In the next lines we learn that Apollo is driving the anger between the still unnamed Agamemnon and Achilles. He’s also killing off the Greek army with a plague. Why? Because Agamemnon insulted Chryses, a priest of Apollo. How? Well, the Greeks enslaved his daughter, taking her as a war prize.
That’s a lot to unpack in the first few lines of the first canonical text. Let’s see: slaves as war prizes are okay, just not priests’ daughters; we’re about to get the old rescue the maiden tale (for the first time, actually), but the hero of this little mini story is an old man and the woman’s father, not a would be love interest — no wining the woman’s hand, no chivalry or any of that baggage — just a hefty dose of the needing to be rescued baggage; Chryses doesn’t care if the Greeks destroy Troy, in fact, in his position as priest he’ll pray for it, as long as he gets his daughter back. Does he feel some sympathy with the Greeks because he sees his daughter as another Helen, or is he just really out for his own? Taken, old school. As we shall see soon, Chryses has a very special skill set.
And so who of Gods brought these two together to fight?
Leto’s and Zeus’s son; for that one, angered at the king,
Stirred up a plague throughout the army — a vile plague, and the people were being killed
Because the son of Atreus dishonored Chryses, a priest!
For he (Chryses) went to the swift ships of the Achaeans
Intending to free his daughter and bearing boundless ransoms,
Holding the garlands in his hands of sharp-shooting Apollo
upon a golden staff, and he was begging all the Achaeans,
especially the two sons of Atreus, the commanders of armies:
“Sons of Atreus and also (you) other well-greaved (good-grief ha.) Achaeans,
You on the one hand may the gods, dwelling in Olympian houses, grant
to destroy Priam’s city, and to safely come home;
(on the other hand) Free my dear one, my child, and accept these ransoms,
Since you stand in awe of Zeus’s son, sharp-shooting Apollo.”
The opening lines name names: Achilles, Zeus, Hades. All of them are divine, Achilles being a demigod. Our only fully human character, so far, is introduced as the son of Atreus and lord of men–pretty high up there as far as mortals go, but not yet deserving of his own name. Yes, we all know who this is and Agamemnon will have his day, but for the first sentence, it’s gods only, please. The rage is Achilles’, the machinations are Zeus’s and Hades is getting the fruits. To be fair, we don’t know if he enjoys getting souls, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Is this divine privilege important? I don’t know. Or on the contrary, perhaps by not naming Agamemnon directly he becomes the most important figure standing out in this Olympian crowd. Again not sure, observations only.
So let’s see what the first few lines of Homer yield. First ze Greek:
(Of) rage sing, Goddess, of Peleus’s son Achilles’
Destructive (rage), which made boundless agony for the Achaians,
And many strong souls to Hades hurled,
(strong souls) of heroes, and from their very bodies began making feasts for the dogs
And all the birds, while Zeus was carrying out his plan,
(sing) from the first when they separated after quarreling,
The son of Atreus, lord of men and divine Achilles.
Thoughts, notes, blathering:
Those damn possessives in English are a pain in the butt. I chose euphony over usage, that is, I prefer an apostrophe s after Peleus but not after Achilles. So there.
I know ἄλγε’ is plural and αὐτοὺς is acc., but in the case of αὐτοὺς I wanted to preserve some of the word order rather than write ‘was making them (into) feasts’. Likewise, in the phrase Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή (Zeus’s plan was being done) I chose word order over case and voice, rendering the middle as active, making Zeus nominative, and plan accusative.
So, middle voice and aorist are two things not distinguished morphologically in Latin, but so far nothing insanely tricky has come up. I take the aorist dual participle ἐρίσαντε to function similarly to Latin participles and understood it to mean here “after…”. A thought on the middle voice–It seems like we have this in English but we tend to use the active voice to express it. I’m thinking of that old advertisement for Chunky Soup. You know “Chunky, the soup that eats like a meal.” Neither the soup nor the meal is doing any eating, hopefully. Also, I once saw written on the bottom of a plastic bottle “recycles” meaning “can be recycled, recyclable.”
Finally, about that prefix προ (pro) on the verb προί̈αψεν in line three. Is this an intensifier here making the verb mean something like “really threw hard” or is it something like “pre” as in “hurled the souls before they were supposed to go to Hades”? Well I’m not sure, and, as per the rules of this experiment, I won’t look it up now, reserving judgment until I see the prefix enough in other places.
Here I attempt to read the Iliad in Greek without any training in the language. (Okay, I know the alphabet.) I read Latin and Norwegian. Swedish and Danish come for free with Norwegian–Bonus! I once could read a smattering of other languages–I’m looking at you Anglo Saxon, Old Norse, and German. The goal is to see if I can work through Iliad I on my own without studying Greek first, just by looking things up as I go.