Homer, Iliad 7.81-91: Both Victor and Vanquished win Glory (A Consolation before the Superbowl)

“If I kill him and Apollo grants me that moment of victory,
I’ll gather up his arms and take them to sacred Ilion
where I will dedicate them in the temple of far-shooting Apollo.
Then I will return his corpse to the well-benched ships
so that the fine-haired Achaians may bury him
and heap up a burial mound on the wide Hellespont.
Then someday one of the later-born men may say
as he sails by in a many-locked ship on the wine-faced sea:
‘This is the gravemarker of a man who died long ago,
a man glorious Hector killed when he was at his best.’
So someone someday will say: and my glory will never perish.”

εἰ δέ κ’ ἐγὼ τὸν ἕλω, δώῃ δέ μοι εὖχος ᾿Απόλλων,
τεύχεα σύλησας οἴσω προτὶ ῎Ιλιον ἱρήν,
καὶ κρεμόω προτὶ νηὸν ᾿Απόλλωνος ἑκάτοιο,
τὸν δὲ νέκυν ἐπὶ νῆας ἐϋσσέλμους ἀποδώσω,
ὄφρά ἑ ταρχύσωσι κάρη κομόωντες ᾿Αχαιοί,
σῆμά τέ οἱ χεύωσιν ἐπὶ πλατεῖ ῾Ελλησπόντῳ.
καί ποτέ τις εἴπῃσι καὶ ὀψιγόνων ἀνθρώπων
νηῒ πολυκλήϊδι πλέων ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον•
ἀνδρὸς μὲν τόδε σῆμα πάλαι κατατεθνηῶτος,
ὅν ποτ’ ἀριστεύοντα κατέκτανε φαίδιμος ῞Εκτωρ.
ὥς ποτέ τις ἐρέει• τὸ δ’ ἐμὸν κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται.

Too often we use war metaphors to talk about sports—the reasons are simple, most of us act as spectators in both and sports are quite obviously ritualized substitutes as honor competitions. But the stakes are far from the same. At some level, the implied equivalence is a great insult to those who do risk their lives and all of the non-combatants who suffer.

Of course, I offer this as a prelude to the fact that I do irrationally care about the outcome of tonight’s Superbowl. While it might be of little solace to the players (and even less than the fans) that victor and vanquished are united in the story that comes after (and during) the event, Hektor offered some comfort in the speech above. For whatever its worth, it was the comfort that he probably needed most himself.

And don’t hate me: as a New Englander (in exile) it is my sacred duty to root for the Patriots.

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