“So the Iliad is not in fact the story of the Trojan War”

“So the Iliad is not in fact the story of the Trojan War, but of one short episode within its ten-year length. After Homer, the work was divided into twenty-four books. Books 2 and 23 of the Iliad cover a period of only three days; the first and last books extend the whole action to a few weeks. Such expansiveness seem to make Wagner feel terse; yet Matthew Arnold, poet and critic, famously described Homer as ’eminently rapid’. This is true in two senses. Although the grand narrative unfolds across an immense distance, the battle scenes are multiplicity of small incidents; there is no lingering. The speeches too are fast and forceful; the longest of them, Achilles’ explosion in Book 9, is furious in its pace….”  – Classical Literature, Richard Jenkyns, 2016.

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