August 12, 2003

Grant, Oh Gods...

I've been reading Dan Simmons (2003), Ilium (New York: HarperCollins: 0380978938):

Hector stretched his arms towards his son, but the boy cried and grabbed for his nurse, scared at the fierce sight of his father's armor, and especially at the nodding horse-hair plume on Hector's helmet. Hector and Andromache laughed. And Hector took the gleaming helmet from his head and put it aside on the ground. Then he took his dear child, kissed him, and bounced him in his arms, all the while praying to Zeus and all the gods:

"Grant, oh gods, that this boy, my son, with whom I am well pleased, may be like me--first in glory among the Trojans! Strong and brave like me, Hector, his father! And grant, oh gods, that Scamandrius, son of Hector, may one day rule all Ilium in power and glory. And grant that all men shall say, 'He is a better man than his father!' This, oh gods, is my prayer, and I ask no other boon from thee."

Posted by DeLong at August 12, 2003 12:41 PM | TrackBack

Comments

I liked Illium-- it's true that the plot's a complicated, unholy mess and 'Illium' is only the first part of two (a biology?), but it's a good read, none the less.

Matt

Posted by: Matt on August 13, 2003 04:16 AM

There's a remarkable contrast with the early mediaeval Spanish epic El Poema del mió Cid, recounting in dramatic but earthy terms the story of an entirely real condottiere, Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar. He captures Valencia by a coup de main. The Moors mount an expedition to recover it. He shshows his wife and children the next day's battlefield, like Hector,but in these terms:
"En estas tierras agenas / veran las moradas commo se fazen:
Afarto veran por los oios / commo se gana el pan."
"You will see with your own eyes how the Moors carry on and how I earn my bread".

The difference is that Bivar is a professional fighting man, confident of his superior skills and equipment, and expecting to survive, like a fighter ace. Hector is an armed civilian.

The poem also tells how El Cid marries off his daughters to two snobbish sons of the Counts of Carrión. They reckon they have married beneath their station and beat up their brides. Bad move. Interestingly, El Cid takes his revenge by proces of law not combat.

Posted by: James Wimberley on August 13, 2003 06:31 AM

Looks like an interesting book; never ran across it before.

But, just to give credit where credit is due, this passage comes straight from Homer (Iliad book 6, toward the end); one of my favorite passages from the work.

Posted by: rrr on August 13, 2003 07:53 AM

Looks like an interesting book; never ran across it before.

But, just to give credit where credit is due, this passage comes straight from Homer (Iliad book 6, toward the end); one of my favorite passages from the work.

Posted by: rrr on August 13, 2003 07:59 AM

"Hector is an armed civilian."

Huh? He's Priam's son. To say he's an amateur, rather than professional, fighting man is to draw too fine a distinction.

Posted by: Dave Long on August 13, 2003 11:01 AM

Sarpedon is clear on how Homeric heros earn their bread:

"Glaucus, why in Lycia
do we receive especial honour as regards our place at table? Why are
the choicest portions served us and our cups kept brimming, and why do
men look up to us as though we were gods? Moreover we hold a large
estate by the banks of the river Xanthus, fair with orchard lawns
and wheat-growing land; it becomes us, therefore, to take our stand at
the head of all the Lycians and bear the brunt of the fight, that
one may say to another, Our princes in Lycia eat the fat of the land
and drink best of wine, but they are fine fellows; they fight well and
are ever at the front in battle."

Is the difference that Hector, Sarpedon, Glaucus, etc. don't have to invoice?

Posted by: Dave Long on August 13, 2003 11:24 AM

May the gods grant. Mine did, fortunately.

Posted by: northernLights on August 13, 2003 03:10 PM

An extraordinarily well contructed work - possibly Simmons' best to date, which is saying a lot. Three plot lines: gods in Homeric Greece, a decadent postSingularity future, and some engaging... robots, I guess you'd call them, on Europa. And it all fits together.

I really liked the prologue, didn't you?

Posted by: F-a-B Reader on August 13, 2003 10:37 PM
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