Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Some random thoughts about the Trojan War, based on my reading of the Iliad and the movie Troy (starring Sean Bean, Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Peter O'Toole, and Brad Pitt's abs). Presented for your contempt, we have some feeble wit, a couple of would-be aphorisms, and a bit of sarcasm masquerading as literary criticism.

:clears throat:



Thank you.

Helen's face launched a thousand ships, but she also got some ridiculous number of men killed, including Paris, the turdball with whom she ran off (he survived in the movie), and the city of Troy destroyed. How beautiful was she after Troy fell and the Greeks dragged her back to Sparta in chains? Or was the sack of Troy just included in the ship-launching metaphor?

Women who act like princesses are nothing but trouble. This is a universal constant, not limited to the archaic eastern Mediterranean.

Ambitious alpha-male men who think with their dicks are nothing but trouble. This is a universal constant, not limited to the archaic eastern Mediterranean.

Really, all the Trojan War boils down to is a series of fights over whose Tab A is in whose Slot B. Menelaus, Helen, and Paris. Achilles, Briseis, and Agamemnon. Ye gods, imagine the lives that would have been spared if these people had discovered the threeway, the open marriage, swinging, or friends-with-benefits. "Such, my children, is the role of sex in history….."

Ah, Mycenae.... an empire founded on trade, military might, and man-on-man buggery. It was nice to see how the downgraded Patroclus from Achilles squire and probable significant other to 'cousin.' Then again, in the original, Achilles was being punished for murdering Troilus, a boy who turned him down… and in that case his big booboo was that he killed the dude in a friggin' temple and annoyed the resident deity. Blood's hell on carpets, don't you know?

Then again, most gods never seem to know when to leave well enough alone…….

The Trojan horse has become proverbial, but it's not even IN the Iliad….it's mentioned in passing in the Odyssey, but the usual account of the horse and the fall of Troy is actually from the Aeneid, which was written sometime in the reign of Augustus Caesar.

A beach is a really shitty place to make a military camp. No shelter, you're on the lowest ground around (if it was higher it wouldn't BE a beach), and where are you going to get drinking water and dig latrines? Now imagine farting around there for TEN YEARS. No wonder Odysseus had had enough!

Peter O'Toole delivered a line as the Trojan King Priam: "No father ever had a better son." What about Richard, Geoffrey, and John? It just struck me how this line echoed the excellent movie Pete did back in the 60s named The Lion In Winter (Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Anthony Hopkins as Richard the Lionheart, and Timothy Dalton as the king of France, with Pete as Henry II of England), where the whole movie revolved around Henry's problems with his sons, a situation which led into the whole Good King Richard/Wicked Prince John/Robin Hood thing.

I know the book starts with "Sing, Muse, the wrath of Achilles the son of Peleus, the destructive wrath, that brought a thousand griefs upon the Achaeans," but it seems to me that it's more about everyone's hubris, not just Achilles'. Some people really need to rethink themselves and open up to the possibility that as much as you want something, it might inconvenience a LOT of people if you raise enough hell to get it. That's as true for Paris, Menelaus, and Achilles as it is for George W. Bush and Hilary Clinton.

I never liked Achilles, I always felt sorry for Hector, and my hero used to be Ajax. For many years I used the screen name Ajax1453 for everything…. I had a real thing for last-ditch do-or-die stands when I thought THAT one up (1453 was the year Constantinople fell to the Ottomans). Nowadays, though, I think Odysseus is the real hero on the Greek side of the story, and the only guy I really admire anymore because he actually stops to think, and comes up with the Trojan Horse and the ruse that ultimately wins them the war. Granted, he was also the one who had the sense to try to get out of going to the war in the first place, by pretending to be insane when the summons from Agamemnon came.

Is Achilles a hero or a psychotic asshole? Are those two terms synonymous? I used to wonder how much of Achilles' lethality and daring was because he didn't have to worry about dying…. But then I did some checking and lo, the whole invulnerability thing only cropped up in the Roman era, when the 'Achilles' heel' thing appeared. His mother supposedly dunked him in the Styx River in order to make him invulnerable, but missed one heel. Hello, moot point…. I guess it really was all about choosing a short glorious life over a long quiet one.

Eh, so much for glory anyhow. Achilles was never defeated in man-to-man fighting, but then again it was hardly a fair contest because he was only half-human to begin with (his mother was a sea nymph). He was the finest warrior on either side, and what happens? Paris shoots him through the ankle.

What is it with Orlando bloom and longbows, anyhow?

For a story so full of heroes, in my opinion, the bravest thing in the whole saga was old King Priam sneaking into the Greek camp in disguise so that he could beg Achilles to give back his son Hector's mutilated body so that Hector could have a proper burial.

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