Monday, September 29, 2008


I concede beforehand that this is not earth-shaking. It's not even particularly consequential. But this bugs me.

NEARLY 3,000 YEARS after the death of the Greek poet Homer, his epic tales of the war for Troy and its aftermath remain deeply woven into the fabric of our culture. These stories of pride and rage, massacre and homecoming have been translated and republished over millennia. Even people who have never read a word of "The Iliad" or "The Odyssey" know the phrases they have bequeathed to us
- the Trojan horse, the Achilles heel, the face that launched a thousand ships

Now, granted, this is not from a literary journal of any kind; it's from the Boston Globe. And, granted, the article has a lot that's useful about it. But still. I said in the title that this was nitpicking, and a nit is a nit. "Is this the face that launched a thousand ships/and burned the topless towers of Ilium?" is not from the Iliad; it's from Christopher Marlowe's play, Doctor Faustus. Now you could, I suppose, claim that the phrase traces its thematic roots back to the Iliad, but it's a stretch, and it's not what the author meant. And anyway, the burning of topless towers comes from the Aeneid, not the Iliad.

OK. Pedantry break is over. Back to work.

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