Letter: Savagery and Morality in the `Iliad'
From Mr Robert Jackson, Mp, The Independent (London, England)
Sir: Robert Winder's review of the Penguin Classics audio tape of the Iliad ("Greeks, Trojans and abridgement too far", 10 December) is right about its quality, and the strength of Derek Jacobi's reading. But he is surely wrong in his own account of the great poem.
For him the Iliad is "a strange and savage epic", with no "moral reflex", so that "by all modern standards Achilles's rage is a petty business". The battle scenes are certainly savage, but they are not strange. Through their objectivity they achieve pathos: the same powerful aesthetic that we find in modern times in the First World War monumental memorials, and in the Vietnam Wall in Washington.
The Iliad is indeed not a moralistic poem. Homer knows how the "values of glory and honour" are problematic: Mr Winder should have listened harder to what Achilles says in the scene with the Embassy, to which he refers.
But it is a profoundly moral poem. …