Combat and Classics Podcast
By Brian Wilson
Combat and Classics PodcastMar 18, 2020
Ep. 82 Homer's "Iliad" Book 24
It's here: our last episode on the Iliad! Achilles continues to mourn Patroclus, and to try to disfigure Hector's body. After days of this, Apollo intervenes, and the gods help Priam to retrieve his son's body from Achilles' tent. Brian, Shilo, and Jeff consider Achilles' "foreign policy" in his dealings with Priam, and the meaning of Homer's epic as a whole. Does the end of the Iliad portray a decline to a world run by liars and dancers, or an ascent to an almost joyful tragic insight into human power? In the final analysis, is it better to be a human being than to be a god? Do we need to read the Odyssey together to answer these questions?
Ep. 81 Homer's "Iliad" Book 23
After our antepenultimate Iliad episode comes... the penultimate episode! In Book 23, Hector is dead, and Achilles mourns Patroclus, who comes to Achilles in a dream and demands a funeral. So Achilles organizes funeral games: chariot and foot races, boxing and wrestling, and more. The Argives compete, and contend over the justice of their competition. We ask: why does Homer's description of the chariot race take up half of the book? Does Achilles do a good job of managing this race and judging its outcome? Join Brian, Shilo, and Jeff as they discuss the "domestic policy" of the post-wrath, or dead, Achilles. Does he now permit pity and skill to come to the fore, and is this a sign of growth or decline? Is the world of pity and skill a world where one person can be good at everything?
Ep. 80 Homer's "Iliad" Book 22
Here's our antepenultimate episode on the Iliad! In Book 22, Apollo, disguised as Agenor, lures Achilles away from Troy. When he sees through the deception, Achilles goes after Hector, and chases him around the city's walls. This goes on until Athena disguises herself as Deiphobus, and tricks Hector into facing Achilles. Then Achilles kills Hector, and drags his corpse around behind his chariot. Brian, Shilo, and Jeff ask: why does Hector decide to face Achilles, rather than taking refuge within the walls of Troy? We discuss whether his choice makes sense, and whether he is driven by a just (or an unjust) shame. We also consider whether Hector could have gotten help, whether he could have negotiated with Achilles, and whether he and Achilles, under different circumstances, could have been friends.
Ep. 79 Homer's "Iliad" Book 21
We're back, with our preantepenultimate episode on the Iliad! In Book 21, we get into the action. Achilles kills so many Trojans that the river Scamander protests the mess he is making. So Achilles fights the river, and nearly dies. Then there is a war between the gods; they lay it on without restraint. Meanwhile, Achilles kills two of Priam's sons, as he watches. And the Trojans are driven back into the gates of Troy. Join Brian, Shilo, and Jeff as they talk about what it might look like to fight a river, and wonder why Achilles cares about how his body looks after he dies. Is Achilles driven by justice in this book, or the noble, or both? Is excellence more visible in a contest between equals, or between unequals? And does Zeus enjoy the suffering of the gods because it makes them better?
Ep. 78 Homer's "Iliad" Book 20
In Book 20, Achilles gets new armor from his mom, and rejoins the battle. Zeus tells the gods to take sides, and to go nuts. And Achilles faces Aeneas and Hector, and fights them, so that the gods have to save them. Brian, Shilo, and Jeff talk about why Achilles' single combat with Aeneas is the centerpiece of the book, and why Achilles and Aeneas talk so much before they fight. Does the combat between Achilles and Aeneas prompt Poseidon to change sides? We also talk about why Zeus wants to see the spectacle of all the soldiers at Troy and all the gods fighting one another. Does Zeus find the suffering of soldiers and gods to be pleasant?
Ep. 77 Homer's "Iliad" Book 19
We're back! And so is Achilles. But what is he back for? Join Brian, Shilo, and Jeff as we ask why the Iliad isn't over, now that Achilles says his wrath is done. We discuss whether Achilles has a new cause for wrath, against Hector, for the death of Patroclus', and whether this new cause is the same or different from his old cause for wrath, against Agamemnon, for the theft of Briseis. Are both causes for wrath based on an injustice? Who really is responsible for Patroclus' death? We also consider how the gods use nectar and ambrosia to embalm Patroclus' corpse and spare Achilles the need to eat. Are the gods' bodies dead?
Ep. 76 Homer's "Iliad" Book 18
Achilles is crushed by Patroclus' death. Thetis, his mother, helps him to revenge himself on Hector by asking Hephaestus to make Achilles some new armor. We ask about the elaborate and famous description of Achilles' shield. How should we understand the details on this shield, which looks like the world of the living? Does the shield conceal the world of the dead, who are under the shield just like Achilles is? We also think about Hephaestus' intentions in making Achilles' shield. Is he the artisan who makes the artifact that must fail? Is Hephaestus the wisest god because he can sum up human life?
Ep. 75 Homer's "Iliad" Book 17
Shilo gets a new gig, and we offend a whole county! But back in the Iliad, Patroclus is dead, and the Greeks and Trojans fight over his body. Why is a whole book concerned with Patroclus' body? And why do we care about the armor and the horses of Achilles? Brian, Shilo and Jeff talk about how this book contributes to the suspense of the story, and about the meaning of Patroclus' embodiment. Is Patroclus his body, or is he different from his body? Are human bodies different from those of the gods? We explore the strange image of the stretched bullhide, and whether Patroclus' body is a valuable commodity.
Ep. 74 Homer's "Iliad" Book 16
In this book, Achilles comes upon the crying Patroclus, and pities and chides him. Then Patroclus puts on Achilles' armor, joins the fight, is stunned by Apollo, and killed by Hector. Brian, Shilo and Jeff ask why Achilles lets Patroclus join the fight wearing Achilles' armor, when Achilles himself says he is ready to return to battle? We explore Achilles' thinking: what is it like to be far superior to everyone around you? Does Achilles want everyone around him, Greek or Trojan, dead -- except Patroclus? We learn why Plato's Socrates warns against identifying with Achilles' wrath, and how superior human beings dangerously test their friends.
Ep. 73 Homer's "Iliad" Book 15
Zeus wakes up, and gives us a spoiler of the rest of the Iliad. Then he sets his will in motion. Apollo fills Hector with chutzpah, and he leads the Trojans to fight among the Greek ships. In this episode, Brian, Shilo, and Jeff ask about the smile of Zeus. Has he caught Hera in a lie? Does his smile mean that he thinks he is superior to all the other gods? Is it boring to be by far the greatest of the gods?
Thanks to our supporters and donors! You can support the show at combatandclassics.org. And if you have questions, you can email us at email@example.com, or you can call and leave a voicemail at 703.677.8645.
Ep. 72 Homer's "Iliad" Book 14
Poseidon interferes with the will of Zeus because Hera has seduced the king of the gods with a sexy belt. Also, the battle between the Greeks and Achaeans continues to escalate.
We return to the question of "who should be in charge?" and try to figure out why someone should be in charge of something (war, sports, business) generally. We think especially about taking feedback on your decisions as a leader.
Thanks to our supporters and donors! You can support the show at combatandclassics.org.
Ep. 71 Homer's "Iliad" Book 13
We wonder why Book 13 doesn't have a cool name like Book 12 did.
Then we turn to other questions, like what is on the minds of both sides of this conflict? is it true that military prowess, or military virtue, gives you other virtues, such as skill at deliberation? Or are the two things separate?
Said another way and using the example of sports, why isn’t the best player the coach?
And as it relates to the Iliad: who should be in charge of the Greek army?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can call and leave a voicemail question at 703.677.8645.
Ep. 70 Homer's "Iliad" Book 12
Shilo, Jeff and Brian continue their read through of Homer's Iliad. We try to figure out why Book 12 exists as the midpoint of the story and how Homer is using it to build on his themes and continue the narrative. Specifically we ask why is the book so short compared to the others? Why all the similes about war and the natural world and is war a natural phenomenon?
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Ep. 69 Homer's "Iliad" Book 11
[Yell-y war voice] "CARNAGE ON THE BATTLEFIELD!!!!"
Our opening question from Jeff is "can we spoil the Iliad?"
We try to understand what's going on with the story in terms of the hierarchy of Greek heroes on the battlefield and who the "good guys" and the "bad guys" are. We also try to understand what's happening with Achilles, who said that he'd return to the fight once the Trojans were at the ships and we seem to be at that moment but Achilles just sends Patroclus to find out who a wounded Greek is and we get a long story from Nestor.
Brian also mentions his guest hosting of Shakespeare Dallas' "Shakespeare Decoded" pod which you can listen to here.
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Ep. 68 Bonus Pod Q&A with Mr. Mark Eleveld's AP Literature Class at Kankakee High School
We got some calls! Thanks a ton to Mark Eleveld and his students at Kankakee High School. Truly honored that you all took the time to call or write in your questions on our Episode 62 on the Iliad Book 5 where we discussed the apparent blurring of gods and mortals and especially Diomedes wounding of a god as well as the difference between courage and the absence of fear.
If you have questions for us you can call in at 703.677.8645 or email us at email@example.com.
Ep. 67 Homer's "Iliad" Book 10
The Night Raid! Important book in the kinda middle of the story with lots of action. Agamemnon wakes up in the middle of the night and convenes a war planning committee. Nestor says the Greeks should send some spies out, Diomedes and Odysseus volunteer.
Hector also calls for a spy to go look at the what the Greeks are up too, and Dolon volunteers.
We talk about the asymmetries between the Greek mission and the Trojan mission and the visualization of Diomedes killing sleeping soldiers and ask what role beauty plays in this book. We also ask what the goal of war is: to kill the enemy or to defeat the enemy's war to fight.
If you'd like to call us and leave a voicemail with a question, you can call us at (703) 677-8645.
Ep. 66 Homer's "Iliad" Book 9
The Trojans have pushed the Greeks all the way back to their ship. Night falls, and a panicked Agamemnon and Menelaus need a plan. They decide to send an embassy to Achilles, to beg him to rejoin the fighting. And (spoiler alert) the embassy fails -- but interestingly. It looks like Achilles' position softens; but if so, why doesn't Odysseus report this to the rest of the Greeks? Does Achilles have a moment of philosophic insight about the superiority of the contemplative life? Or is he just a prisoner on the beach, like Odysseus and the rest of the heroes? How does Achilles want to be remembered?
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Ep. 65 Homer's "Iliad" Book 8
The gods assemble on Mount Olympus after the Trojans put a whooping on the Greeks. The Greeks decide to build defensive fortifications for the first time in the nine year war. Zeus gives a speech to the other gods warning them about going against his will.
What do we think of Zeus as a leader? How does he compare to the leaders of the Greeks and Trojans?
You can find our back episodes at combatandclassics.org and follow us on social @combatandclassics.
Ep. 64 Homer's "Iliad" Book 7
Book 7 opens with a duel. The Greeks draw lots to fight Hector and (supposedly) end the war. Nine Greeks volunteer to fight and lots are drawn. Ajax wins the lottery and fights Hector. Ajax seems to be winning but the fighters make a truce and decide to take a day off to bury and honor the dead.
Our opening question is: Who are the Greeks without Achilles?
Some followup questions are: Does this book set up Nestor being wrong in the future? Does having Achilles around damage the other heroes?
You can call into our phone number and leave a voicemail with your questions that we may play on the show: 703.677.8645. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ep. 63 Homer's "Iliad" Book 6
Oh hey! You can call us now! 703.677.8645. Leave a voicemail with your question and we may play it on the air and try to answer it.
You can also email us at email@example.com
In this week's episode we find the Trojans getting beat pretty badly by the Greeks, so Helenus (a soothsayer and Hector's brother) tells Hector to go back to Troy and get the women to sacrifice to Athena. While he's back in town Hector visits his brother and chastises him for not returning to the battlefield. But then Hector goes and visits his wife and newborn son.
Meanwhile, on the battlefield, Agamemnon chastises Menelaus for taking prisoners, and Diomedes and Glaucus fight, but find out their grandpappies were buddies... so they decide to exchange armor and agree to a personal truce.
We try to tease out in this episode: who is Hector? How does he compare to Agamemnon and Achilles?
You can donate to support the show at combatandclassics.org. Thanks for listening!
Ep. 62 Homer's "Iliad" Book 5
We've reached Book 5, and Diomedes isn't playing around. He even stabs Ares himself. Brian, Shilo, and Jeff ask: what does it mean to have a war in which men and gods fight one another? We consider whether war is an uncanny world where the gods can be wounded, where men act like gods and gods act like men, and where the one can be mistaken for the other. Are the Homeric gods really not radically different from human beings? Oh: and the Trojans push further from Troy than they have ever gone.
Ep. 61 Homer's "Iliad" Book 4
Athena appears to cause an end to the truce by wounding Menelaus. Brian, Shilo and Jeff look at how "the will of Zeus is fulfilled" through the wrath of Achilles and through Zeus' lying.
In Book I we framed the wrath of Achilles in terms of his mortality, and achieving immortal greatness. And we see Zeus, an immortal, using duplicity to continue the conflict so his promise to Thetis is kept.
So we ask "why does Zeus lie?" And is there a parallel between Agamemnon's behavior and Zeus'? Is there also a parallel between Hector chastising his brother in front of the troops and what Agamemnon does in Book 4 to Odysseus?
[Note: we mention in this episode our Xenophon pods, which we were originally recording at the same time as our Iliad pods - but decided to release all the Xenophon pods prior to releasing the Iliad pods. So if you're confused...sorry. You can find all our Xenophon pods in our feed and the next several weeks will be all Iliad pods.]
Ep. 60 Homer's "Iliad" Book 3
In this episode, Paris and Menelaus duel over Helen and the fate of Troy. Menelaus wins (yeah, he does) -- so why doesn't the war end here? Brian, Shilo, and Jeff discuss what this book of the Iliad teaches us about the difference between Greeks and Trojans: are the Greeks all about anger, and the Trojans all about sex? Also: who is the better leader: Priam, Agamemnon, or Hector? Who is better at using shame to motivate his followers?
You can ask us questions on our pod by emailing us at combatandclassics.org and follow us on social media @combatandclassics.
Ep. 59 Homer's "Iliad" Book 2
Would Agamemnon have made a bad Marine? Join Brian, Shilo, and Jeff as we discuss Brian's question: why does Agamemnon get a dream from Zeus telling him to test his troops before Troy, but the Trojans hear from a disguised messenger direct from the gods? We think about the different physical and moral situations of the Greeks and the Trojans after nine years of fighting. Then we ask: is Agamemnon crazy, or does he have a plan? Does Nestor think he's crazy and plan to undermine him, or is he onboard? If Agamemnon can't motivate his troops with justice or vengeance, is he left with shame? Or does he just want to go home?
Ep. 58 Homer's "Iliad" Book 1
We embark on our journey through Homer's "Iliad," humanitiy's longest surviving poem on war.
We ask "why is human rage a good subject for a war poem, and not the wrath of gods?"
You can ask us questions on our pod by emailing us at combatandclassics.org and follow us on social media @combatandclassics.
Ep. 57 Xenophon's "Anabasis" Book 7
In the last book of Xenophon's "Anabasis" we look back at the three challenges Xenophon has experienced: going to war alongside Cyrus, marching the Greeks through enemy territory, and the army by the sea trying to get home.
We explore what Xenophon wants and the idea of leadership in these three situations and ask "what's the difference between a military leader and a political leader?"
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Ep. 56 Xenophon's "Anabasis" Book 6
How are dance parties related to diplomacy?
The schisms continue in Book 6 within the Greek army, but some schisms seem better than others. Some try to make friends with the locals, some go for help, some go raiding.
Xenophon turns down the generalship of the whole army.
Ep. 55 Xenophon's "Anabasis" Book 5
The rebels have arrived at the Black Sea, but through betrayal and bad decisions, things go awry.....
Xenophon leads an expedition for provisions, but the ships they are waiting for don't show up. We flash forward to Xenophon the writer, who's bought some land in exile and wants to build a temple to Artemis. Xenophon toys with the idea of founding a city where the army is camped - who knows if he was serious or if this was some weird diplomatic move. Move bickering and playing the blame game continue until Xenophon gives a speech and the army is (apparently) purified.
Our opening question is: when an army doesn't have an enemy, do they fight themselves?
Ep. 54 Xenophon's "Anabasis" Book 4
Xenophon and the Greek host begin their march north, out of the Persian king's territory, through the icy highlands of Armenia, until at last, from a mountain, they catch sight of "the sea! the sea!" So how do the demands of the terrain and weather impose necessities on the Greeks, and how does Xenophon deal with these necessities? Is this easier, or harder, than dealing with human beings, who can be rougher than the terrain and colder than the snow? Do we see evidence of Xenophon's humanity in this book, or of his inhumanity? Join Brian, Shilo, and Jeff as they discuss these questions, and attack the gaps rather than the surfaces!
Ep. 53 Xenophon's "Anabasis" Book 3
The Greek army has been beheaded: all its generals are dead. The remaining soldiers lie down on the ground in despair. And Xenophon has a dream, one that somehow leads him to reanimate the Greeks and start them on their march north out of Persia. Brian, Shilo, and Jeff talk about how Xenophon revives the troops, why he's in Persia, and whether he disobeyed Socrates' advice to go there.
Ep. 52 Xenophon's "Anabasis" Book 2
At the beginning of Book 2, Cyrus is dead, but the Greeks are victorious. By the end of Book 2, every Greek general is dead through Tissaphernes' treachery. How did this happen? What does this have to do with Clearchus, the de facto Greek general, and in particular with his piety? And what is the hidden meaning of... palm trees? Join us for the next episode in our reading of Xenophon, in which the author himself makes another brief appearance!
Ep. 51 Xenophon's "Anabasis" Book 1
Brian, Shilo, and Jeff start their reading of Xenophon's great adventure story, "The Anabasis" -- or "Ascent" -- "of Cyrus." We have a new Cyrus; is he the same as the old Cyrus? How is Cyrus the Younger different from Cyrus the Great? (Is he Cyrus the not-so-Great?) And whose ascent is Xenophon's title talking about, since Cyrus the not-so-Great (spoiler alert!) dies at the end of Book 1? Lastly, what is Xenophon, that other student of Socrates, doing in Cyrus' army of ten thousand Greek mercenaries? Answers to all these questions, and more! Oh, and if you're wondering where Episodes 51 and 52 are, they're part of our half-hour Iliad series. Watch for it; these episodes will drop soon.
Ep. 50 Warspeak by Lise van Boxel
Ep. 49 Xenophon's "The Education of Cyrus" Book VIII with Shilo Brooks
All good things must come to an end -- but so must all bad things, and Cyrus' empire ends badly. Was Cyrus happy? Is it possible to rule human beings the way he did, like a god, and also make yourself and them happy? And why did such a cold king have two sons? Brian, Shilo, and Jeff have answers, and these answers raise new and interesting questions, and point to another of Xenophon's books.
Ep. 48 Xenophon's "The Education of Cyrus" Book VII with Shilo Brooks
Abradatas is hacked to pieces, and Panthea kills herself over his corpse. Croesus is defeated by Cyrus, and tries to teach him what "know thyself" means. And Cyrus surrounds himself with a bodyguard... of eunuchs? In this episode, Brian, Shilo, and Jeff finally confront the question of what "the education of Cyrus" really means. To suffer is to learn... but do any of these people really learn anything?
Ep. 47 Xenophon's "The Education of Cyrus" Book VI with Shilo Brooks
Brian, Shilo and Jeff get together to talk more about the difference between sexual and political love, or eros, and about the connection between eros and gratitude. We end on another cliffhanger, as Cyrus' army, complete with siege engines, is about to attack the Assyrian host. And Jeff admits to a crackpot theory about the connection between love, chariots, and... Plato?
Ep. 46 Xenophon's "The Education of Cyrus" Book V with Shilo Brooks
Shilo Brooks returns for the next podcast in our series on Xenophon's Education of Cyrus. We talk about Book V, the love book -- easy now -- and especially about the differences between sexual and political love. Cyrus' special friend returns, as does his boyfriend, and the Susan woman. And the book ends with another kiss! We also learn the secret of when Cyrus, and Xenophon, use names.
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Ep. 45 Xenophon's "The Education of Cyrus," Book IV with Shilo Brooks
Shilo Brooks returns for Book IV of Xenophon's "The Education of Cyrus." We discuss Cyrus' attack on the Assyrians, consolidation, cavalry, and Cyrus' first boyfriend returns (::kiss::kiss::) and the Susan woman.
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Ep. 44 Xenophon's "The Education of Cyrus" Book III with Shilo Brooks
Shilo Brooks returns for another episode of "The Education of Cyrus" by Xenophon. We discuss moderation, virtue, risk and a brief mention of the ugly boyfriend.
Ep. 43 Pierre Manent's "The Metamorphoses of the City" with Dr. Joseph Wood
Ep. 42 Xenophon's "The Education of Cyrus" Book II with Shilo Brooks
Shilo Brooks returns to continue our exploration of Xenophon's "The Education of Cyrus" Book II where Cyrus goes to war against the Assyrians and we try to tease out what fundamentals of warfare Cyrus discovers versus what he's taught by the Persians.
Ep. 41 Xenophon's "Education of Cyrus," Book I, with Shilo Brooks
Shilo Brooks returns to the pod to discuss Book I of Xenophon's "Education of Cyrus" examining the early upbringing of Cyrus and the nature of government.
Ep. 40 The Sicilian Expedition, with Andrea Radasanu
Andrea Radasanu returns to discuss the Sicilian Expedition from Thucydides "History of the Peloponnesian War."
Ep. 39 The Wright Brothers, with Shilo Brooks
Jeff and Brian are joined by Shilo Brooks, Director of the Engineering Leadership Program at the University of Colorado - Boulder, to discuss the role of engineering in the liberal arts and his lovely essay on the Wright Brothers for Scientific American:
Ep. 38 Thucydides Part I with Andrea Radasanu
Jeff and Brian are joined by Dr. Andrea Radasanu, Acting Director of the University Honors Program at Northern Illinois University, to discuss Thucydides "History of the Peloponnesian War," specifically the Athenian plague and Pericles funeral oration.
For more info on Andrea and NIU, click here: https://www.niu.edu/honors/about/staff.shtml
Ep. 37 Claudia Hauer "Strategic Humanism"
Brian and Jeff are joined by Claudia Hauer, St. John's College Tutor and Visiting Professor at the United States Air Force Academy to discuss her new book "Strategic Humanism: Lessons of Leadership from the Ancient Greeks."
To pre-order, click below:
Ep. 36: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Ep. 35 In Memoriam: Lise van Boxel
Our dear friend, co-founder, co-host and great souled human, Lise van Boxel, has passed away. We present our humble tribute.
Ep. 34 Homer's Iliad, Book 6
ANNOUNCEMENT: We recently learned that C&C co-founder Lise van Boxel has been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. She is currently undergoing treatment. If you would like to help and express your support, please visit the GoFundMe page created for her benefit.
In this episode, Brian is joined by guest Scott Hambrick, founder of Online Great Books. Brian will be teaching a seminar through Scott's website starting in January. Sign up here and receive a 25% discount.
Brian and Scott discuss questions raised about war in Book 6 of Homer's Iliad.
Ep. 33: Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra
We begin our next "close read" series with the first two sections of Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which conclude with the famous line "God is dead." Lise, Jeff, and Brian discuss Nietzsche's imagery, allusions, and treatment of questions of love, envy, and humanity.