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The Iliad

The Iliad


by Homer

The Iliad Mortality Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Richmond Lattimore's translation.

Quote #4

Meanwhile his brilliant companions laid godlike Sarpedon
under a lovely spreading oak of Zeus of the aegis,
and strong Pelagon, one of his beloved companions,
pushed perforce through and out of his thigh the shaft of the ash spear.
And the mist mantled over his eyes, and the life left him,
but he got his breath back again, and the blast of the north wind
blowing brought back to life the spirit gasped out in agony. (5.692-698)

Even though Sarpedon does not die in this scene, what happens to him shows the fine line between life and death. Have you ever heard that people say "Bless you" when you sneeze, because it used to be thought that sneezes were caused by the soul leaving the body? Sarpedon blacking out from pain is obviously much more serious than a sneeze, but Homer describes it in the same way: his life leaves him, and then comes back. Even today, many people who have had near-death experiences recall feeling as if they had floated out of their bodies.

Quote #5

High-hearted son of Tydeus, why ask of my generation?
As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity.
The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber
burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning.
So one generation of men will grow while another
dies (6.145-150)

Alright, so this is a pretty ridiculous answer to a simple question. All Diomedes wanted to know was who Glaukos's parents were. Did he really have to go that far? Let's say you get pulled over in your car – maybe one of your tail lights is out. The officer asks you for your name and registration. Are you really going to answer, "What does it matter who I am? We are like unto leaves: we appear and we fall"? Glaukos is being pretty bold here.

Quote #6

Come then! After once more the flowing-haired Achaians
are gone back with their ships to the beloved land of their fathers,
break their wall to pieces and scatter it into the salt sea
and pile again the beach deep under the sands and cover it;
so let the great wall of the Achaians go down to destruction. (7.459-463)

For thousands of years, one of humanity's surefire ways of trying to escape mortality has been to build lasting monuments as a way of preserving their memory for future generations. True, the Achaians built their wall more out of immediate necessity, but it would probably still make them mad to know how easily it got leveled. That said, the fact that we even know about this wall shows the power of the spoken and written word to outlast physical remains – Poseidon wasn't able to destroy the work of Homer! For an exploration of this power of language, check out Sonnets 55 and 65 by William Shakespeare.

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