Homer; the roots of civil wars

In this post we present and originally analyze an excerpt from the Iliad. Homer offers us here some of his valuable socio-political views. 

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Homer’s Iliad, Rhapsody I, Verses 63-64

Ancient Greek: “αφρήτωρ αθέμιστος ανέστιος εστιν εκείνος ός πολέμου έραται επιδημίου οκρυόεντος”

English: “Without roots/generation, outlaw/living without institutions, and without a home is the man that falls in love with civil war the fierce”

NovoScriptorium: Our analysis is aided by the Liddell & Scott Lexicon.

First, we need to explain the words used in order to achieve a proper conclusion.

a) αφρήτωρ = the man who does not have ‘φρήτρα’, meaning ‘root’ and ‘generation’. In other words, either someone whose line never did something special and prosperous for the nation, or generally of very humble origins. It could also have the meaning of the ‘mongrel’ or evenly, of the ‘bastard’.

b) αθέμιστος = the man who does not live according to the institutions other people do, the one who does not accept the institutions the majority has agreed to live with, especially Justice (‘Θέμις’). We could call him ‘the outlaw’, too.

c) ανέστιος = the one without ‘εστία’ meaning ‘home’, the one who does not own a stable property, the ‘poor and exhausted’ we could say.

d) επιδήμιος = this word means ‘inside the same municipality’, inside the state itself. This definition covers both the conflict that can rise between people of the same nation/race (‘εμφύλιος’ in Greek) inside a state, and the conflict that can rise between people living in the same state independently of their racial/national origins.

For Homer, any war apart from the defensive one (or one that is ordered because of justice and dignity) is considered as ‘madness‘. War among the same nation is considered as ‘sickness‘. As we saw above, it turns out that he who has love for civil war must be either ‘αφρήτωρ’, ‘αθέμιστος’ or ‘ανέστιος’. Homer apparently believes that whoever invites people to a civil war, must either come from broken or problematic families, from a ‘humble blood line’, either being an outlaw (theoretically and practically denying the institutions of the State), either being poor and exhausted.

If what Homer claims here is timelessly valid, then we would always know where to search in order to find possible dividers of every given Society, at any given time.

Not coincidentally, one of the greatest and timeless defects of the Greeks, had always been internal division of their societies and destructive civil wars.

We firmly believe that the whole issue of conflict and war -whether civil or not- is basically a matter of superficial ego -and, of course, lack of Education. The most common questions of a divider might sound like:

– ‘why the others have and I don’t?’

– ‘why the others are like this and I am not?’

Each of the possible dividers driven from his personal pain, driven from misjudgment / misinterpretation of the situation he lives in, transforms these into ‘ideologies’, always drifting / misleading numerous minorities of similar substance. History teaches,  as a rule, that these minorities are defeated in the long run, but after having caused much injury in the ‘body’ of the race / nation / state, preventing or delaying progress (socially, economically, etc.)

Of course, it is not coincidental that Homer refers to the issue in such depth; his own work, the Iliad, as a matter of fact, is a civil war ‘squared’; Achaeans against Trojans (a practical war, with bloodshed and the like) and Achaeans against Achaeans – the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon (not a practical war -even though it does have major practical consequences- but rather a war of emotions, ideals and words).

Is there a way to reduce or eliminate conflicts and possible civil war in a Society? Obviously, this could only happen if the above categories of people did not exist.

How could this be done? What we need is Societies-States with the best possible Institutional and Educational structures, so that their civilian would be persuaded to supress any possible ‘conflict / civil-war’ tendencies from his part, self-willingly, and with his own effort, as a result of a mature existence that has learned to correct himself before anyone else. The process of ‘knowing thy self’ could act as remedy for almost all social maladies. At the same time, the Institutions of the polity must operate justly. Otherwise, injustice will, sooner or later, unavoidably ignite reactions in the form of conflict.

Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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