Homer’s Iliad pulsates with war and violence, sometimes wrapped in glory but often shrouded as much in sorrow. Here, hostility and quarrel are portrayed as heart-breaking, or as we might say, soul-destroying. The second stretch simile is particularly a plea against anger. 

See other examples of the heart effects of quarrel, anger and hatred, and Dante’s own plea for the life-wasting pointlessness of feuds.  See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson’s magnificent Why Homer Matters, and Christopher Logue’s War Musica muscular rendition of several books of the Iliad. 

 

‘As far as goes the driving cast of a slender javelin

which a man throws making trial of his strength, either in a contest

or else in battle, under the heart-breaking hostilities,

so far the Trojans gave way with the Achaians pushing them.’  

 

‘But what have you and I to do with the need for squabbling

and hurling insults at each other, as if we were two wives

who when they have fallen upon a heart-perishing quarrel

go out in the street and say abusive things to each other,

much true, and much that is not, and it is their rage that drives them.’

 

Source: Homer, The Iliad of Homer, trans. Richmond Lattimore (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1961 (1951)), book XVI, p. 346 and book XX, p. 411

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