sirius, the star whose rising marked the beginning of” ὀπώρα or late summer, according to the Liddell–Scott lexicon, which refers to the passage of Homer under the featured adjectival form, ὀπωρ-ινός , ή, όν.

Diomedes’s first target is the sons of Dares, a priest of Mulciber (namely Hephaestus or, as the Romans, Chapman, and now I have it, Vulcan). The spear of Ideus hits the left shoulder of Diomedes, but does no harm, while Diomedes deals Ideus a fatal blow. Vulcan (called “the God, great president of fire” in line 23) helps Ideus’s brother Phegeus to flee.

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NL XX: Society and Community

Index to this series

A society is an act of will: it emerges and persists because its members will that it do so. We said this in the previous chapter; we say it now in more detail. In particular, we impose on a society no such further requirement of economic interest as Roman lawyers (apparently) did.

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book IV

Index | Text

The gods confer. The humans can make war or peace; which shall it be? Juno insists on war, so that Troy can be punished. When Jove objects, Juno offers up her most beloved Greek cities in return. Mycenae, Argos, and Sparta: let Jove destroy them at will, if only Pallas be sent to induce one of the Trojans to break the truce.

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Ahtamar Island

During a mathematics conference, I visit the ruins of a monastery on a remote island in an inland sea. I am moved to consider the relation between introversion and, if not mathematics, then monasticism. On the origins of Christian monasticism, I look at several sources, notably Gibbon (see the References); and Maugham, on a hermit on an island of the Torres Strait. Since the monastery on the island was Armenian, in what is now Turkey, one should consider also the treatment of minority populations in Turkey. I acknowledge the issue only here, suggesting Wikipedia pages (linked to presently) as a starting point for research. Old books on my shelves are not much help; my own experience, not much more, at least not in a way that lends itself to being written of here, though I know for example that Turkish politicians will openly treat imputations of their own Armenian ancestry as an insult.

We visited Ahtamar Island for a second time on Wednesday, August 23, 2017. Thus we saw again the remains of the Church of the Holy Cross. This Armenian church was consecrated in 921 and presumably desecrated in 1915, if not earlier; now, since our last visit, though officially a museum, the church would seem to have been reconsecrated, to judge by the new altarpiece, featuring an icon of the Madonna and Child.


Altarpiece, Church of the Holy Cross, Ahtamar Island

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Hypomnesis

When is a help a hindrance? The Muses have provoked this question. They did this through their agents, the cicadas, who sang around the European Cultural Center of Delphi, during the 11th Panhellenic Logic Symposium, July 12–5, 2017.

     Cicada, European Cultural Center of Delphi, 2017.07.15     
Cicada, European Cultural Center of Delphi, 2017.07.15

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War and Talk

This is a foray into the mystery of how things happen, based the 164th of the 361 chapters of War and Peace. This chapter contains, in a one-sentence paragraph, a summary of Tolstoy’s theory of history:

Each man lives for himself, using his freedom to attain his personal aims, and feels with his whole being that he can now do or abstain from doing this or that action; but as soon as he has done it, that action performed at a certain moment in time becomes irrevocable and belongs to history, in which it has not a free but a predestined significance.

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