Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Erida - Goddess of Strife

A couple of paragraphs from the Iliad. Two sections where we see the external nature of war. Of how the feelings of soldier are manipulated by larger forces. In this case the will of Zeus, but let us see it as a metaphor for our society, where War seems natural and opposing your neighbour passes for society. I used more words in these translations, as it was important to create some context for the passages, as we are only dealing with a few lines out of over 15,000 in the epic.

Book IV of the Iliad, Strife and Fear and panic stricken rout arise with Strife and discord. A love of the sound of battle of the clots of blood. She spreads discord and strife among Charming Ilios and the Danaoi. Strife starts off little and then grows; until, with feet striding the land her head is in the heavens. And I am reminded of the blood lust of my fellows and the generals and politicians and the perverters of language, and the mockers of democracy and how we must honour our dead by keeping the wars going. So strife feeds on strife and storms the very gates of heaven, suffocating in blind remorseless fury, the children of the poor.

I am sure one who is smarter than I am will find a deep misogynist strain in Homer, and his feminising of discord. As for myself, I struggle with simple translations.

Book 4 starting line 439

Some are called forth by Ares, some by iron eyed
Athena. So arises Fear and panic stricken
Terror. And Strife who desires cruelty,
Sister and concubine of Ares destroyer of men.
Small she is, to start, armed, but soon
Her head rises to the heavens. Across the land
She strides. She spews strife to all sides
Equal, as she goes among the tumult,
Increasing the lamentations of men.

Book XI of the Iliad. Those who feel that history is made by great men, and that history appears as a series of wars and violence will find much to hardened their positions by reading this epic. It seems to me wrong to discuss the Iliad with modern eyes, as the poem seems to me to be denying modernist ideas of free will. In the beginning of book eleven the Achaeans have suffered badly at the hands of the Trojans, and many are dejected. It is the plan of Zeus that the war continue. He sends Strife down to the encampment and she screams and fills the hearts of the army with hatred, with love of battle, sweeter even then the thought of going home.

Book XI starting line 14

And then Erida rose to her full height -
Eyes dripping blood. She called out great
And terrible. Penetrating into the hearts
Of the Achaeans. At once war become
Sweeter than going back in the hollow
Ships to the beloved land of their families.

Can we see our own throwness in the works of Homer? Torn asunder from our beloved land we are captivated by our supposed freedom. The power of Capital toys with our lives, in a similar way to how Zeus toyed with warring Greeks and the Trojans. He set them to strife and even goaded them to second effort when they began to falter. This was his plan, Zeus wanted to depopulate the Earth. War was his answer, and it was only too easy for him to find willing accomplices in their own extinction. As it is only too easy to find today many who wish for war, and forsake multilateral solutions and worship at the cenotaph. Empty tombs of the empty lives of our dead, honoured by old men. Or as Lenin said there was no crisis from which the bourgeoisie could not escape provided the working class was prepared to pay the price.

We are not as superstitions as the ancients, but we still sacrifice our children on hard stone altars, praying for a wind that will blow an invisible hand onto our scales, allowing us to fight our enemies, and to gain great wealth. It is, of course, wrong to see Capital as a supernatural power. Yet for the vast herd that roams the land having no understanding of what drives them, no grasp of simple history, of how the world became this way, having nothing but disdain for the workings of the scientific method, knowing nothing of the intricate web of interconnected wealth which builds up the foundations of everyday life, and of thought itself, they act and move as if controlled by far off gods who drink and love and mock the tiny ones who live not a true human life, but rather a shadowy passing of time. Lacking above all curiosity and imagination.

And yet both the Gods of the old days, and the Wealth of our modern age, are nothing if not our creation, the common structure and therefore the common inheritance of countless hands and hearts and minds.

The image is Achilles getting new armour from his mother. He is going back to war Why? His friend was killed, and the only way to honour his death is to add to the pile of death.

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