Rebuilding civilization


"An Iliad" goes through rage -- and beyond it.

Ideas can change, and societies can change, sometimes with the speed of plate techtonics, said Steve Hendrickson, the traveling storyteller compelled to relive "An Iliad" at Chester Theater.

An idea that frightens people can become ordinary, he said. Slavery can end, emancipation can begin, women can get the vote -- and 93 years later (in the United States), women can serve in combat.

But women can lose the vote, and slavery can return.

Homer knew it.

When Troy fell, it meant more than the death of a man, and more than the end of a city. It meant the end of a civilization. Homer looked back on Troy as the end of an age. When he wrote his poem, his part of the world had no poetry. No written language (the "Iliad" existed as spoken poetry long before it was written down.) Not even decorations on the wine jugs.

Andromache wept for her husband when the city collapsed. But Homer mourned a civilization. He looked at his people, and he knew they had lost all that Troy had made and learned. And they did not even know what they had lost.

That grief drives the traveler with the suitcase to walk down 2,700 years, telling this story -- to make sure we don’t lose it again.


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