I was in the throes of writing a paper on Sophocles' magnificent tragedy Ajax when I stumbled on this comment from one of my sources:

Menis, famous as the first word of the Iliad--indeed one can say it is the first word in European literature--generally implies sustained, enduring wrath with a desire for revenge.

This struck me powerfully. I'm not sure why entirely, but I think it has interesting implications for Man's motives in the larger sense. Anger is such an interesting and puzzling emotion; why spurs it and where does it lead? Aristotle was more sympathetic to overwhelming anger than to other, baser desires: in the Ethics he stated that those who are swept away by anger still somehow have control over their reason.

It also made me think about the glory of those opening lines of the Iliad! "Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles! The baneful wrath that wrought much sorrow for the Achaeans..."

Of course it loses rather a lot in translation. The music of the Grecian phonetics is irreplaceable:

Μηνιν άείδε θεά Πηληίαδεω Άχιληος...

There is something in those opening lines which exudes the terrible wrath that accompanies terrible pride; the pride of a civilization that would go to war for a slight and take up arms for honor, not security. The men of the Iliad are larger than life, more full of personality and insanity and glory than any other characters from any other work in the Western Canon of Literature. Their names, first uttered thousands of years ago, still resound on college campuses across the world. And somehow those names still conjure up such concrete images: Achilles, fuming by the wine-dark sea; Diomedes, lord of the war cry, driving back the god Ares into the fray; Ajax, standing as the lone bulwark against the Trojan tide as he protected the ships; Odysseus, the wily one, planning the most famous strategic move in military history...