In this article we present and analyze an excerpt from Homer’s Iliad, of great interest, as it proves Homer to be a theologist and sociologist, too.
Homer’s Iliad, Rhapsody Λ, Verses 783-793
First, in Ancient Greek:
Πηλεὺς μὲν ᾧ παιδὶ γέρων ἐπέτελλ’ Ἀχιλῆϊ αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν καὶ ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων·σοὶ δ’ αὖθ’ ὧδ’ ἐπέτελλε Μενοίτιος Ἄκτορος υἱός· τέκνον ἐμὸν γενεῇ μὲν ὑπέρτερός ἐστιν Ἀχιλλεύς, πρεσβύτερος δὲ σύ ἐσσι· βίῃ δ’ ὅ γε πολλὸν ἀμείνων. ἀλλ’ εὖ οἱ φάσθαι πυκινὸν ἔπος ἠδ’ ὑποθέσθαι καί οἱ σημαίνειν· ὃ δὲ πείσεται εἰς ἀγαθόν περ.
ὣς ἐπέτελλ’ ὃ γέρων, σὺ δὲ λήθεαι· ἀλλ’ ἔτι καὶ νῦν ταῦτ’ εἴποις Ἀχιλῆϊ δαΐφρονι αἴ κε πίθηται. τίς δ’ οἶδ’ εἴ κέν οἱ σὺν δαίμονι θυμὸν ὀρίναις
παρειπών; ἀγαθὴ δὲ παραίφασίς ἐστιν ἑταίρου.
Then, in English (translation from here: https://ryanfb.github.io/loebolus-data/L170N.pdf)
Old Peleus bade his son Achilles ever be bravest, and
pre-eminent above all, but to thee did Menoetius,
son of Actor, thus give command :
‘ My child, in birth is Achilles nobler than thou, but thou art the
elder, though in might he is the better far. Yet
do thou speak to him well a word of wisdom and give
him counsel, and direct him ; and he will obey thee
to his profit.’ Thus did the old man charge thee,
but thou forgettest. Yet even now at the last do
thou speak thus to wise-hearted Achilles, if so be
he may hearken. Who knows but that heaven
helping thou mightest rouse his spirit with thy
persuading ? A good thing is the persuasion of a
Please take note that the English translation is not exact, therefore, each time I attempt an analysis in English I will indeed try to explain the actual and specific meaning of every word that ‘makes crucial differences’. Trust me, it certainly does!
‘bravest’ is not correct. The words ‘αριστεύω’ (verb), ‘αριστεία’ (noun) have a totally different meaning. Means ‘to excel’ but it has a much broader meaning in Homer’s work. Actually, when he refers to someone who is ‘άριστος’ (pronounced ‘areestos’) this means that the person described owns the following characteristics: respect and deep faith to the Divine (‘θεοσέβεια’ In Greek), Justice, Good inner will for things, a person who continuously cultivates mind, soul and spirit and, of course, the corresponding deeds. A person generally controlled (‘Μέτρον’ in Greek) and orientated towards every aspect of Good (‘Αγαθόν’ in Greek).
So, he orders him to always excel and henceforth be superior to others. Notice that he doesn’t just tell him to be superior to others, as this can be achieved with fraudulent means, too. He insists on being ‘άριστος’ first! Through your personal efforts to become ‘άριστος’ you will eventually reach the point of being superior to others. Next, he says that for the good of the other we must use dense arguments in our speech and convince him/her for his/her good. And to whoever might claim that this is a waste of time he adds: «who knows if, plus God (with the help of God), you would move his soul by consulting him? (the English translation speaks about ‘heaven’ which is totally wrong, as Homer uses the words ‘συν δαίμονι’ which translates to ‘plus daemon, with the help of daemon’. The word ‘daemon’ in ancient Greek means ‘the wise, the all-knower’ and it is appointed to God, as the one and only Wise true being. Remember here that Socrates said in his ‘Apology’ that ‘only God is Wise, and that there is no wise human’). The advice of the ‘εταίρος’ (means ‘partner’, ‘friend’ and something wider than these, too) is good (it is a good act to counsel, advice your friends) »
Does this have any message for our times? I believe it does. In a world where people are getting more and more selfish, greedy, evil, atheistic, stupid, with deteriorated spirits, knowledge, logic, we definetly lack of people who try to be ‘άριστος’! But still, the majority of people have a fervent desire to rule over other people, to judge other people, to do bad to other people. And, of course, lesser and lesser people put serious efforts to promote their status as human beings, caring not for the quality characteristics previously described. But what kind of Society do we really have? Is it beautiful? Is it just? Does it promote our humanity? Sadly, not. We live in ‘Jungle-Societies’ (where we actually lose our humanity and become more beastial as time flows. What a howling shame to surrender to the lowest insticts like animals! Well, sometimes animals prove to be more ‘human’, to be accurate…) where Power, Fear, Greed and the like prevail. Imagine now the Society that Homer suggests; people trying serioulsy, in the direction of Good, to be better all the time, until the end of their earthly presence. And one another compete on who is better in qualities, values, virtues! Well, I bet that this would be a much better place to be…
When we have disputes with people, or when we are trying to help people (our motive is very important and crucial, as very often people are just trying to show-off or take advantage of situations rather than truely help) we should never end up in any form of violence. On the contrary, we should use appropriately put words, dense arguments based on logic, true and deep knowledge, and justice. This is the only way to really help somebody.
And last but not least; Homer reveals his deep belief in the Divine and the possible Divine interventions. He believes that God intervenes in History and in every man’s life. Additionally, he claims that by doing some certain things (in the direction of Good, as previously described) we invite God to intervene.
Let us think on the above and change something in the direction of Good for the shake of ourselves and all other people.