Category Archives: Homer

On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book III

Index | Text

The Iliad is about the feud between Achilles and Agamemnon, a feud that occurs during the Trojan War. Book III of the Iliad has nothing to do with Achilles, a little to do with Agamemnon, and everything to do with why the whole war is happening at all.

Photo of the tower of books used for this article

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book II

Index | Text

Even gods must sleep; but under the weight of his responsibility to Thetis, Zeus cannot. As Achilles pointed out in Book I, “dreams are often sent from Jove”; now we shall have a case in point.

All ways cast, this counsel serv’d his mind
With most allowance; to despatch a harmful Dream to greet
The king of men, and gave this charge: ‘Go to the Achive fleet,
Pernicious Dream…’
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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book I

This is the first of a planned series of articles on the 24 books of Homer’s Iliad. Before turning to the first book, I take up the provocative article of fellow mathematician Cathy O’Neil, “What If We Could Upload Books to Our Brains?” (Bloomberg View, April 13, 2017). It turns out that I first met O’Neil’s doctoral advisor Barry Mazur when he came to St John’s College in Annapolis in my freshman year, 1983–4, to talk about Faltings’ Theorem.

Index to this series | Text of Book I of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad Continue reading

Homer for the Civilian

The source of this essay is an essay and an ensuing conversation in 2009, on the theme of what Homer may mean in one’s life, and whether an application to one’s life involves an abuse of the original text. I wrote in July 2016 on analogies in Homer and elsewhere in “Thinking & Feeling”; my last post here considered an apparent instance of abuse of the Hebrew Bible.

At the end of the Iliad, to retrieve the body of his son Hector from Hector’s killer, King Priam of Troy visits Achilles in his tent in the evening, in the camp of the hostile Greeks. The scene may recall two political enemies from the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and Congressman Thomas O’Neill, Speaker of the House: these two were able to be on friendly terms “after 6 PM.”

Homer, Iliad,  Wordworth edition

Aleksandr Andreevich Ivanov, “King Priam begging Achilles for the Return of Hector’s Body,“ 1824 (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)


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Thinking & Feeling

This essay is written as a distraction from current events, though I make some reference to them. I am prompted by questions of analogy provoked by

  1. the similes of Homer, and
  2. a recent theater review in Harper’s that mentions the parables of Jesus.

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35th Istanbul Film Festival, 2016

I set out here to write about nine movies. I found I had so much to say that I have covered only three movies so far. I hope to write about the rest in later articles.

Photo of books referred to in this article

In the summer of 1994, I was a graduate student at the University of Maryland, and I had lived in the state since 1989. My roommate in a suburban apartment complex was finishing her own degree and moving away. I decided to move across the border into the city of Washington, where I had already become involved in some bicycle activism. I found a congenial vegetarian group house. I would bicycle the nine miles to the College Park campus. But moving to the city raised a moral question: should I really give up my political right to a meaningful vote? Continue reading

Turks of 1071 and Today



Skip to Michael Attaleiates on Alparslan after the Battle of Manzikert

Published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788, Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire tells the story of a thousand years and more, from before the founding of Constantinople in 330 till after its loss in 1453. Gibbon can be ridiculed for his title: a millenium is a long time to be in decline. The three thick volumes of the Penguin edition took me a long time to read, if not quite as long as Gibbon took to write. I was living in Ankara at the time, but I enjoyed being able to read Gibbon’s work also while visiting the three old imperial capitals: Istanbul, Rome, and Milan. Continue reading

NL VI: “Language,” again

Index to this series

This is about language: language the concept, and “Language,” the sixth chapter of Collingwood’s New Leviathan. We shall consider language in a very basic way, not as a means of communicating what we know, but as the way we come to know things in the first place.
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