Homer homers…

All the stuff of myth and gods was set down in Hesiod’s Theogony, a thousand-or-so-line poem about Chaos and Earth and the Titans and lots more. The Greeks lived by their gods and myths.

When Homer, whoever Homer was, and he may well have been several people, or a bunch of men, or women, or both, when he came around and wrote in the Iliad about the hero Achilles getting royally enraged at his boss, Agamemnon, the Greeks suddenly had a bible, a book that showed them how to live in honor and justice; how the gods lived those things; how they played out in the world of their ancestors.

One thing is certain. The Iliad shows a world that was brutal and cruel, full of passion fueled by those ancient concepts of honor and justice. That stuff was important.

Agamemnon wasn’t mad about losing the girl. He was mad because the girl was a symbol of the honor due him as a conquering King. The girl could have been a fancy ashtray. Didn’t matter. She was the trophy and Apollo made him give her back to her old man, the priest of Apollo. Apollo, a god, was miffed at the original insult, and as we all have learned, miff travels downhill, thus Agamemnon.

Further down the hill stood Achilles, the sine qua non of Greek victory at Troy. No Achilles, no victory. The Big Ag, all miffed, forced Achilles to give up his trophy girl, thus depriving Achilles of his sign of honor due him as a hero.

Miffed, Achilles slammed his tent shut and sulked, refusing to battle the Trojans and thus condemning whole slabs of Greek soldier meat to Hades.

Eventually gods and men sorted it all out, the miff rolled all the way down onto the Trojans, and the Greeks went home.

Four hundred years later the Homers wrote it all down. Or wrote down something that built on the Trojan War, if indeed there had been such a war, and mixed it up with contemporary mores, to produce a text that somewhat codified the Greek world view.

Whatever was going on, the gods were tied into it. Into everything. The gods ordered the world, and they weren’t unlike the humans, other than being immortal and terrifyingly powerful and subject to the full range of human emotions writ large. You didn’t want to piss off Zeus, lest you find yourself pinned to the ground like a bug on a corkboard in your barley field by a bolt of Zeus lightning. On the other hand you never knew when one of the sexy goddesses might decide you were a cutie and lead you out to the olive grove for a good humping. So all in all, the universe stayed balanced.

Gods, humans, just all one big happy hierarchy. Honor and glory mean everything and are to be sought and defended, death notwithstanding. You get what you are due, or you fight for it. You might have to mix it up with gods and heroes, but honor and glory were the grease of the societal wheel.

Of course the gods were forever and humans died. But that’s just the way it was and you didn’t whine in your barley and olive oil about it. Honor mattered, dead or alive.

And that’s the way it was.

Until Thales came along and started throwing rocks in the water. 

Damned philosophers just got to mess with stuff, don’t they?


Leave a comment

Filed under Philosophy

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s