In response to:
Alexander: How Great? from the October 27, 2011 issue
To the Editors:
Concerning my review of several books on Alexander the Great [NYR, October 27], a letter to the editors is correct to say that Homer does not explicitly say that Achilles dragged Hector’s body “around” the walls of Troy. Mea culpa; and I am grateful to the writer for pointing this out.
The writer is also right to say that many readers of Homer have taken the text as I did—largely, I think, because of the lamentations uttered by the Trojans when they see this scene of cruelty, looking down from the city walls (Andromache watches the body being dragged “before the city” and “to the ships of the Greeks,” Iliad 22, 464–465).
That is certainly how Virgil understood it; and there has never been a more acute reader of Homer than Virgil.
Professor of Classics University of Cambridge