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archaeopteryx's avatar

What does this quote for Homer (800 BC - 700 BC) mean?

Asked by archaeopteryx (873points) April 25th, 2009

The quote says: “It is entirely seemly for a young man killed in battle to lie mangled by the bronze spear. In his death all things appear fair. But when dogs shame the gray head and gray chin and nakedness of an old man killed, it is the most piteous thing that happens among wretched mortals.”

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9 Answers

janbb's avatar

It sounds to me that he is saying that it is appropriate for young men to die in battle, but painful to see old men die a violent death.

What do you think it means?

archaeopteryx's avatar

@janbb

I think that’s what it means too. But I wanted to make sure.
However I figured it out after posting this question, so let’s just wait and see what others
might have to say.

filmfann's avatar

I agree. It reminds me of part of the poem Ulysses by Tennyson:
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I wonder if Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry was using Homer as a reference point when he invented the whole Kilngon battle ethos.

It’s very much the “it is honorable to die in glorious battle” train of thought happening there.

circedog's avatar

You’re all right about the young man and dying in battle being heroic, but the dogs mauling old men would happen because they weren’t properly buried with the right ritual and stone tumulus—a shameful commentary on the old man’s descendants’ lack of respect for the family. The dogs are eating the corpse.

SeventhSense's avatar

@circedog
But the dogs can be shameless enemies as well as actual dogs.

weezerton7's avatar

I think in a way homer is also trying to say that there is irony in the fact that people use the idea of glory and honor as a way of forgetting how ugly war can be. He points out that we shutter at the idea of an old mans corpse being torn apart but look proud on a corpse of a soldier since he died for his country. When in fact for an example a dead soldier torn apart by a spear ends up being just as brutal as being torn apart by dogs. Plus on top of that the soldier had lost his entire life while the old man lived his entire life. I think ultimately he is saying we quickly forget the price of war.

SeventhSense's avatar

Actually I think it may be simpler still. The dogs are the “dogs of war”.

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