Bronze, horses and winged words

A few weeks ago now I visited one of my favourite places: Madingley Hall near Cambridge to read some classical Greek. This time we were reading book 22 of the Iliad. Although Homer wrote in the C8 BC the Trojan War is believed to have taken place in the late Bronze Age (C13 BC). What interests me is how much oral narrative from the past is present in the Homeric poem and how much is pure C8 BC. There is certainly much mention of bronze, but tin, silver, gold and even iron also get a mention. Horses figure prominently throughout – not just in the fabled wooden variety.

I was also interested in the comment that the allies of the Trojans spoke many languages and could not understand each other. Obviously marking them out as different from the Greeks in this respect. What languages were they?

“Winged Words” crops up quite regularly and we wondered what the poet acually meant. There may have been some metrical considerations but nevertheless these were the words the poet chose.  As a translator I believe that they must be translated just like the other metaphors. I rather like the term but I wonder why it hasn’t caught on. Can any words be winged? Does it matter who says them? Does the message itself make a the words winged? Messenger gods have wings – is this a coincidence, I wonder?

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