Friday, January 31, 2014

Homer - The Equal Feast

Nor did their hearts lack for anything in the equal feast.
Homer, The Iliad, Book 1.456, Barry B. Powell translation

The ancient Greek poet Homer is a lot like baseball, there is just no logical way that these two things should have survived into the twenty first century. The works of Homer cover events that happened over three thousand years ago. There are three schools of thought on Homer. The first is that he was actually present at the campaign of Troy. The second is that he is merely a mythical name applied to a very long distillation of assorted myths and stories, compiled around 750 B.C. The third is that the actor never really lived at all and that it is all hogwash.

The Walls of Troy VII

Before actually finally getting down to read the whole text of  The Iliad, the Oracle of Ottawa would have sided with the third school. After reading the excellent Barry B. Powell translation, the Oracle of Ottawa is most certainly now a believer of the first school. Homer lived, and he was at Troy, on the beach, sort of like a state designated war artist of the assembled Argives. What better way to make sure the singer-poets got the deeds right than to have one of them imbedded with the invading force!

After completing my first read through of the Iliad, the Oracle of Ottawa realized that there was enough on the lines and especially between the lines that would provide enough material to blog on forever. The Iliad is not just some story of a military campaign, it is a guide book for Western Civilization. The concepts that are touched on and alluded to are just mind boggling. But there is one that jumped out at the Oracle of Ottawa immediately. And that is the concept of the equal feast. I have included the opening quote where it is first mentioned in the Iliad. It continues to occur many times through out the entire work. 

The greatest number of references to it occur by the Greeks, the Argives. There are very many less mentions of it in use by the Trojans. The equal feast is exactly what it implies. No mans honour was ever slighted in the enjoyment of the portions. Meanwhile the Trojans secure in their high and polished walls in the stronghold of Troy were not so big on the equal feast, measured by the number of times that it is mentioned in the text as occurring on each side. Of course most any person alive today in the modern Western world can tell you how it all worked for the Trojans. It is mentioned in the Iliad that the gods themselves built the high walls of Troy and then Priam tried to stiff the gods by not paying them the agreed price!

The take away of this story is that the society that provides the richest and most secure equal feast will rule, and will continue to rule forever, with many singers singing of their deeds into the countless days of forever more.

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