06-26-2011 01:08 PM
Both sound like interesting reads. I also give the Greek gods a role in my new novel, although a more passive role- I give a new building the shape of Poseidon's trident. I migh include a more active role for the Gods in later novels.
I'm sorry I left for a while- I'm doing other things while I take a chapter of "The Illiad" in, every once in a while. It's interesting that you mention Dionysus, who I think is more interesting and more important than some of the other Gods. The entire Mediterranean region always seemed to be this region rich in different languages and cultures which influenced each other through trade, war, plundering and otherwise, amicability - all made possible by the Mediterranean Sea. But "cultural identity" was probably difficult for cultures around the mediterranean to find and maintain. "Rome" seemed to be this cultural anomoly which borrowed, and I use "borrow" loosely, art, architecture, and technology from other countries, like Greece, but managed to create a cultural identity so strong that it still lives, even though we consider Rome to be an "extinct" culture.
Interestingly, Rome rests on volcanic soil- an "agriculturally rich" soil- ideal for grape growing and wine making, and Pre-Roman civilizations, like the Etruscans, were grape growers and wine makers. Gradually, wine addiction became Gods like Dionysus, and the Roman God Bacchus, who may have been responsible for toppling their own civilizations built on wine and the wine trade.
08-02-2011 09:28 AM
In my opinion, the shield represents "identity." But the shield not only represents identity but obviously has practical uses in war (i.e. it can save your own life). And depicted on Achilles' shield forged by Haephestus: grapes and wine making. But walled cities and other aspects of panhellenic culture(s) are also depicted on the shield.
A wall, like a shield, is a barrier which forms identity, like the walls of Troy. While a wall is what I would consider to be "cultural identity", a shield might be more akin to "individual" identity, especially a shield made specifically for you, your grandma, or in this case, Achilles. Interestingly, Achilles' shield depicts "internal strife" or "dirty politics" often associated with walled cities- perhaps illustrating the paradox that walls, borders, or even shields, are barriers which both form and also destroy identity, whether it be cutltural or individual identity. More "pure" or "golden" might is the shield, not the wall.
Also notable is the river Oceanus, which surrounds the edge of the shield. In the end, is cultural or indvivdual identity something which comes from a river? Or is it just a river? Mark Twain writes about the importance of the Mississippi River to the history of the U.S. And no one denies the importance of rivers like the Nile or the Tiber rivers to both eastern and western civilizations. And finally, sometimes cultural identity meets at a river- that is, they help define borders all over the world.
08-03-2011 01:37 PM
And to the above:
The artist's struggle, or the poet's struggle, is often a struggle of the individual vs. the collective. Sometimes the artist is lost in the battle (hopefully, the artist chose metalworking- that way he can actually use his art in battle (I wouldn't consider arms manufacturing to be an art form. Well, maybe. It's not as it was in the Bronze Age anyway )....And sometimes the artist's identity becomes the identity of the greater collective, like Homer's "Iliad." Different styles of art are associated with different kinds of cultures/civilizations.
PS- I'd also like to do "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu- well, after the next group. I'd like to to try more eastern classics- Sun Tzu might be a great place to start.....
08-05-2011 11:36 AM
I would like to The Art of War again sometime, too.
08-08-2011 10:19 AM
I would like to The Art of War again sometime, too.
That would be great! I think I will add it to my group of books- that would make one titanic group of novels for next year!
"The Art Of War" by Sun Tzu has been described as an influence not only in war but also in business tactics. How influential is "The Art of War" in modern business? Where does business strategy and war strategy meet? Are commerce and war inseparable, making war unavoidable? Or is war something we can avoid?- these might be some interesting questions for next fall!!!!
As I mentioned, whatever historical information we can uncover about the "Trojan War," we know that the "Mediterranean region" is a region rich in trade and has been for centuries- trade facillitated by the sea itself. And as early states and city-states had begun to form by trading with each other, cultural identities that were built originally on regional staples or commodities were lost, and new identities had to be fomed. Eventually my culture's identity became war, like Athena or Ares. Or my individual identity was formed in war, with a shield or a spear....very interesting, these books from the past....
PS- Trade-offs in war, like business, are constantly being made in "The Iliad"- the Gods weigh sides, Greeks and Trojans wear one another's armor, or switch positions in battle, etc.
08-16-2011 11:46 AM
I also paint and write, and I consider to both to be "artistic" endeavors. Homer describes beautifully crafted helmets, like Athena's, and beautifully crafted shields, like Achilles'- so, "art in war" during the Trojan War is obvious, if not explicitly stated in the title of the book, like "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu.
In "Ihe Iliad", Homer consistently compares the characters and the character's actions to what we observe in Nature. And although the characters may resemble Nature, in fact they were somewhat removed from Nature, because of what they could produce artistically, maybe in the form of a shield, or a helmet. And some characters were actually "supernatural" (i.e.Demi-Gods, or Gods) fighting with supernatural weapons.
The question I asked myself while I was reading was: Will a competitive free market inevitably lead to war, or the destruction of mankind? Remember that companies must compete in order to survive, and they often compete by imitating eath other's products...
So, in my mind, humanity had to be different, or "better" than Nature, where living things compete and the "most fit" survive, just when people became artisans like Haephestus. Moreover, humanity had to be different from Nature not only after WW2, but, most importantly, it had to be different after the Trojan War. I wonder if this is the ultimate message of "The Iliad?"
-not good news as usual, but "the Iliad" is always interesting.
PS- Human beings became supernatural beings with what they could produce with their minds and their hands.
08-17-2011 09:11 AM - edited 08-17-2011 09:22 AM
The funeral games for Patroclus are examples of "regulated" competitions- that is, regulated by Achilles. The games, although in the midst of war over a dead body, are what I would describe as "healthy" competition, much like the Olympic games. And perhaps "unhealthy" compeition might best describe competition in which a man or a woman loses his or her life, like the Trojan War, within which the funeral games actually take place.
There obviously is a fine line between healthy and unhealthy competition. Athletes have lost their lives during the Olympic games, for example. Moreover, Patroclus kills someone over a game of dice in his childhood, which leads to his friendship with Achilles. And the "healthy" competition of the funeral games atone for, or at least provide some final compensation for a murder of what was an innocent game of dice in Patroclus' childhood.
The entire chapter, of course, begs the questions of when and if there can be "healthy" competition, whether the competition takes place on athletic fields and/or in the marketplace...but I think we're still trying to figure out how we can achieve this...
PS- Unhealthy competition as competition in which you lose your own life may be defining "unhealthy competition" a little crudely. But maybe you might have your own definition...
08-19-2011 10:09 AM - edited 08-19-2011 10:46 AM
The take-home message, in my opinion, was that competition among humans became something unnatural, or even supernatural, resembling the Gods and Goddesses of Mt. Olympus. And in fact, in "The Iliad", human characters are often influenced by the Gods, and some characters are actually demi-Gods. Moreover, the competition which takes place in "the Iliad" is a war in which a more innocent competition over a woman, namely Helen, escalates to full-scale war. And characters, like Achilles, are fated to die.
So, as we prepare for the next summer Olympics in 2012, please remember the message of "The Iliad" and the hope of the Olympics in general- that humanity can prevent competition, in any form, from becoming war.
PS- the hope for the Olympics- allegations over bribery of IOC members, notwithstanding....
08-22-2011 11:34 AM
"The Odyssey" begins with a group of suitors who take over the property of Odysseus while he is away at war. And the entire taking and subsequent sharing of the property reminds me of some form of communism- or what we consider to be eastern ideology. Essentially, you have competition and free trade (although "plundering" pushes the limits of the definition of free trade) in "The Iliad", and a subsequent taking of property resulting from the Trojan war in "The Odyssey" . Although I wouldn't call the suitors' taking of property a "plundering" necessarily. That is, the suitors took property through tradition and custom, but pushed the limits of custom and tradition as well- a plundering, but maybe a "lesser form" of plundering?
So, rather than consider "The Iliad" and "The Art of War" as western and eastern thought, or where western and eastern thought meet, what about just compaing "The Iliad" to "The Odyssey." Did Homer consider the world to be in a vicious cycle, moving between eastern and western political and/or economic philosophies?