Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

IN an interview in The Spectator, Shimon Peres, the deposed Israeli prime minister, was asked whether he had appreciated the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He replied, `Better than I expected. When enemies meet, we are shocked to learn that our enemy is human like ourselves. The human dimension is absent in confrontation.' It is a lesson Achilles had to learn.

In Homer's Iliad, Achilles left the fighting after a quarrel with Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek army at Troy. But when the Trojans, led by Hector, stormed forward to set fire to the Greek fleet, Achilles sent his beloved companion Patroclus back into the fighting to rally the troops. Patroclus succeeded, but was killed by a combination of the god Apollo and Hector.

Overcome with grief and rage, Achilles returned to the fighting with one thought in mind: revenge. Hacking his way, in an orgy of bloodshed, through the terrified Trojan ranks, he cornered Hector, slew him, and then, refusing to release the body, attached it to his chariot and dragged it back to the Greek camp. …

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