There is a wonderful passage in the Odyssey where Odysseus meets the ghost of Achilles in Hades. They are profoundly courteous to each other. Odysseus, outlining his own toils, reminds Achilles that the supreme honor which the latter receives from all makes light of death; but Achilles, complimenting Odysseus on the magnificence of his adventures, answers that there is no consolation in death, for it is better to be the living slave of a poor man than king of all the dead. Yet, it is hard to imagine Achilles as the slave of a poor man, and hard to believe that he is speaking a literal truth. He is emphasizing the cost of his greatness, the incurable sorrow of being Achilles. He is saying, "I have suffered the wrost, and identified myself with it; you have merely survived. And Odysseus, for his part, says: "you are very honored indeed, but you are dead; I am doing the really difficult and great thing." In the gulf between the two men, and their characteristic views of life, in a few lin
Cedric H Whitman
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