The Eliad written in 6th century BC is an epic poem by Homer, the blind bard. Singing bards were often blind in ancient Greece. The 24 books of the Eliad have over 15,000 lines about the battles between King Agamemnon and Achilles. In the Trojan war we find that the Greek gods like Zeus and Apollo, and goddesses also have a great role to play. The rhythm of Homer’s verses resembles that of the army he describes,
Hoid’ ar’ isan hosei te puri chthon pasa nemoito.
“They pour along like a fire that sweeps the whole earth before it.”
Alexander Pope who translatedthis Greek epic into English aptly says: “This fire is discerned in Virgil, but discerned as through a glass, reflected from Homer, more shining than fierce, but everywhere equal and constant: in Lucan and Statius it bursts out in sudden, short, and interrupted flashes: In Milton it glows like a furnace kept up to an uncommon ardour by the force of art: in Shakespeare it strikes before we are aware, like an accidental fire from heaven: but in Homer, and in him only, it burns everywhere clearly and everywhere irresistibly.”
The greatest Romantic poet Keats praises Homer in the following lines:
Oft in one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken.
Homer’s Iliad is the greatest epic of western civilization, and its influence has been deeply felt across so many centuries. All major poets of the world including Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Keats, Shelley and others have been influenced by the Iliad.
Let us reflect on the divine spark inspiring this blind poet’s truly great lines:
The will of Zeus was accomplished.
Then looking at him darkly resourceful Odysseus spoke to him: "What is this word that broke through the fence of your teeth, Atreides?"
Among all creatures that breathe on earth and crawl on it there is not anywhere a thing more dismal than man is.
I have gone through what no other mortal on earth has gone through; I put my lips to the hands of the man who has killed my children.