Last Words

Hi all!
This is my final project for my ancient Greek class on the Iliad.  I’m not a professional photographer or make-up artist, but I had this project idea in my head and so I just went with it and learned a lot along the way.  All translations are by me.

I would like to thank everyone involved, especially the models:

The McGill costume shop
and Professor Lynn Kozak

This would not have happened without you!

With a project like this that takes over 2 hours per shoot, reaching up to over 30 hours of brainstorming, prep, make-up, shooting, and driving around with a full car of costumes, a shield, and helmets, I now understand why artists have their own studios.  🙂


Book X: Dolon

Donlon fina

…He stood in terror,
shivering, through his mouth there was a gnashing of teeth,
beneath pale-green fear.  And these two, breathing hard, approached him,
and fastened his hands…

…ὃ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔστη τάρβησέν τε
βαμβαίνων: ἄραβος δὲ διὰ στόμα γίγνετ᾽ ὀδόντων:
χλωρὸς ὑπαὶ δείους: τὼ δ᾽ ἀσθμαίνοντε κιχήτην,
χειρῶν δ᾽ ἁψάσθην…

(Iliad, 10.374-7)

This is a portrait of Dolon, the spy whom Hector sent out to find out about the Achaeans’ next move.  However, Dolon was captured by Odysseus and Diomedes who ironically, weed out information  from him, fearing for his life, concerning the Trojans’ positions and their allies.
Odysseus and Diomedes then slay Dolon, still speaking as his head falls to the ground (Iliad, lines 454-9).
Initially, I wanted to just do a photo of eyes, but then I thought that including more face would give him more credit.  The main thing I wanted to convey was curiosity and fear and I think I achieved that.
His death is problematic for me.  What is its role in the epic?  Was it supposed to evoke emotion in the audience, or was it simply a matter of protocol to kill a spy?
I’ve always had a soft spot for these kinds of characters, like Piggy from Lord of the Flies, or the first people to die in a slasher movie.  Reading it from a modern perspective, Dolon embodies that kind of meek, yet brave character that still ends up dying a cruel death.

Book V: Diomedes wounds Aphrodite


There, reaching forward to strike, the high-hearted
son of Tydeus, leaping, wounded the feeble hand
with the sharp spear.  At once, the spear bore right through the skin
through the immortal cloth which the Graces had fabricated for her,
over the base of her palm, and immortal blood gushed from the goddess, the serum of such a kind that runs through the blessed divinities.

ἔνθ᾽ ἐπορεξάμενος μεγαθύμου Τυδέος υἱὸς
ἄκρην οὔτασε χεῖρα μετάλμενος ὀξέϊ δουρὶ
ἀβληχρήν: εἶθαρ δὲ δόρυ χροὸς ἀντετόρησεν
ἀμβροσίου διὰ πέπλου, ὅν οἱ Χάριτες κάμον αὐταί,
πρυμνὸν ὕπερ θέναρος: ῥέε δ᾽ ἄμβροτον αἷμα θεοῖο
ἰχώρ, οἷός πέρ τε ῥέει μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν:

(Iliad, lines 5.334-40)

In book 5, Athena  allow Diomedes to see the gods that are involved in battle, however he may not injure any of them, except Aphrodite.
I think I would have preferred to do a full portrait of Aphrodite or Diomedes for this book, however I still like the end result.
The “golden apple” here is supposed to represent Aphrodite being wounded by Diomedes.  The whole photo should also evoke some kind of cosmic force at play.

Book VII: Gift Exchange


Thus, he spoke, and gave over a silver studded sword,
together bringing it forward with a sheath, and also a well-cut strap,
and Ajax gave a radiant purple warrior’s belt.

ὣς ἄρα φωνήσας δῶκε ξίφος ἀργυρόηλον
σὺν κολεῷ τε φέρων καὶ ἐϋτμήτῳ τελαμῶνι:
Αἴας δὲ ζωστῆρα δίδου φοίνικι φαεινόν.

(Iliad, lines 7.303-5)

I imagined the dual between Hector and Ajax as quite playful and finishing on a kind of stale mate, so I wanted to use chess and Lego as a setting!
The actual scene being portrayed is the gift exchange between them, where Hector gives Ajax a silver sword, and Ajax give him a purple belt in return.  They have to stop; Zeus call off their fighting because night has fallen.

Book IX: Fodder


Man’s appointed doom is the same for the man who stays at home, the same if he wages war.
But we share the same honor, the brave men and the base men.
But we die away the same, the idle man and the one who has done much.
There is nothing laid out for me, since I have felt pain in my heart,
forever fighting, my life, fodder.

ἴση μοῖρα μένοντι καὶ εἰ μάλα τις πολεμίζοι:
ἐν δὲ ἰῇ τιμῇ ἠμὲν κακὸς ἠδὲ καὶ ἐσθλός:
κάτθαν᾽ ὁμῶς ὅ τ᾽ ἀεργὸς ἀνὴρ ὅ τε πολλὰ ἐοργώς.
οὐδέ τί μοι περίκειται, ἐπεὶ πάθον ἄλγεα θυμῷ
αἰεὶ ἐμὴν ψυχὴν παραβαλλόμενος πολεμίζειν.

(Iliad, lines 9.318-22)

The request for Achilles to go back to fighting really reminded me of propaganda posters recruiting people to join the army.  Even now, there are many benefits to joining the army, namely a free education.  Would you join the army and go to war for one billion dollars?  What about one million?  What about one hundred thousand?
Agememnon thinks it is inevitable that Achilles will want to come back when offered with such astounding gifts.  However, Achilles refuses to accept his offer and chooses not to participate.  He asserts power by not giving Agamemnon want he wants.

Book VI: Hector and Andromache


…and one day, some man, seeing you pouring down tears, might say:
“Here is the wife of Hector, who was the best of the Trojans in battle,
breaker of horses, when they fought in Ilion.”
Thus one will ask about you, and it will be a new sorrow for you
to lack such a man to ward off the day of your slavery.
But I have died and let earth, poured down, cover me
before I  learn of your shouts from being carried off.

καί ποτέ τις εἴπῃσιν ἰδὼν κατὰ δάκρυ χέουσαν:
Ἕκτορος ἥδε γυνὴ ὃς ἀριστεύεσκε μάχεσθαι
Τρώων ἱπποδάμων ὅτε Ἴλιον ἀμφεμάχοντο.
ὥς ποτέ τις ἐρέει: σοὶ δ᾽ αὖ νέον ἔσσεται ἄλγος
χήτεϊ τοιοῦδ᾽ ἀνδρὸς ἀμύνειν δούλιον ἦμαρ.
ἀλλά με τεθνηῶτα χυτὴ κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτοι
πρίν γέ τι σῆς τε βοῆς σοῦ θ᾽ ἑλκηθμοῖο πυθέσθαι.

This is a picture of Hector and Andromache’s impossible future.  I used the famous V-J Day picture because it is an iconic American victory photo, and it is so ironic when contrasted with the outcome for Hector and the rest of the Trojans.    When they meet for the last time in book VI, they have a moment where they kind of say goodbye and realize their futures will not be as bright as they might have hoped.  The line is grey between pretending everything is going to be OK, and realistically dealing with what will actually happen to both of them after the war.

Book III: Helen


So she spoke, and Helen, Zeus’s daughter was scared
and went, covering herself in her radiant, shining robe,
quiet, she escaped the notice of all the Trojan women, but the goddess was in the lead.
When they came to the beautiful house of Paris, 
the handmaids went quickly to their work,
but she, heavenly among women, went to the high-roofed bed chamber.  And laughter-loving Aphrodite seized a chair for her,
carrying it, the goddess set it before Paris,
and there Helen sat, daughter of Zeus of the Aegis,
having turned back her eyes, she reproved her husband with words:
“You come back from the fight.  How you wish to be destroyed on the spot, overpowered by the stronger man, who was my husband once before…”

ὣς ἔφατ᾽, ἔδεισεν δ᾽ Ἑλένη Διὸς ἐκγεγαυῖα,
βῆ δὲ κατασχομένη ἑανῷ ἀργῆτι φαεινῷ
σιγῇ, πάσας δὲ Τρῳὰς λάθεν: ἦρχε δὲ δαίμων.
αἳ δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ Ἀλεξάνδροιο δόμον περικαλλέ᾽ ἵκοντο,
ἀμφίπολοι μὲν ἔπειτα θοῶς ἐπὶ ἔργα τράποντο,
ἣ δ᾽ εἰς ὑψόροφον θάλαμον κίε δῖα γυναικῶν.
τῇ δ᾽ ἄρα δίφρον ἑλοῦσα φιλομειδὴς Ἀφροδίτη
425ἀντί᾽ Ἀλεξάνδροιο θεὰ κατέθηκε φέρουσα:
ἔνθα κάθιζ᾽ Ἑλένη κούρη Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο
ὄσσε πάλιν κλίνασα, πόσιν δ᾽ ἠνίπαπε μύθῳ:
‘ἤλυθες ἐκ πολέμου: ὡς ὤφελες αὐτόθ᾽ ὀλέσθαι
ἀνδρὶ δαμεὶς κρατερῷ, ὃς ἐμὸς πρότερος πόσις ἦεν.

(Iliad, 3.418-29)

I’m really happy with how this picture turned out.  I was aiming for a playful pinup-style photo with attitude.
In book 3, we get a closer look at Helen’s character within the epic.  It is a rare occasion that a mortal woman even speaks at all.  Though trapped, Helen manages to maneuver herself within this context.  Though is it still unclear whether we are to take her as an inanimate war-prize, or and outspoken woman, in charge of her surroundings.