Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer

Barbara Graziosi writes:

Homeric poetry is vivid and precise. We can smell the dust, hear the din of battle and follow the tip of a spear as it inflicts a wound ‘between the neck and the collarbone’. Even the gods – those obsolete pagan idols – seem familiar. Apollo kicks down the Achaean wall

like a child who piles sand by the seashore\ and makes a tower to amuse himself in his innocence\ and then, still playing, wrecks it with his hands and feet.

Athena deflects an arrow away from Menelaus ‘like a mother brushing a fly away from her sleeping baby’. And Hera, after quarrelling with Zeus, runs back home to Olympus

like an idea that flashes in the mind of a man\ who has travelled far and wide, and thinks in his mind’s awareness,\ ‘I wish I were in that place, or this,’ and imagines many things;\ so swiftly travelled Hera in her haste, a goddess.

(LRB 27 August 2009)

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