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[Le Devoir de philo] War has been hated since the dawn of history

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twice a month, duty He challenges enthusiasts of philosophy and the history of ideas to decode an objective issue based on the theses of a prominent thinker.

In addition to showing what is most horrible in humans, war is omnipresent in the chaotic history of the human race. Over time, like many Lernaean Hydra heads that grow back once they are cut off, they always end up showing one or the other of their hideous faces.

In this context, should we be surprised that war is at the heart of this long poem that isThe Iliad Homer, in this foundational text of our civilization that has nourished Western thought for thousands of years? But what does the poet tell us about him? How does she qualify for it? Is it possible to find inThe Iliad A lesson in wisdom that will help us think better about this war in Ukraine that is unfolding day after day before our very eyes?

L ‘The Iliad It is not intended to present the glorious account of the Trojan War in its entirety. When the poem begins, the Greeks have already been fighting against the Trojans for ten years and when it ends, the city of Troy is still standing. In fact, the storyThe Iliadwhich takes place over the course of a few days, focuses instead on this abhorrent rage of Achilles who, due to his excessiveness, has brought down in Hades countless heroic souls.

Ares, the most hated of the gods

Homer, or the group that this name represents, is a visual. Faithful to the oral tradition, he likes to illustrate in a frank way several scenes of battles between the Trojans and the « Greeks », whom he actually described as Achaeans, Argives or Danaens. at’The Iliad, the petioles are cut off, the marrow spurs of the vertebrae and the liver pierced with a sword. However, if Homer has taken the trouble to give us too many shocking details, it is not with the intention of glorifying the merits of war, but rather to show its odious character. Ce n’est d’ailleurs pas un hasard si Arès, le dieu de la guerre, est présenté par Zeus, qui est pourtant son père, comme le plus détestable des Olympiens : « Tête à l’évent, ne viens pas gémir ici à my feet! I hate you more than any gods who live on Olympus, because you only dream of quarrels, wars, and battles. »

And Homer’s heroes are not always perfect. Sometimes they are fearful, cowardly, frivolous, ostentatious, and above all cruel and cruel. And so, when Menelaus is about to allow himself to be persuaded by Trojan Adrastus, who pleads with him to save his life for a fine ransom, it is without pity that his brother Agamemnon gives him the following advice before severing the captive’s neck: ‘Ah! Brave Menelaus, why worry so much for these people? They have done a wonderful job in your house, all these Trojans! No one flees from the abyss of death, nor from our arms, whether he is a child in his mother’s womb, whether he is a fugitive? ! »

This cruel behavior towards the enemy is reminiscent of the horrific images of Butch, which showed us the corpses of civilians, their hands tied behind their backs and their feet tied, killed by a bullet in the back of the neck. One could imagine that they might have pleaded with their executioner to let them live before they were shot.

In addition to these scenes of extreme violence, the ultimate outrage that can be done against the enemy in Homer’s world is to deprive the victim’s remains of a funeral rite, a ritual that allowed the soul of the deceased, psukhe Or his breath to migrate to Hell. Three types of abuse can be practiced on an opponent’s corpse: dragging the body in dust to hide signs of youth; Tear his body to be devoured by monsters, and in a state of extreme rage, immediately let the corpse rot.

But inThe Iliad, every time the hero threatens his enemy by infuriating his body by simply killing him, it always ends up protecting the remains of the vanquished by a god. For example, despite the abuse that Achilles would inflict on him, Hector’s remains would be protected by Aphrodite and Apollo so that his body could finally be handed undefiled to his old father Priam. The same would be the case with the body of Patroclus and Sarpedon. As we can see, the Olympians depicted by Homer, either out of humility or out of respect for certain sacred laws, could not bear to see humans wrath the corpses of victims.

Unfortunately, from what the media tells us, it seems that such levels of terror have arrived in various Ukrainian villages. All these corpses left on the roads, left as food for stray dogs, or dumped in mass graves or in the bottom of a well, prove to us that humans can claim to be able to go to Mars, and the fact remains that they continue to obey their primal, rooted instincts when overwhelmed by fear or anger. or hate.

Achilles’ shield

It wasn’t until Kanto the nineteenth ofThe IliadThat Achilles decided to return to the fight. However, he needs new weapons, because his weapon, which he loaned to Patroclus, now finds itself in the hands of Hector, the murderer of his best friend.

Faced with the desperation of Achilles, his mother, the goddess of the sea Thetis, will quickly go to Olympus to ask Hephaestus to make him new weapons and especially this famous shield on which the divine blacksmith will engrave many scenes that will be described in detail. from the poet. Moreover, in this passage from Canto XVIII, Homer takes the opportunity to present us with his view of the world and condemns war, albeit in a poetic and enveloping way.

But before summarizing the content, it is worth noting that the scenes that are usually found on the shields of Homer’s heroes are always aimed at arousing fear in the enemy. For example, in the center of the shield of Agamemnon and Athena, is represented the head of the Gorgon, « that dreadful and terrifying beast » who terrified anyone who met his gaze. But nothing like that would appear on Achilles’ shield.

Thus, after engraving various stars and star-studded constellations in the center of the shield, the lame deity draws two cities, one at peace and the other at war. In the former, weddings are celebrated and feasts are shared. It is indeed a matter of a struggle between two men, but the recourse to force is not by recourse to force, but to a group of wise men, in which an honorable solution is sought for both parties. In the warring city, we find men killing each other around the walls of a besieged city, just like Troy.

Besides these two cities, Hephaestus also depicts a field harvested by peasants, a vineyard, a herd of oxen emerging from the stable, a large square in a village where a joyful crowd participates in a feast, as well as many other scenes from country life.

Except for the city at war, which occupies a small place on the shield, everything exudes harmony, the joy of life and satisfaction with the work done. Indeed, this description of Achilles’ shield can be seen as an arc that the poet opens into the heart of the struggle between the Achaeans and the Trojans in order to put us before the different life choices available to humans: war or peace? An existence that lives in excess and leads to suffering, despair and greed or to a life in so far as humans live in harmony with their peers and the great cycles of nature?

announcing works and daysFor Hesiod, these various paintings also come to signify that by laboring the land, and not by plundering cities to appropriate the property of others, humans can live in harmony and thus find happiness.

When Thetis lays the weapons made by Hephaestus at the feet of Achilles, the latter and all his companions are frightened not by the terrible face of the Gorgon, but rather by this excess of beauty which springs from the labor of the most horrible Olympians. However, no comment would come out of Achilles’ mouth. As he prepares to plant death in the Trojans’ camp thanks to his new weapons, he does not understand that it is precisely war that destroys this beauty as well as this part of the nobility in humans.

But when we see the inhabitants of some Ukrainian villages devastated by bombs who hastened to bury the corpses of their loved ones, taking care to plant a small improvised wooden cross on their graves, we tell ourselves that the war did not succeed in completely eradicating this thin layer of civilization which the human race was able to give itself on over thousands of years.

We must realize, though, that the message that Homer tried to convey to us regarding the war does not seem to have been understood by the transient poor that we are. Although every era has tried to eradicate it by denouncing its perverse effects, war has always managed, like the hydra lernin, sooner or later to present us with its ugly head or that.

suggestions? Write to Robert Dutrisac: [email protected] To read or re-read the ancient texts of Le Devoir de philo, visit our website.

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