None of this offers even a start to the question of why people keep buying and presumably reading an interminably long, frequently repetitive and intermittently gruesome Iron Age rendition of Bronze Age combat. One reason, obviously, is that had Homer existed (in spite of his deconstruction by Wolf, and in spite of his substitution by Parry/Lord), he would have been the star pupil of any creative writing course. They teach a variety of tricks and techniques for different kinds of writing, but Homer uses absolutely all of them: the Iliad begins in media res with the action underway, and instead of a tiresome summary of the first nine years of the war, necessary context is supplied by scattered flashbacks; it starts, moreover, with a quarrel on the Achaean side that is a fast way of introducing its two principal protagonists, Agamemnon and Achilles, each acting out at maximum volume to reveal his character immediately; the indispensable enlistment of emotions to make us care for the characters’ fates is fully accomplished, on both sides, most strongly perhaps for Hector as he parts from his infant son and desolate wife for a day of combat, but also for the teenage fighter who grasps Achilles’ leg in a futile plea for mercy in Book 22, and many others; the build-up of tension leading to a great climax is relentless, and achieved not once but twice, first in the long delayed return of Achilles to combat, preceded by dramatic renditions of the bloody losses his absence had caused, and then in the duel between Achilles and Hector, all the more dramatic because of the final loss of nerve of Priam’s most valiant son. On top of that, there are the production values, as Hollywood calls them: lots of special effects ranging from the habitual falling-star incandescence of the gods to the extraordinary revolt of the river god Scamander against Achilles, who had fouled the river with bleeding dead bodies (he would have drowned in a thunderous flood had not the gods intervened); the gorgeous Cecil B. DeMille battle scenes written as if seen from above, sex scenes all the more erotically charged because they are inserted between dramatic peaks and, throughout, the reciprocal balancing of the inevitable human tragedy of mortality with the tragicomedies of the cavorting gods.