It\'s a truism of Homeric studies that mortals pay a high, horrible price for their dealings with the gods. They get abducted, metamorphosed, deceived, torn to pieces, and they can\'t retaliate in any way - not only because they lack the power, but also because they lack the emotional parity: the gods of Greek mythology have only the simplest, most childish passions. They can be momentarily fascinated by mortals, but for any deeper emotions, the mortals in question must be fundamentally changed, raised to godhood in order to be loved. The closest mortals get is loving the offspring of gods, and that, too, has a high, horrible price. The long ordeal suffered by the Trojans and the Greeks in Homer\'s Iliad is brought about entirely by the fascination exerted by two demigods, Helen of Troy and Achilles. These two are unlike any of Homer\'s other characters; they\'re more beautiful, more constantly aware of their own place in myth - and they revel in their power to make things turn around them. They feel deeply, but there\'s a callousness to them as well. \"She can do anything at all, or have the most tragic things happen to her, and not be disturbed in the slightest. She\'s without feelings,\" says the Greek king Menelaus of his famous wife Helen. \"If she elopes from her home and gets caught and brought back, she says \'My mistake!\' and goes on as though nothing had happened, and she doesn\'t always say it\'s her mistake.\" Aggrieved Menelaus says that in The Private Life of Helen of Troy, John Erskine\'s massively popular 1925 novel (\"utterly delicious\" was the Boston Transcript\'s verdict at the time), the book that began the modern era\'s new exercise of fictively remaking Homer\'s world in the idiom of the present. In dozens of pastiches since, we\'ve seen anti-totalitarian Iliads, anti-war Iliads, pro-feminist Iliads, and pro-environment Iliads, and all leaning to a greater or lesser extent on the irresistible pull all mortals feel for Helen and Achilles. In Helen\'s case, the primary victims are always easy to identify: Menelaus, her abandoned husband, Paris, her handsome abductor, and by extension Troy, the city that pays with its life for giving her sanctuary. The case of Achilles is trickier; his primary victim is himself - he intentionally makes the decisions that will shorten his life but bring him posthumous glory. The Achilles Homer gives us is a paradox: he\'s a great hero, but he\'s also an utterly unlikeable spoiled brat. He withdraws from aiding the Greeks in their siege of Troy because the Greek High King Agamemnon takes away Briseis, the slave girl given to Achilles as war-spoil of an earlier campaign, and yet we never get the impression he cares about Briseis. He\'s lionised by the Greeks as their greatest warrior, but he\'s willing to let them all die if it will hurt Agamemnon.