February 23, 2013

Napoleon On Homer

Steampunk Napoleon. Source.


From, "The Mind of Napoleon: A Selection from His Written and Spoken Words," edited and translated by J. Christopher Herold. Columbia University Press: New York. 1955. Pg. 151-152.
[Conversation, 1816, related by Las Cases] "The Iliad," said the Emperor, "is, like Genesis and the whole Bible, the symbol and token of its age. In composing it, Homer was poet, orator, historian, legislator, geographer, theologian: he was the encyclopedist of his era."
 .  . What struck him most, he remarked, was the coarseness of the manners combined with the perfection of the ideas. Heroes are shown slaughtering cattle for meat and preparing it with their own hands, while their speeches display rare eloquence and a great civilization.

[Conversation, 1816, related by Las Cases] After dinner, the Emperor resumed the reading of the Odyssey. We had reached the combat of Irus with Ulysses, on the threshold of Ulysses' own palace, with both men dressed as beggars. The Emperor expressed strong disapproval of this episode. He found it wretched, dirty, improper, unworthy of a king.
   "Besides," he added, "now that I have run out of critical objections, I can guess what still affects me. I put myself in Ulysses' place---it's the fear of being beaten up by a ruffian. It is not given to every ruler, to every general, to have the strong shoulders of his guards or grenadiers. Not everybody who wants to can be a porter. Good old Homer takes care of all that by presenting his heroes as so many giants. But things are different with us. Where would we be, all of us here," he said, glancing at each of us, "if we were still living in the olden times when a strong arm was the real scepter? There's Noverraz"---his valet---"who is serving us: he would be our king. We must admit that civilization does everything for the soul and favors it wholly at the expense of the body."