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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Chapter 11 - An ABC of epic ira: anger, beasts, and cannibalism


   E io, che di mirare stava inteso,

vidi genti fangose in quel pantano,

ignude tutte, con sembiante offeso.

   Queste si percotean, non pur con mano

ma con la testa e col petto e coi piedi,

troncandosi co’ denti a brano a brano.

  Lo buon maestro disse: “Figlio, or vedi

l’anime di color cui vinse l’ira …”

  And I, gazing intently, saw people muddied in

that slough, all naked, with indignant expressions.

  They kept striking each other, and not only with

hands, but with head and breast and feet, tearing

each other apart with their teeth, piece by piece.

  My kind master said: “Son, now behold the souls

of those whom anger vanquished …”

Dante Inferno canto 7.109–16 (tr. Durling)

Boy achilles' diet

Achilles is the classic angry warrior of antiquity. The story of the Iliad is the story of the wrath of Achilles. The parts of the Iliad most read in antiquity focus on Achilles' anger and the emphasis on anger is reflected in the Ilias Latina, probably of Neronian date, which accords with the Greek original in making “anger” its first word: iram pande mihi Pelidae, Diua, superbi (“reveal to me the anger of the son of Peleus, goddess”). We know the specific cause of Achilles' anger in the Iliad – but could there be some underlying disposition toward anger? There is the claim that his mother reared him on gall (Iliad 16.203), the starting-point for Ann Hanson's paper in this volume.