Civilisation starts with the idea of the city, yet western civilisation’s first great work of literature deals with the destruction of one. The Iliad of Homer is set during the Greeks’ 10-year siege of Troy - its narrative focus a brief episode towards the end telling of the ruinous anger of Achilles, the Greeks’ greatest fighter, and its consequences.
“ ... as they talked, Glaucus jumped into the space between the armies to confront Diomedes - who saw and challenged him.
'Who are you, stranger?' Diomedes shouted. 'I will fight you if you are a Trojan - but not if you are a god, for everyone knows that those who fight with gods don’t live long - as Lycurgus learned when he so terrified the god Dionysus that Zeus struck him blind.'
‘The generations of men are like leaves that fall uncountably and yet are restored every year,' Glaucus shouted back. 'If you want to know me, there was once a famous man called Sisyphus whose grandson was the handsome Bellerophon. Proetus's wife Anteia lusted after him, but he refused her offers of sex, so she complained to her husband that he had tried to rape her. Proetus did not dare have the man put to death but sent him instead to the king of Lycia with sinister symbols indicating that he should be killed. So the Lycian king ordered Bellerophon to destroy the monster Chimaera - which he did. Then he fought against the Solymi and the Amazons. On his return, the Lycian king laid an ambush for him, but when he killed the ambushers as well, the king realized he must be born of a god, so he let him stay and gave him his daughter in marriage together with half his kingdom while the other Lycians made him magnificent presents of vineyards and cornfields. Three children were born to Bellerophon: Isander, Hippolochus and a daughter called Laodameia who slept with Zeus and bore great Sarpedon. I am son to Hippolochus, and my grandfather Bellerophon taught me always to strive to be best so as not to disgrace my fathers and others of my line.'
Diomedes planted his spear in the earth. 'Then we are linked by ties of friendship,' he declared, 'for my grandfather Oeneus entertained Bellerophon twenty days in his house, gave him a purple war-belt and received from him a gold two-handled cup in return. You and I are friends as well then. So let us avoid each other in battle and exchange armour instead. There are plenty of other enemies for us both to kill.'”
Zeus, father of gods and men, protector of laws and morals, dispenser of good and evil.