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Perhaps you have experienced the feeling of having missed out on literature that happened before you were born. Taken to its logical extreme, you are likely to browse through your library for the oldest written work, and end up with a book written around the 8th century BC. That is how I got started on this epic by Homer (not the Simpson). As is the case with books that you read after watching the movies based on them, when you read about Achilles you think Brad Pitt, or for that matter, Orlando Bloom when you read about Paris, or the beautiful actress that plays Helen in the movie Troy, when you read about, well, Helen.

The book is about war – and the war is over a woman, Helen. Now imagine your are a soldier in the midst of a war between the Greeks and the Trojans. It doesn’t matter what side you are on – your survival depends on whether you have been beget by a God (often, Zeus), or have the special protection (aegis, if you will) of one of those in the pantheon of Greek gods, who will run to your rescue and cover you in a storm of dust or steal you away from the midst of battle at your weakest, most susceptible moment. If you cannot boast of either of the above, then you are likely to be sent to Hades, which is ancient Greek euphemism for – you are f***ed!. You could try bribing a god or two with a hecatomb, and if they are pleased, they will let you breathe a while longer.

I am just about half-way through the book. The battle is still raging on – the Trojans seem like they have an upper-hand, while Achilles and his Myrmidons are twiddling their thumbs and watching the battle but refuse to help the Greeks because the Greek/Argive king Agamemnon took for himself the woman (Briseis) originally won Achilles at the end of the previous pillaging operation. Evidently, the easiest way to piss off a greek warrior is to take away his woman. The gods seem to watch the battle with interest from the comfort of Mt. Olympus; the battle is like reality TV for them, except there is no TV, and ever so often they feel the need to run up to the stage and interfere.

The Iliad reminds us of an earlier, simpler time when having your wife run away with another could be reason enough to wage a long bloody war; when the worth of a warrior was based not on the number of FB friends they possessed, rather on the number of horses and cattle and the soldiers and slaves they commanded. But that shouldn’t stop you from pausing in the middle of battle to remind your assailer that his grandpa and your grandpa were best friends, and ask him if he is willing to make franship with you (in classic Greek, so it sounds mythically sincere). If he is cool with that, he will smile and give you a hug; if he is not, he will send you to Hades, and then smile. You really don’t want to go to Hades.

My goal is to finish the book before the next greek myth movie, Immortals is released. If it interests you, the film has Freida Pinto playing a beautiful Greek woman of unknown heritage dispensing cliche-like wisdom. Imagine that.

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