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The Iliad

The Iliad

by Homer

Mortality Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Thereafter beginning from the left he poured drinks for the other
gods, dipping up from the mixing bowl the sweet nectar.
But among the blessed immortals uncontrollable laughter
went up as they saw Hephaistos bustling about the palace.
Thus thereafter the whole day long until the sun went under
they feasted, nor was anyone's hunger denied a fair portion,
nor denied the beautifully wrought lyre in the hands of Apollo,
nor the antiphonal sweet sound of the Muses singing. (1.597-604)

This might not immediately seem like it has to do with the theme of mortality, but it is important to understand that much of what the Iliad says about mortals is meant to be contrasted with what it says about gods. The immortality of the gods is one of the most important things about them. In fact, as you can see here, they are sometimes referred to simply as "the immortals." Why do you think Homer would want to contrast the scene of Achilleus and Agamemnon's argument with this picture of divine celebration?

Quote #2

Antilochos was first to kill a chief man of the Trojans,
valiant among the champions, Thalysias' son, Echepolos.
Throwing first, he struck the horn of the horse-haired helmet,
and the bronze spearpoint fixed in his forehead and drove inward
through the bone; and a mist of darkness clouded both eyes
and he fell as a tower falls in the strong encounter. (4.457-462)

This is the first of many, many scenes like it in the Iliad: someone is no sooner introduced – sometimes with a little bit of biographical information – than killed in gruesome fashion. Even though moments like this may seem repetitive and gross, they are important to the poem as a whole. Scenes like this remind us that death is not abstract: it strikes down real people, and it hurts.

Quote #3

(Agamemnon:)
'Aged sir, if only, as the spirit is in your bosom,
so might your knees be also and the strength stay steady within you;
but age weakens you which comes to all; if only some other
of the fighters had your age and you were one of the young men!' (4.313-316)

These words, spoken by Agamemnon to Nestor, bring home the universal fact of death. Even though, if you're lucky, you can escape death in battle, old age spares no one.

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