Sheer from the sea

Sheer from the sea

In 1916, in the middle of the First World War, Louis Golding sailed passed Ithaca.  Minds were on other things than Homer and Odysseus, but this evocative statement about the island, uttered by a sailor on the boat deck, must have contributed to his long-delayed but...
The poet as compass

The poet as compass

An enigmatic statement, perhaps born of the difficulty of pinning down Odysseus’ journey on a real map, although there is no shortage of claims that this bay, or that island, or those straits are unquestionably this, that or the other eventful point on his...
Pah to the Iliad

Pah to the Iliad

Tom dismisses one of the world’s greatest epics, a 3,000 year old classic of war, on the grounds that its heroes cannot be verified and nor did they even use cannon. Pitiful. Unlike the Duke of Wellington, alive and well in Tom’s time and in full...
Hard-breathing horses

Hard-breathing horses

Caught up in the maelstrom of battle between the Greeks and Trojans, these horses have just seen their master massacred, and free of his chariot, and possibly traumatised by the violence, they try to bolt, but are held back. Homer never shies away from the graphic...
Horn-curved cattle

Horn-curved cattle

Homer describes these cattle and some 3,000 years later, yesterday, I passed them grazing in a field in Switzerland as we drove to Geneva on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It was unusual to see horned cattle and these were distinctly curved, and we commented on them.  Then...
Gleam-footed horse

Gleam-footed horse

You can see the gleam of its hooves, as I once saw in a perfectly preened and prepared pedigree horse whose hooves had been polished with oil.  But its hoof-gleam is the least of it, this glorious creature speaks, having had a voice put in him by the preeminent...
Sweet-garlanded lady

Sweet-garlanded lady

None other than Artemis, or Diana, Apollo’s twin, and goddess of wild animals and hunting. Struck by Ever Angry Hera (or Juno), my least liked goddess, and a handful even for omnipotent Zeus.   ‘Artemis sweet-garlanded lady of clamours answered him:...
Beware the Idomeneus spear

Beware the Idomeneus spear

Famed with good reason – see his bringing another warrior to meet his ‘dark-named destiny’.  However, the most graphic and distressing spearing I recall from the Iliad is by Patroclus, Achilles’ great pal.  And that’s before we let loose...
Beware the rip-fanged hound

Beware the rip-fanged hound

A terrifying image of Odysseus in pursuit of prey, like a flesh-tearing dog on the trail of a defenseless deer or rabbit.  Odysseus, loving son, father, husband, great wise hero and, let us not forget, ‘sacker of cities’.  He’s a complex...
Wine after washing

Wine after washing

A libation to Athene in thanks for her beneficence. But first, a bath and a meal. And then that lovely offering of ‘sweet-hearted’ wine. See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson’s magnificent Why Homer Matters and...
Voice communications

Voice communications

Consider the vital role of the herald before mechanical forms of broadcast, and how important the quality and strength of their voice.  Here, like leaders before and for millennia after, Agamemnon relies on heralds to summon his men. Another age-old though unlamented...
Bronze-armoured Achaians

Bronze-armoured Achaians

The Trojan war was a Bronze Age affair, magnificently evoked in different sea-surrounded places by two books of Adam Nicolson. His Sea Room touches on the Bronze Age in a remote island off the coast of Scotland, while Why Homer Matters brings it into vivid view in...

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