Force in the Iliad

“The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad, is force. Force as man’s instrument, force as man’s master, force before which human flesh shrinks back. The human soul, in this poem, is shown always in its relation to force: swept away, blinded by the force it thinks it can direct, bent under the pressure of the foce to which it is subjected. Those who had dreamed that force, thanks to progress, now belonged to the past, have seen the poem as a historic document; those who can see that force, today as in the past, is at the center of all human history, find in the Iliad its most beautiful, its purest mirror.”

“Force is what makes the person subjected to it into a thing.”

-Simon Weil, “The Iliad, or The Poem of Force”

*In his introduction to Robert Fagles’ translation of the Iliad, Bernard Knox notes that Weil’s essay was scheduled to be published in the Nouvelle Revue Francaise, but “before it could be printed Paris was in the hands of the Nazis.” Weil knew of what she spoke.



Knox, Bernard. Introduction. The Iliad, by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin, 1990, pp. 3-64.