THE STORY (50 minutes) This episode traces the personal griefs of two bitter enemies: Achilles, who has lost his best friend and soul mate, Patroclus; and King Priam, who has lost his son and his heir, Hector. Both Achilles and Priam are inconsolable, until Zeus and Deadly Destiny unite them, under the roof of one tent. What transpires in that tent is truly remarkable.
THE COMMENTARY: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT & WHY DOES HOMER END THE ILIAD HERE? (19 minutes; begins at 50:00) With this podcast episode I conclude telling those episodes of the Trojan War Epic which are found in Homer’s Iliad. Trojan War: The Podcast will continue, of course, but without benefit of Homer’s remarkable text. In this post story commentary I pause to address a question commonly asked by first-time readers through Homer’s Iliad: why does Homer end his story with the funeral of Hector, when there are clearly so many “what happens next?” questions left to answer? To wit: what happens to Paris; to Helen; to Achilles; to the Greek army; to the city of Troy itself? The beginning of an answer to this question starts by reminding my podcast listeners that Homer’s original audience (c. 700 B.C.E.) already knew the answer to every “what happens next” question. The story of the Trojan War was the foundational cultural document of the Greeks, from the days of the war itself (c. 1250 B.C.E.) right up through Homer’s own time, and then for another seven centuries or so afterwards. So when Homer constructed the Iliad, he did not have to worry about addressing questions of “what has already happened”, or questions of “what will happen afterwards”. His audience already knew. Instead, Homer could leap into his story in medias res (the middle of things) and then, 24 books later, leave his story still in medias res. And since Homer could confidently assume his listeners knew the plot, he could instead focus his artistry on other concerns, namely character. And so the Iliad has no intention of being the complete story of the Trojan War, but instead is the story of one man’s experience of a few short weeks during that war. The Iliad is primarily the story of Achilles; of his transformative journey from the day he loses Briseis, through to that day on which he returns Hector’s body: a story that unfolds over a matter of mere weeks, in an epic that unfolds over decades. Right from the Iliad’s opening lines, Homer makes his subject clear. Homer opens not with the invocation: “Sing goddess, of the terrible Trojan War ….”, but instead with “Sing goddess, of the rage of Achilles …” (That Homer manages, through his story of Achilles, to accomplish so much more – to show us terrible/glorious war; to make us believe in the gods and Deadly Destiny; and to breathe compelling characters into life – well those accomplishments are simply additional testament to Homer’s storytelling art). I conclude the post story commentary by noting that Trojan War: The Podcast is not in the “great art” business, but rather in the more pedestrian “what happens next?” business. And my own guiding rule, since way back in Episode One: The Apple of Discord, is to respect that many of my listeners do not know “what happens next”. So I have done my best to navigate, dance, bob and weave around all possible plot spoilers. So, listen to Trojan War: The Podcast for the fun of the story; but then go back to Homer’s Iliad for the pleasure of the art!
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