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Falling into time in Homer's 'Iliad'

Abstract

This paper addresses the question of the relation between mortal and immortal time in the Iliad as it is represented by the physical act of falling. I begin by arguing that falling serves as a point of reference throughout the poem for a concept of time that is specifically human. It is well known that mortals fall at the moment of death in the poem, but it has not been recognized that the movement of the fall is also connected with the time of birth, aging, and generation. In light of the significance of failing for mortals, I then go on to examine the problematic case of two particular immortals who fall in the Iliad. When Hephaestus tumbles down to earth from Olympus. and when Ares is knocked flat on the battlefield, both gods, I argue, also "fall into" human time. This complicates their status as ageless and eternal beings, and draws into question the different temporal registers at work in the narrative (such as repetition, "long time," and time that is steady or continuous [empedos]). The single action of failing brings together several key concepts in the poem which hinge on the issue of the separation between the mortal and immortal spheres in the Iliad.

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