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C O U R S E 
Greeks at War: Homer at Troy
Robert Garland, Colgate University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Warrior's Experience of War
Notes taken on September 23, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
one of the most impressive aspects of the Iliad is the way Homer comprehends the mental state of the warrior
how the warrior is affected and changed over time by constant exposure to danger
and by seeing his comrades die
how war dehumanizes
and why people fight even if they don't believe in the justice of the cause
or in their actually being any cause
so it is important to remember that when the Iliad begins, the Trojan war is in its tenth and final year
yet even one year would be sufficient to
cause morale to crack
cause soldiers to commit atrocities which they would ever otherwise be capable of doing
by the time we enter the picture, the war has already taken a toll
the play opens with plague
caused by Apollo because of the fact that Agamemnon has taken as prisoner the daughter as one of Apollo's priests
given the insanitary conditions in which the Achaeans were living, a plague was bound to break out
the cause of the plague is over-determined, both divinely caused and rationally caused
back in archaic Greece they probably didn't know what the scientific cause of plague was
war is not only about bravery
fear affects the soldier no matter what
Homer observes it closely
the skin of the coward changes color one way and another, and the heart inside him has no control to keep him steady, and he shifts his weight from one foot to another, his heart pounds violently as he thinks of the death spirits and his teeth chatter together
we hear of Phobos, the sun of Ares the god of war, who frightens even the patient-hearted warrior
a comradeship is of very high value
in a modern army Patroclus [Πάτροκλος] would be awarded high honors, because he sacrifices his life for his comrades
Achilles likens him, however, to a little girl when Patroclus felt for his comrades who put themselves in harm's way
Iliad starts with an assembly, an argument between Achilles and Agamemnon
Thersites, a Greek soldier who verbally criticizes Agamemnon
ugly and somewhat deformed
treated as a comic character
the only common soldier to have a speaking role in the Iliad
put down both verbally and physically by Odysseus
no clearly statement of aristocratic principle
after 10 years of indecisive war, mutiny is imminent
challenged by both Achilles, his most valiant warrior, and by Thersites, his most expendable commoner
Achilles withdraws from Book 2 through Book 8
comes to realization that it is senseless to risk your life in battle
Patroclus asks Achilles if he can borrow his Achilles armor
Achilles warns him to not go to far
Patroclus then dies
Achilles is rough, but becomes rougher after Patroclus dies
goes on killing spree which is the most shocking description of killing in the entire poem
Jonathan Shay
Homer shows us the emotional state of a soldier who has just lost his dear comrade
in effect he goes berzerk
a Norse world that describe soldiers which fight in a kind of trance
derived from ber (bear) and zerk (pelt)
supposedly what these soldiers wore when they went into battle
berzerking soldiers shed their helmets and flak jackets
this is what Achilles does when he first hears of Patrolus' death
he says to his mother Thetis, do not hold me back from the fight, you will not persuade me
but Thetis persuades him otherwise
Apollo says of him: Achilles has destroyed pity
for a man who must lose someone who is even closer, a brother of the same womb, or a son
Achilles has destroyed pity
a very powerful, terrifying judgement, and we know this happens in war
and when the killing spree is over, Thetis returns to Achilles and asks that he returns Hector's body to Priam which he does
what happens to Achilles after the war we never learn since that is where the poem ends
we never see Achilles again after he has returned the body
Jonathan Shay notes that 40% of Vietnam combat veterans continued in engaging in violent acts after they returned from the war
if a soldier survives the berserk state, it imparts emotional deadness and vulnerability to explosive rage to his psychological and a permanent hyper-arousal to his physiology
Homer provides us with an extraordinary analyses of the damage to the psyche which war-induced explosive rage afflicts on the mind and physiology of the soldier
helps us to hear what many veterans have been desperately trying to tell us about going berserk