Tuesday, August 25: Course Introduction: “Cultivating a friendship with works of literature.” The Trojan Epic Cycle

The Trojan Saga, a mythic “story universe” stretching across decades and encompassing thousands of characters in dozens, if not hundreds, of different city-states. The Trojan Saga was communicated through epic poetry, lyric poetry, and later Athenian tragedy. The Iliad and Odyssey were written down in the form we have them today around 650–600 BCE, but were part of a tradition of oral epic poetry that extended back hundreds of years and captured some of the culture of the historic period known as Mycenaean Greece.

The Wedding of Peleus (a mortal) and Thetis (a goddess)
— Eris and the Apple of Discord, offered “to the fairest”
According to one version of the myth, Eris, the goddess of discord, was furious at not having been invited to the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, so she took one of the apples and threw it among the guests. The apple was inscribed with the words ‘To the fairest’ and caused mayhem among the crowd.
— Hera, Athena, Aphrodite
The Judgement Of Paris was a contest between the three most beautiful goddesses of Olympos — Aphrodite, Hera and Athena — for the prize of a golden apple addressed “To the Fairest.” … He chose Aphrodite, swayed by her promise to bestow upon him Helene, the most beautiful woman, for a wife.

The Judgment of Paris
— a choice among success in battle (the warrior’s path), royal sovereignty (the king’s path), and marrying Helen of Sparta→Troy (the lover’s path)
The Judgement of Paris is a story from Greek mythology, which was one of the events that led up to the Trojan War and to the foundation of Rome.

The Abduction of Helen
— a violation of xenia (→xenophobia, the fear of foreigners), the sacred relationship between guest and host
When the Trojan prince Paris abducted Helen — the beautiful wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta — and carried her off to the city of Troy, the Greeks responded by mounting an attack on the city, thus beginning the Trojan War.

The Marshaling of the Greek/Achaean Army (the Achaeans are also referred to as the Argives and Danaans)
— the main chieftains: Agamemnon, Menelaus, Odysseus, Nestor, Patroklos, Diomedes, the two Ajaxes (the greater, son of Telamon; the lesser, son of Oileus)
Marshaling: to arrange in proper order; set out in an orderly manner; arrange clearly
Chieftains: the chief of a clan or a tribe

The Trojan War (10 years)
— The Iliad, the mēnis of Achilles, a story that takes place over about fifty days in the tenth year of the war
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The war is one of the most important events in Greek mythology and has been narrated through many works of Greek literature, most notably Homer’s Iliad.

The Fall of Troy
— The Trojan Horse
The Trojan Horse is a story from the Trojan War about the subterfuge that the Greeks used to enter the independent city of Troy and win the war. In the canonical version, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse and hid a select force of men inside, including Odysseus.
— The Sack of Troy
The Iliupersis, also known as The Sack of Troy, is a lost epic of ancient Greek literature. It was one of the Epic Cycle, that is, the Trojan cycle, which told the entire history of the Trojan War in epic verse.

The Nostoi (=Homecomings) of the Greek Warriors
The Nostoi, also known as Returns or Returns of the Greeks, is a lost epic of ancient Greek literature. It was one of the Epic Cycle, that is, the Trojan cycle, which told the entire history of the Trojan War in epic verse.

The opening lines of the Iliad, with the “invocation” to the Muse of epic poetry:

IL 1.1 SING, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
IL.1.2 and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
IL.1.3 hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
IL.1.4 of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
IL.1.5 of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished
IL.1.6 since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
IL.1.7 Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.
The muse shows that he is writing in the classic epic tradition and observing its forms. It also suggests that Greek mythology will play an important role in the story he is about to tell.

Thursday, August 27: Read How to Balance Life’s Five Great Stories. Read Homer’s Iliad, Book 1

The Five Great Stories
the career story
the friendship/romance story
the long-term partnership story
the leadership story
the intellectual/spiritual enlightenment story

How to Balance

Your one mentor on this adventure is the humanities, both for the alternative perspectives on the human experience it can offer and for the critical skills it can give you to think for — and about — yourself.
Sometimes our life stories can complement each other. Your friend might also turn out to be a good business partner — or a spiritual guide.
Ultimately, the process of balancing many stories requires a versatile story-teller who can comfortably inhabit other times and other people.

Book 1 Summary

The Iliad concerns itself with the rage of Achilles — how it begins, how it cripples the Achaean army, and how it finally becomes redirected toward the Trojans. Although the Trojan War as a whole figures prominently in the work, this larger conflict ultimately provides the text with background rather than subject matter. By the time Achilles and Agamemnon enter their quarrel, the Trojan War has been going on for nearly ten years. Achilles’ absence from battle, on the other hand, lasts only a matter of days, and the epic ends soon after his return. The poem describes neither the origins nor the end of the war that frames Achilles’ wrath. Instead, it scrutinizes the origins and the end of this wrath, thus narrowing the scope of the poem from a larger conflict between warring peoples to a smaller one between warring individuals.

Who shows more leadership in Book One, Agamemnon or Achilles?
Agamemnon is a much greater leader than in the early books, even though he never reaches the same stature as several of the other warriors.

How do you define the word ‘wrath’?

I would say that wrath is when you get so angry that you can’t control yourself. People who show wrath never know when enough is enough. These people get pushed to the limit of no return. I feel like people who get bullied show lots of wrath and rage. The reason I feel like this is because these innocent people get messed with and picked on so much to the point of where they just had enough.

Where do we encounter stories of wrath in modern American society and art?

Wrath is very prevalent in the music industry. A lot of these songs encourage very vulgar subjects such as fighting, shooting, and killing, which is horrendous to me. Also, wrath is very prevalent in American society in this day and age as a whole. There are many innocent killings of black people from white police officers out of “fear”. It is very sad that this is the world we live in.

What is the cultural value of such stories? Why do we bother to tell such stories to each other?

Telling stories is one of the most powerful means that leaders have to influence, teach, and inspire. It gives us a sense of culture, history, and personal identity. Storytelling passes on personal or cultural events or experiences so they transcend to shared experiences. Storytelling alters individuals,changing them into families, groups, communities, and even nations.

Tuesday, September 1: Homer’s Iliad Books 2–4

Book 2–4

By the end of Book 2, Homer has introduced all of The Iliad’s major characters on the Greek side — his catalog of the Trojan troops at the end of Book 2 leads naturally into an introduction of the Trojan leadership in Book 3. The poem has already established the characters of Agamemnon, proud and headstrong, and Achilles, mighty but temperamental, whose quarrel dominates the epic. Now the poet provides a description of two supporting actors, Odysseus and Nestor. Though both of these figures appear in Book 1, the army’s flight to its ships in Book 2 motivates their first important speeches and thus establishes a crucial component of their role in the epic: they are the wise, foresighted advisors whose shrewdness and clarity of mind will keep the Achaeans on their course. Furthermore, in successfully restoring the troops’ morale, Odysseus and Nestor confirm their reputation as the Achaeans’ most talented rhetoricians.While the first two books introduce the commanders of the Achaean forces, the next two introduce the Trojan forces. Priam, Hector, Paris, and Helen of Troy (formerly, of course, queen of Sparta) all make their first appearances in Book 3, and their personalities begin to emerge.

Names I should Know:

Achilles (son of Peleus, Peleiades), Agamemnon (son of Atreus, Atreides), Menelaus (son of Atreus, Atreides), Helen, Nestor, Kalchas, Paris (also called Alexander/Alexandros), Hector, Priam, Chryses, Chryseis, Briseis, Pandaros, Odysseus (son of Laertes), Thersites, Diomedes (son of Tydeus)
Zeus (son of Kronos/Cronos)), Apollo, Aphrodite, Athena, Hera, Hephaistos

If you were to advise Agamemnon to lead differently at this point in the epic, what would you say to him? What do you think his response would be?
I would tell Agamemmon to train his troops better. Agamemnon troops are very willing to give up the war. The eagerness with which the troops flee back to the harbor not only testifies to the suffering that they must have already endured but also bodes ill for their future efforts, which will prove much harder given the soldiers’ homesickness and lack of motivation
How many different emotional responses can you detect in Agamemnon when he sees his brother Menelaus wounded in Book 4?
Agamemnon is feeling anxious when he finds out his brother is wounded. Even so, Agamemnon starts freaking out. He makes a speech about how Zeus will punish the breakers of the truce, but also how if Menelaos dies the Achaians will sail home in defeat and the Trojans will lord it over them.

How relatable to you is the love between Paris and Helen in Book 3?
It is not relatable to me at all. Helen attempts to reject Paris for Menelaos. If it weren’t for Aphrodite, Helen would’ve left him in a heartbeat.