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The Shield of Achilles (1952) (poets.org)
67 points by hprotagonist 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments



Virgil also creates a shield symbolizing Rome's history in the Iliadic second half Book VIII of the Aeneid. Not that many people read the second half of the Aeneid because it's just not as good as the first half. A lot of classes leave it out. The first half is Virgil's adaption of the Odyssey and is a lot of fun. But like Romeo and Juliet after Mercutio gets killed off, once Dido gets lit (literally), the Aeneid gets boring fast. Like Mercutio, she's the best character.

The poem itself is Auden's 1952 reworking with the Cold War and nuclear annihilation as an implicit backdrop. It reminded me of Simon Weil's Iliad or the Poem of Force.


The burning of dido is certainly memorable but it's rather petty logic to say the second half is bad. It contains much of the interesting criticism of the Roman empire to be. And Aeneid, of course, is by far the most interesting character.


For comparison, the relevant excerpt from the Iliad (Fagles translation): https://home.ubalt.edu/ntygfit/ai_01_pursuing_fame/ai_01_tel...


You beat me to it! For those who haven’t read The Iliad, and prefer audiobooks, check out the Robert Fagles’ version voiced by Derek Jacobi.


Thank you for this comment! As someone who fell in love with Derek Jacobi's voice since recently watching Kenneth Branagh's Henry V (my favourite opening ever), that's definitely something for me!


Totally unrelated to that but Ransom (the ransom of Hector’s corpse) by D. Malouf is really astounding.


One of my favorite write-ups that I have read about Achilles posited that he had PTSD.

This really captures that imho.


If you are familiar with the Iliad, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that every man in the Trojan War probably had PTSD. It's one of the most unrelentingly brutal books I've ever read


Whatever the other qualities one may assign to 300, it's the most accurate depiction of the Iliad's action I've seen (yes I know it's not the story of the Iliad). The action portions of the text are basically a series of quick close-ups of guys getting stabbed in the chest by spears, with the occasional bad-ass slow-mo thing or 1v1 fight. Lots and lots of it.


I second this. The Iliad begins at a very cinematic pace that is very reminiscent of 300. The battle depictions – let's face it, the majority of the book – are relentlessly brutal.


It's hard to map modern concepts like PTSD onto ancient cultures. Violence and abuse was commonplace to a degree we can't even comprehend.


This comes up sufficiently often in the excellent /r/AskHistorians sub that it made their VFAQ [1] list twice. Both linked answers are worth reading.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/wiki/vfaq#wiki_ancien...


Indeed. The level of anatomical detail is something generally only find on the shadier parts of liveleak or a medical journal.


Along these lines, I would recommend this lecture about the Iliad:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD0FEcK9smE

The speaker (I believe a professor) makes some very compelling connections between the Iliad and gang culture. It gave me a new way (but certainly not definitive) way think about the Iliad. If I recall, he may also discuss PTSD towards the end.


I read it as about Hephaestus, not achilles. What happens when a god has seen too much


"Achilles in Vietnam" by Jonathan Shay. I agree it's quite good. IIRC, the author was a doctor in a VA clinic for Vietnam vets suffering from PTSD, and he was struck by the similarities between their condition and descriptions in the Illiad


I was really hoping for this to be computer generated.




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