Earlier today, I was surprised and delighted to learn of a 15-hour long performance of Homer’s epic poem The Iliad, while you can read the details of the event on this BBC link. I still occasionally encounter people who have been conditioned to believe that the classics are impenetrable and boring, so I was very pleased that both my children chose to study this subject at college of their own volition, presumably as a result of listening to me enthusing about Virgil, Catullus, Homer, Sappho, Juvenal and others since they were toddlers.
The temptation to write some enormous essay that tries to describe some of the deep satisfaction I’ve derived from reading the works of ancient Greeks and Romans is almost overwhelming, but instead, I’ll settle for presenting this achingly beautiful passage from The Iliad Book 8, lines 555 – 565, as translated by Lattimore, with my grateful thanks once again to Juris Ozols for bringing it to my attention some years ago:
“As when in the sky the stars about the moon’s shining
Are seen in all their glory, when the air has fallen to stillness,
And all the high places of the hills are clear, and the shoulders out-jutting,
And the deep ravines, as endless bright air spills from the heavens
And all the stars are seen, to make glad the heart of the shepherd;
Such in their numbers blazed the watchfires the Trojans were burning
Between the waters of Xanthos and the ships, before Ilion.
A thousand fires were burning there in the plain, and beside each
One sat fifty men in the flare of the blazing firelight.
And standing each beside his chariot, champing white barley
And oats, the horses waited for the dawn to mount to her high place.”