Reflected in his tie-dyed sunglasses, Jordan Walker's shadow shades the page he is reading from Book 8 of Homer's "Iliad" during the Homerathon, a marathon reading of Homer’s​ epic poem on Thursday at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

The tale of how Greek warrior Diomedes wounded two Olympic gods in a single day concluded shortly after 11 a.m., leading straight into the telling of Prince Hector rallying the Trojans for a counterattack. 

The telling of Homer's "Iliad" began early Thursday morning with plans of reading all 24 books of the epic poem before sunrise Friday.

From a makeshift amphitheater at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, students, faculty and passersby learned of the bravery of Diomedes and the rage of Achilles and the designs of the Greek gods.

The "Homerathon," the first event of its kind at UNL, was the culmination of months of work and planning by Brooke Mott, a junior from Omaha who said it was her goal for the poem to be read aloud.

"Just like it would have been in Antiquity," said Mott, who is pursuing a unique pair of majors: classical studies and fisheries and wildlife.

Mott learned of marathon readings of Homer from Michael Lippman, a UNL associate professor of classics and religious studies who organized similar events at the University of Arizona in 2011 and 2012.

She successfully applied for a UCARE grant reserved for UNL undergrads pursuing research or creative projects, and began organizing the event last summer with help from her peers in UNL's Classic and Religious Studies Department.

Together, they drummed up interest in the event and sought partnerships to secure donations of snacks and beverages, all with the goal of transforming the campus green space into their very own Theatre of Dionysus.

"We're doing it like the Greeks did," said Lippman, "food and drink and sunshine."

As a teacher of Greek comedies and other classics, Lippman said there are a lot of UNL students — and, more broadly, Americans -- can learn from "Iliad," which dates to the 12th century B.C.

Like when Diomedes closes in on Glaucon, an ally of the Trojans, early in the poem, only to ask his opponent about his heritage before the two begin their duel.

As the foes begin to talk, the two warriors realize their grandfathers were on friendly terms and showed hospitality toward one another -- a concept the Greeks called "xenia."

"They give each other a big hug on the battlefield, and they exchange gifts," Lippman explained. "They say: 'There's lots of other people to fight; the two of us have something more important.'

"That doesn't happen in the world today," he added, pointing out other instances of friendship and reconciliation strung throughout the epic.

To subtly hammer home the point in between speakers, War's "Why Can't We Be Friends" played joyfully over the sound system.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.


Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

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