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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Femininity (Iliad Book XIV)

An editor of the Iliad might remove Book XIII, as I said last time; however, the book has

  • its own intrinsic interest, in its portrait of the two brothers, Hector and Paris;
  • a function in Homer’s main story, by showing that Achilles’s labor strike can fail.

The strike can fail through the prowess of scabs. Poseidon encourages crossing the picket line. In Book XIV,

  • Agamemnon worries that not enough men are crossing the line;
  • Hera uses her feminine wiles against the virility of her husband;
  • her brother can now pursue strike-breaking more openly.

A crow behind him, a helmeted man sits on motorcycle contemplating his mobile while the Bosphorus, and Asia beyond, is to his left At the edge of the Bosphorus, a woman squats to photograph a gull with her mobile

Yeniköy (Νεοχώριον), Sarıyer, Istanbul
Tuesday afternoon, February 21, 2023

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Potential (Iliad Book XIII)

Let us first look at the calendar. We see the dawn of a new day in the Iliad in Book I, line 477, when the mission led by Odysseus to give Chryseis back to her father Chryses sails back to the Achaean camp at Troy.

The day before, when the mission arrived in Chryse, Thetis told Achilles that, the day before that, Zeus and the other gods had gone to visit the Ethiopians in Oceanus, but would return on the twelfth day (lines 423–5).

It is not clear to me just how the counting is done, but a twelfth dawn comes on line 493, when the gods return to Olympus, and Thetis gets the nod from Zeus that he will honor Achilles, who meanwhile has been going neither to the “place of gathering” (ἀγορή, line 490) nor to war. We are given no details, such as we now see in Book XIII, of how the war has been going.

Two dogs on a stone plaza among the shadows of the bare trees that are behind them
Two dogs play-fighting
Haydar Aliyev Parkı
Kireçburnu, Sarıyer, Istanbul
Saturday morning, February 18, 2023

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Monism (Iliad Book XII)

At the end of the first half of the Iliad, as measured by its twenty-four books, the Trojans breech the Achaean defenses, in an assault led by Hector, who smashes through a gate with a stone. Homer describes even the physics involved (lines 457–60):

He came and stood very close and taking a strong wide stance threw
at the middle, leaning into the throw, that the cast might not lack
force, and smashed the hinges at either side, and the stone crashed
ponderously in …

Before this breakthrough, the two sides have been deadlocked, as in two examples from civilian life.

  • In the first example, neighbors are fixing the property line that divides them (lines 421–4):

    but as two men with measuring ropes in their hands fight bitterly
    about a boundary line at the meeting place of two cornfields,
    and the two of them fight in the strait place over the rights of division,
    so the battlements held these armies apart …

    Two cats, one black one white, keep their distance at the head of a stone walkway
    Above Kireçburnu (Κλειδὴς καὶ κλεῖθρα Πόντου, Lock and key of the Pontus)
    Sarıyer, Istanbul, Thursday, February 9, 2023

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Soap (Iliad Book XI)

At the end of Book XI of the Iliad, the Trojans have the upper hand. They have wounded a number of Achaeans, as one of them, Eurypylus, tells Patroclus (lines 822–6):

No longer, illustrious Patroklos, can the Achaians
defend themselves, but they will be piled back into their black ships.
For all of these who were before the bravest in battle
are lying up among the ships with arrow or spear wounds
under the hands of the Trojans whose strength is forever on the uprise.

Nestor has just suggested to Patroclus that he fight in the armor of Achilles. The idea is a key element of the arc of the epic, but will not be realized till Book XVI, when Patroclus proposes it to Achilles without mentioning its provenance.

Perhaps I never thought about whether the idea was original to Patroclus. When I wrote about Book XI in 2018, I did not point out Nestor’s introduction of the idea there.

Orange sky seen through bare trees along an empty four-lane undivided road
ἠὼς δ᾽ ἐκ λεχέων παρ᾽ ἀγαυοῦ Τιθωνοῖο
ὄρνυθ᾽, ἵν᾽ ἀθανάτοισι φόως φέροι ἠδὲ βροτοῖσι
“Now Dawn rose from her couch from beside lordly Tithonus
to bring light to immortals and to mortal men” (Iliad XI.1–2)
Cloudy winter sunrise over Θεραπειά, Sarıyer, Istanbul
Saturday, February 4, 2023

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Points of an Ellipse

This is about an image that is intended

  • to be decorative,
  • to establish the mathematical construction, with ruler and compass, of points of an ellipse.

Diagram with colored regions whose borders are discussed in the text

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Verity (Iliad Book X)

The Trojans are watching, lest the Achaeans sail away in the night. Achilles is staying in his own camp. As we open Book X of the Iliad, Agamemnon cannot sleep. He worries, not just about the Trojans, but about whether his own men are properly worried.

A swimming man leaves a wake in a calm sea, whose gravelly bottom is seen in the foreground
One of two men I found swimming near Kireçburnu
Sarıyer, Istanbul
Sunday, New Year’s Day, 2023

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Loneliness (Iliad Book IX)

I could have called this post “Democracy versus Autocracy.”

Four pigeons on a street face away from one another. The body of a cat on all fours is directed at them, but the cat’s head is turned away
Four pigeons and a cat
Tarabya Bayır Caddesi / Yücelevler Sokağı
(We live in the development behind the retaining wall)
Tarabya, Sarıyer, Istanbul
Wednesday morning, January 4, 2023

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Emotional Contagion (Iliad VIII)

On the day recounted in Book VIII of the Iliad,

  • on earth, the Achaeans are twice driven behind their new walls;
    • during the first rout,
      • Odysseus does not hear when Diomedes urges him to come to the aid of Nestor;
      • Hector thinks he will be able to burn the Achaean ships and kill all the men;
      • Agamemnon prays for mere survival;
    • the second time, Hector calls for fires to be lit, lest the Greeks try to escape in the night;
  • in heaven, Zeus
    • weighs out a heavier fate for the Achaeans;
    • declares that it shall be so until Achilles is roused by the death of Patroclus;
    • warns Hera and Athena not to interfere (though they try to anyway).

I wrote a fuller summary in 2017. Because I was reading it, I also talked about Huysmans, Against Nature, and the belief of the main character that the prose poem could

contain within its small compass, like beef essence, the power of a novel, while eliminating its tedious analyses and superfluous descriptions.

Now I shall find reason to bring up Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, Thoreau, and Freud, and especially William James and Collingwood on the subject of emotion.

Morning sun, obscured by overcast skies, still shines on waters in turmoil in the Bosphorus Strait
Waters of the Bosphorus, Sarıyer, Istanbul
Wednesday morning, January 11, 2023

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