This is going to be an unusual review. I read The Iliad but I wasn't able to finish it. To put that into perspective, the last time I abandoned a book was over six years ago. The Iliad is one of the oldest and most important texts in European literature and yet I hated it. That might make me an uncultured swine but it's the truth! And you know what else? I even prefer the movie Troy to The Iliad. I'm not saying that Troy is a great film or even a very good film but I can honestly say that I found it more entertaining than this poem. At least it's got some entertaining fight scenes and some eye candy in the form of Eric Bana and Sean Bean!
Certain reviews that I've read have described The Iliad as "fast-paced". I find that mystifying. "Fast-paced" certainly isn't the adjective that comes to mind when I think of The Iliad! I'd call it slow-paced and tedious! It's seriously one of the most boring books that I've ever read. I know that might sound strange since this is a story that features action, adventure, war, and the meddling of various gods and goddesses but it really was. The story is incredibly repetitive. The Iliad is a big book and roughly 2/3 of it consists of mind-numbingly tedious descriptions of characters getting killed off. There are long, long sections where it's just "This Person, son of This Person, shoved a spear through the chest of This Person, son of This Person, and stole his armour." And don't even get me started on the list of the ships and crew members in Book II! It goes on for pages and pages! I'm guessing that all of this information would have been more meaningful and significant to an Ancient Greek audience but as a reader from the 21st century I was bored to tears. And the characters! We learn absolutely nothing about Chryseis and Briseis and they're only in the story to serve as plot-points. Agamemnon, Paris and Helen are all aggravating. The various gods and goddesses are all aggravating. Achilles is despicable. He throws a massive hissy fit because of Agamemnon taking his sex slave away (What?! How dare Agamemnon rape the woman that I'm raping!) and then cries and whines about it to his mother. Then he sits in a tent and does some more whining and sulking whilst his comrades all die just so he can prove a point. His treatment of Hector - who is by far the coolest character in the book - is horrendous. And yet almost everyone in the book keeps going on about how awesome he is!
The only character in this story that I genuinely liked and felt an emotional connection to was Hector. He just seemed like a really loving husband and father. The scene where he says goodbye to his wife and then lifts his infant son up to the gods, praying that the boy will be a better man then he ever was, is genuinely sad and beautiful. It was easily my favourite part of the whole poem. Urgh, why did Hector have to die instead of horrible Achilles?! The point where I had to give up on this book was the part where Achilles tried to get a pack of dogs to eat Hector's face. By that point I decided that I simply couldn't take any more of this story even though I was actually quite close to the end.
I wanted to read The Iliad because I'm trying to incorporate more poetry into my reading and because I wanted to expand my knowledge of Greco-Roman mythology. But now I wish I hadn't bothered. I might still read Homer's The Odyssey because I hear it's a lot more accessible than this book but I'm going to give myself a nice long break before I do.
Rating: No Stars. I couldn't finish it. Oh alright, 0.5/5. Because of Hector.