Writing Assignment – Week 10

In Scrolls XIX-XX, we see two assemblies take place (XIX.54-237; XX.1-32). Much like in Scroll I (I.53-303; I.531-611), one of these consists of the leaders of the Achaians, and the other of the immortals. In what ways do the speeches and discussions between Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus, and others (XI.40-144) rehearse and resolve arguments from earlier in the epic? Who and/or what has changed, and why (or why not)? Be sure to support your claims with specific citations from the text.

NB: Initial posts should be 350-400 words; each reply should be around 100 words.

17 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 10”

  1. Hello everyone!

    When we first see the Achaians assembled is in Book 1 after Apollo punishes them for Agamemnon’s refusal to return the daughter of Chryses. It is in the assemply that Agamemnon’s agrees to only return Chryseis if the Achaians give him gifts in return (1.118-120). Achilleus calls Agamemnon greedy for asking from the Achaians what they don’t have (1.122-126). He claimed that even he took few prizes from battle in comparison to others. Achilles announces his return home for he no longer wants to be around to help Agamemnon build his wealth (1.169-171) It is not until Agamemnon threatens to take Briseis from Achilles, that Achilles contemplates killing Agamemnon; and he would have if Athene hadn’t come down to stop him. Achilles predicts that it will be Hektors wrath that will show the Achaians how much they needed “the best of the Achaians” (which we know is very true) (1.241-244). We leave Book 1 seeing him go as far as to have Thetis ask Zeus to grant the request of having the Trojans push the Achaians back against the ships just to prove how much he was needed (1.407-412).

    Clearly once we get to Book 19, quite a few things have changed. In the assembly a now shattered Achilles and battered Agamemnon seem to have a change of heart. Achilles went from weeping about Briseis being taken away in Book 1 to wishing that she was killed on the day that he took her (19.59-60), which he believed would have spared the live of many Achaians. He also points out that his decision to leave only helped the Trojans and Hektor, but wasn’t it him who asked for Zeus to help the Trojans in the first place?

    I also find it interesting that Agamemnon in Book 1 spent line after line bashing and threatening Achilles for not granting his selfish needs, but turns around in Book 19 and blames his words on the goddess Delusion (19.91-94). He goes into a long story about how even Zeus has been deluded, so basically the things he said and did should be null and void.

    I can see why the men chose to wipe their hands of their dispute. With the death of Patroklos and the constant loses that the Achaians were taking, reconciliation was definitely in order. I just find it interesting that with everything that happened between Book 1 and 19, Achilles and Agamemnon were able to just push everything under the rug and do a total 180 with the things they once said. Its clear that Achilles’ need to avenge Patroklos’ death outweighs his need to hold on to a petty argument.

    • The complete 180 that you mentioned Anisa I believe wasn’t because they really forgive each other, or just aren’t mad enough anymore. I feel like the battle between Achilleus and Agamemnon didn’t just stop. It was averted. The rage of Achilleus is now redirected towards Hektor. There’s little reason to be mad at someone because of an insult a few days ago when there is an even bigger outrage that just happened. Agamemnon, the lord of men, is too arrogant to believe he was in the wrong. He can give his gifts which make him look better, but he can’t look in a mirror and own up to what he did.

      • I agree with you Mary. I would also like to add that Achilles cannot direct his anger anymore at Agamemnon because he now has a bigger target to focus his rage. He channels all his rage toward Hector and the Trojan army. This is what allows him to go on his aristia in book 20 as he is so enraged he kills everyone in his path, with no mercy given.In book 19 Achilles asks “has it been good for us,for you and me, to continue squabbling in a heart-rending quarrel full of grief for both of us, over some girl? I wish she’d been killed by Artemis’ arrow right beside my ships, the day I got her as my prize, after we destroyed Lyrnessus” (19.67-19.73). Here Achilles makes the first part of the Iliad insignificant. He rejects Briseis and forgives Agamemnon. Achilles now realizes that his stubbornness lead to the death of his dear friend and being in an argument with Agamemnon brought this about.

        • Mary and Clara, I think both of our points are absolutely and I think it is also noteworthy to consider the argument from Agamemnon’s view and whether or not he believes it is resolved. It can be said that Agamemnon actually truly believes that the fight between him and Achilleus is resolved, but I think a part of him understands that Achilleus rage has merely been redirected, as you have both pointed out. And I think Agamemnon actually recognizes the possibility that after Achilleus kills Hektor, his rage may once again be directed at Agamemnon. Therefore, in Book 19 Agamemnon is trying to make things up with Achilleus and move past the argument from Book 1. We see Agamemnon giving a long speech to Achilleus in which Agamemnon is essentially blaming Zeus for everything that has happened and how their petty fight is actually all of Zeus fault (19. 78-144). Then, after successfully giving someone else the blame for their problems, Agamemnon proceeds to give Achilleus all of the gifts he promised even though Achilleus says “Son of Atreus, most lordly and king of men, Agamemnon, the gifts are yours to give if you wish, and as it is proper, or to keep with yourself,” (19. 146-148). Agamemnon is merely covering all his bases here as an attempt to prevent a continuation of the original conflict once Achilleus settles his score with the Trojans. I don’t believe it is a 180 on anyone’s end.

          • I agree with a couple of you in saying that this assembly isn’t necessarily healing any of the anger between Achilleus and Agamemnon. I think Mary is right in saying that their anger has been averted. Achilleus heard of the beating the Achaians were taking from Odysseus and the others during the embassy in scroll IX. It wasn’t until now that Patroklos has fallen in battle that Achilleus anger has been redirected to the Trojans. In XIX.34-35 Thetis tells Achilleus to assemble the Greeks and unsay his anger to Agamemnon. This encounter between the two of them is caused by Achilleus weeping over Patroklos’ body (the very beginning of XIX). Thus, I think it is because of Patroklos’ death that Thetis entreats her son to amend his anger. I think that Achilleus, because he is so distraught over Patroklos, has instead of making amends between himself and Agamemnon, has decided to focus his anger on the Trojans. Achilleus says during the assembly that “at some other time you should busy yourself about these things, when there is some stopping point in the fighting, at some time when there is not so much fury inside of my heart” (XIX.200-202). I think this line best describes where Achilleus’ mind is; it’s focused on revenge for Patroklos, not on what Agamemnon is promising in order to “repair” their relationship.

    • Great post Anisa, you did excellent resarch on the material in scroll 1, and introduced your argument well starting with Apollo punishing the Greeks for Agamemnon’s refusal to return the daughter of Chryses. I agree with your statement about Achilles and Agamemnon having a change of heart and how he diverts the pressure on to Zeus with a long story. You concluded very well saying that its clear that Achilles’ need to avenge Patroklos’ death outweighs his need to hold on to a petty argument. I think that since Patroclus is so near and dear to Achilles, the malicious act by Agamemnon has to be forgived and forgotten.

    • Another good point to look at also is that even though as far as their disagreement Achilles and Agamemnon have sum what settled their difference and grown as men; as a person Achilles hasn’t done a lot of growing because he still allows his rage to dictate his actions. For example in book 19 line 368 Homer says ” … all trying to comfort Achilles deep in sorrow. But no comfort could reach the fighter’s heart till he went striding into the jaws of bloody war….” The fact that he couldn’t find comfort unless he was killing others shows how desensitized to death he is unless he is personally impacted in someway. Which shows that even though other soldiers have lost friends and family in the war its not important because Achilles wasn’t hurt by it. As a reader the conversations/speeches from most of the “elder” fighters like Agamemnon,Odysseus and Menelaus shows how these men grew up in this war to understand that no one man is greater than the army because ultimately they want to win the war not just battles. For example when Patroklus was dying Menelaus’ actions and emotions towards his fallen comrade shows how interconnected these soldiers are no matter your rank, because they all must work together to win this war, and that’s what Achilles fails to grasp; its like he just took what ever he was mad at and channeled it all into something else to help him get revenge on hector.

      • I agree when you say Achilles is desensitized to death. I feel as though his mass slaughterings was a way of proving that he was the great fighter that he was perceived to be, yet him killing people meant nothing because his ultimate goal was to kill Hector for Patroklos’ death. We can definitely see how desensitized he was in book 21 from how he “stained” the river red with blood of the fallen Trojans. I do agree with your idea of the elders having a since of comradery, but I don’t necessarily think its a fault for Achilles not to have that same idea. Even though we would want to say that he is all about himself and avenging Patroklos’ death, we have to consider the fact that he was always presented as a more superior warrior. Even if everyone else thought they were on the same level, they knew that Achilles was the best and he just simply acts upon that.

  2. There is definitely more that can be said, especially with Zeus finally allowing the gods to get involved in battle (as if they weren’t already) in Book 20, but I’ll leave that up for discussion. What do y’all think about the Agamemnon and Achilles reconciliation and Zeus’ decision?

    • Anisa, first of all, great starting post! You really opened up a lot of themes to go on. In response to the assembly of the gods in Book XX, it is a sort of funny twist on what we saw before in Book VIII! Before, we have Zeus lay down the law, so to speak, and demand that no god or goddess “go among the Trojans and help them, or among the Danaans” (VIII.11). After this assembly we see the gods so clearly disregard this command and help their respective favorites anyway. (Or as Athena put it, they are just “putting in good counsel”). However, in Book XX, Zeus finally tells them all they can have at it and all of the sudden no one seems so interested! (reminds me of children – when you tell them they can’t, they just have to and when you tell them they can, they do not care so much). Besides Apollo and Poseidon who interfere with Aineias specifically, the deities in Book XX pretty much just choose to sit back and watch. While these two corresponding assemblies are opposite in many ways, they are identical in that they begin with Zeus calling the assembly and giving a command (to ensure Fate is upheld) and end with the other deities not following through with his wishes.

  3. I always thought Achilles was kind of arrogant to believe that he was such a key factor in this war, but he is clearly feared and respected by others, suggesting that he legitimately makes a huge difference. It is funny though that he was the one asking Zeus to hurt the Achaians by using the Trojans, but then forgot all about this later and was sad at the loss of so many lives.

    • Brandon, I disagree with the first part of your statement that Achilles is arrogant for believing he is a key factor in the war. Achilles knows he is a key factor because hie mother, Thetis, supplicated to Zeus to have her son be glorious in battle and receive Kleos if he must die young. Here Achilles has reassurance from Zeus himself that he will turn the tides of war. I do agree however, that we understand Achilles status and importance through the actions of others. Earlier in the book, Agamemnon took Achilles prize Brisies without thinking of the consequences. In book 19 Agamemnon realizes what an asset Achilles is and showers Achilles with gifts as well as apologizes for his past actions.

    • Brandon, I also disagree with your statement about how Achilleus forgets about asking Zeus help with earning his honor back after the loss of so many Greeks, or more specifically, Patroklos. Achilleus actually does the opposite and acknowledges that in a long-about way he had as much as a part in Patroklos’ death as anyone else involved. Going back a little bit, in Book 18 Achilleus mentions his argument with Agamemnon and says “I wish that strife would vanish away from gods and mortals,” a sign that he truly does regret the fight with Agamemnon since it has lead to this (Book 18. 107). Also, looking in the beginning of Book 19, Achilleus remarks, I wish Artemis had killed her [Briseis] beside the ships with an arrow on that day when I destroyed Lyrnessos and took her,” (Book 19. 59-60). Here, he is essentially rejecting the reason for Agamemnon’s and Achilleus’ quarrel and wishes to have never taken her so they would of never fought and Patroklos maybe wouldn’t have died. So I do think that yes, Achilleus does realize that by asking Zeus for help in the beginning has caused the death of Patroklos.

      • I disagree with you Breanna because if Achilles did realize that his request led to the death of his friend he would have never rejoined the war lashing out against the Trojans; because he would understand the he is just as guilty because he asked for this to happen. This is the perfect example of “Be Careful What You Wish For” because he thought that nothing would come of him asking Zeus to allow the Trojans to win the war but in order for the Trojans to win Achaeans must die. Patroklus’ death was tragic but hundreds of other soldiers perished in this who were friend and family to someone

  4. I agree with Brandon, I think that even from the beginning of the book, Achilles showed a flare of arrogance, in earlier books, he basically wanted the Greeks to start to suffer in a sense, so he would look like more of a valuable asset and key factor to the war, and until then he was not willing to fight. So as the Trojans are on the verge of victory, he finally gets what he wants, and a little more. Patroclus, his best friend, dies and Achilles is furious, and this is why he decides to take part in the war. Even after being offered all gifts and prizes from Agamemnon for a second time, it has to his friend’s defeat, before he can actually overcome his rage against Agamemnon to go fight against the Hector and Trojans.

    • I’d be interested to hear what specifically you make of Achilleus anger in scroll I, Melvin. I’ve had discussions with others about this (both inside and outside of this class); some say that Achilleus’ anger is formed from selfish desire, and perhaps that’s where what you’ve labeled as arrogance comes from; perhaps he wanted to feel more important. I’ve heard others say that (and this is closer to my opinion) Agamemnon is really being the unreasonable one in the dispute, and that Achilleus knows his worth and doesn’t believe he should fight for someone who isn’t fair to him. I think that examining this would help lead us to a more determined decision about what exactly Achilleus wanted when he asked his mother to plead to Zeus to “teach the Greeks a lesson.” I think it’s easy to agree that Achilleus never intended for Patroklos to die as a result of his wish to the gods. So, then we have to ask: did Achilleus do all this so that he would get some attention from Agamemnon and the others and prove that he was actually valuable, or was there another reason? Perhaps he felt crossed, and this was just retribution; perhaps he thought that his prayer to the gods wasn’t as outlandish as it might seem to us; perhaps, looking at I.149-171, Achilleus feels that Agamemnon has dishonored him, and that instead of feeling arrogance that he is too important to help them that he won’t fight for someone who doesn’t give him due honor. I think it’s true that Achilleus knows his worth, and it’s proven by multiple entreaties and the embassy in scroll IX that the Greeks need him. So, for whatever reason he reacted to Agamemnon, Achilleus didn’t fight. This led to Patroklos dying, and that’s what sparked Achilleus’ rage to join the fight again, not Agamemnon’s make-up speech.

      • Michael, I agree with you that it is important for us to observe what it is that makes Achilles angry in order to notice his shift in anger and thus his shift in action. I am glad you mentioned his speech in Book I. Here we see Achilles’ attitude towards Agamemnon that I believe carries through the entirety of the Iliad. In Book IX in Achilles’ response to Odysseus we see him reiterate some of these same ideas (IX.308-429, focused around 323-393). He once again points out that they are fighting someone else’s battle and acting as a selfless “mother bird” and retrieving prizes for Agamemnon (1.323). He even refers to Agamemnon as characterized by “shamelessness” in both speeches (1.158, IX.372). I think both of these speeches embody Achilles’ need to be respected for his heroic superiority and I believe this is where a major part of his anger is bred. I do not believe this attitude goes away in Book XIX, but rather (as many have been saying) his anger is diverted. We see that “sorrow beat down by force the anger deeply within” him (XVIII.113). Essentially, Achilles has bigger fish to fry. In this new assembly in Book XIX, we see Achilles speaking to Agamemnon encouraging them both to “let all this be a thing of the past” but continues on to note that it still hurts and will have to be constantly “beat down by restraint” (XIX.65f). With this evidence, I agree with you Michael that it was his sorrow and new rage against Hektor that led him back into battle and not any new attitude towards Agamemnon.

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