• Devin O'Donnell

The end of the Iliad and Homer's tragedy

Our catechism states, "the origins of the universe for pagan man is a tragic world, a closed system of fate, where all stories begin better than they end. Life is suffering without even the redemption of meaning to give it purpose. Homer himself reminds us, “Of all that breathes and crawls across the earth, our mother earth breeds nothing feebler than a man” (Iliad XVIII. 130–131). Thus, the paradigmatic vision that shapes the way in which the pagan Greek sees the world is one where the "dark eventually closed over his eyes." This is what Peter Leithart calls a "tragic metaphysics." So things get worse, ending in a worse state than when they started.

Christian cosmology, however, is essentially redemptive and good. After creating the world, God says it is good: “Behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Although Adam sins and cosmologically plunges the story of the world into a "fall.," there is cosmic salvation. This is why Solomon declares, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."

Achilles is "proud in spirit." Although his fall doesn't occur in the narrative of the Iliad, it is foreshadowed. Thus, it is fitting that Iliad ends with a funeral pyre and not a victory.

Also, today we take our exam on Homer's Iliad.


NGRES, Jean-Auguste-Dominique The Apotheosis of Homer 1827 Oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris

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