Enduring Literature: The Iliad and The Odyssey

Books these days are different than the oral tales that eventually were written down. If an author sells 100 books, they did a better than average job. If an author sells 1,000 books they had a decent amount of success. People want to read an author or genre they are comfortable with, and editors and publishers do not want to take a risk on a new author. Sometimes though, a book, or a piece of literature is critically important to the culture or time period it was written in and it can even become a transcendent masterpiece still read today.

One of my favorite examples of this would be The Iliad and The Odyssey. Both were oral tales eventually written down by Homer. They told the story of the Trojan war, the great hero Achilles, and the journey Odysseus took to get back home to his wife. Most people are familiar with these epics themselves, even if they did not read them. Most education systems in the West also have them as required reading. Even though these two epics are a bit shoehorned into education and culture, I think they still have something important to say about the human condition and should be read today.

Image result for the iliad

The ecstasy Achilles must have felt at besting Hector in single combat was probably only matched by the pain he felt at the death of his closest friend.

It’s easy to be critical of that stance; what can ancient people who lived with animals and worshiped a pantheon of gods tell us about ourselves today? The same thing, I would argue, that Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings, and Game Of Thrones can tell us about ourselves. A work of fiction, or an epic piece of literature written thousands of years ago, allows the reader to detach themselves from the present and really focus on what a piece is saying; sometimes the message isn’t all that interesting, and sometimes the message isn’t worth remembering, but in a few instances, classics are created and remembered for the ages.


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