I’ve been reading the Iliad recently, the world’s first war classic, concurrently with Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam, which uses the epic poem’s central plot line to cast light on modern war trauma. (We will get to why this makes sense for grilling, I promise.) The Iliad, attributed to Homer (seventh or eighth century B.C., possibly), tells of a dispute during the Trojan War between Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek forces, and Achilles, his star warrior. The fight is ostensibly over a girl, but really, Shay says, is over Achilles’s sense of being sold out by the top brass. The terrifying killing rampage that Achilles subsequently goes on, in which he breaks all of his culture’s social and moral rules, is, Shay says, our first recorded instance of war crimes. Shay is a psychologist who works with veterans, and it’s partially his project to explore how ordinary men, even good men, can commit atrocities, how, as he puts it, “war can destroy the social contract binding soldiers to each other, to their commanders, and to the society that raised them.” Shay says that the Iliad’s great tragedy is not the one the marauding Greeks inflict on the Trojans but is the undoing of human character, the destruction of a person’s social ties.