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Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Homeric Rage of the Europeans

The first word in Western literature is the ancient Greek word for “rage.” Homer’s Iliad begins with this word. The first sentence in The Iliad is translated as: “Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses…” Rage is the supreme emotion of the Homeric characters in The Iliad and The Odyssey. Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, Paris, Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Priam are wrathful and brutal. They do not compromise. They do not negotiate. They fight and conquer. They kill, torture, rape, maim, sacrifice, plunder, and enslave.

In conceiving the characters of his epics, Homer could have been inspired by the Greeks (the Europeans) among whom he lived. The Greeks were a violent, wrathful, and brutal people. They were constantly at war with each other and with their neighbors. It is generally believed that the Greeks were good in philosophy, but what they were truly good at was massacring, plundering, torturing, and enslaving. They unleashed devastation on an epic scale not only in Greece but also in Syracuse, Egypt, South Italy, and the Persian Empire. Between 50 to 80 percent of the people in most city-states of Ancient Greece were slaves or metics.

The Romans, who came after the Greeks, were full of similar Homeric rage. The number of slaves that the Roman soldiers caught and sold is astonishing. The Samnite War in the third century BC resulted in 55,000 Samnites and Gauls being captured and auctioned. The destruction of Carthage in the third Punic War flooded the slave markets with more than a million slaves. Julius Caesar once sold the entire population of a conquered region (close to 53000 people) to slave dealers. The Romans held gladiator games for 600 years. No other culture in the world has turned the killing of humans into a spectator sport on the scale that the Romans did.

Till the fifteenth century, the Europeans were massacring, plundering, and enslaving each other. In the Age of Imperialism, they poured out of Europe and gave to the world a taste of their Homeric rage and brutality. The Europeans invaded the Americas, Africa, and Asia. They conquered, colonized, and plundered. They wiped out cultures, colonized many nations, massacred natives and animals with impunity, enslaved millions of people, and stole tons of gold and silver. From the sixteenth century to 1945 (end of the Second World War), the Europeans were also engaged in fighting apocalyptic wars with other Europeans. 

The power and might of Europe has never depended on its philosophy or science. It comes as a by-product of the collective Homeric rage of the Europeans.

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