Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Iliad

"Roan Beauty"

"Why, Roan Beauty--why prophesy my doom?
Don't waste your breath. I know, well I know--
I am destined to die here. . ."
(Book 19, 497-99)

Achilles' roar permeates Books 18 and 19 of The Iliad. From the moment we read "Achilles , Zeus' favorite fighter, rose up. . ." to his "enormous cry" and the "fire, relentless, terrible, burst from proud-hearted Achilles' head,"(Book 18, 235 - 260), we and the Argives and even the Trojans, who immediately lose twelve of their fighters, are aware of the presence of Achilles. He has returned and he meets with Agamemnon to receive his due and assume leadership of the troops. His meeting with Agamemnon yields the the prophecy that:

For years to come, I think, they will remember the feud that flared between us both. (Book 19, 72-3)

But it is Roan Beauty who reminds Achilles and us of his ultimate sacrifice in this moving statement,:

The white-armed goddess Hera gave him voice:
"Yes! we will save your life--this time too--
master, mighty Achilles! But the day of death
already hovers near, and we are not to blame
but a great god is and the strong force of fate.
. . .
still you are doomed to die by force, Achilles,
cut down by a death less god and mortal man!"
(Book 19, 482-494)

The Roan Beauty does not speak again.

The Iliad by Homer. Robert Fagles, trans. Viking Penguin, New York. 1990

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