I'm teaching the Iliad and the Odyssey in a four-week summer session for undergraduates: two hours of teaching in the morning, five days a week, and preparing for the next class at night. So I have Homer on the brain, and I find myself thinking about the Democratic presidential race in terms of κλέος. Kleos, "what is heard," or, less literally, "fame," "glory," is one of the great moving forces in Homer's Iliad. When, for instance, the Trojan warrior Hector challenges any Achaean to fight him, he promises if victorious to return his opponent's corpse for funeral rites,
"So someone in generations yet to comeTo seek kleos is to seek a cultural afterlife in memory and speech.
Will say as he sails by on the darkening sea,
'That is the tomb of a man long dead,
Killed in his prime by glorious Hector.'
Someone will say that, and my fame [kleos] will not die."
[Iliad 7, translated by Stanley Lombardo.]
Kleos in Homer is always a good thing, but as the Greek-English Lexicon points out, kleos can also refer to any reputation, good or bad. So what kleos might Hillary Clinton's actions in the Democratic race attain for her? What will the future say? That she gave her all in an effort to push back the barriers against women's full participation in political life? That when she saw the math against her, she worked to support her party's inevitable nominee and further the cause of racial reconciliation? Or that she damaged her party's chances by taking every chance to characterize her opponent's success as illegitimate? The future is listening, now.
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