Writing Assignment – Week 6

Much of Scroll Eleven is Agamemnon’s “aristeia” (= greatest epic moments). At one point, in the slaying of Isos and Antiphos, he is brought into direct comparison with Achilles (11.101-121). But what exactly is the nature and purpose of this comparison? How does this comparison relate to Agamemnon’s role elsewhere in a poem that claims to be about the “wrath of Achilles”? Is Agamemnon the “villain” of the story, a “foil,” a “father-figure” to Achilles? Or something else? Please be very careful to cite your evidence from the text.

*Please* be sure to respond to and engage with at least one other post (unless you are initial).

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

8 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 6

  1. Alyssa Sohns

    Throughout the poem, Agamemnon is viewed as an antagonistic figure by Achilles because of the dishonor that he inflicted upon him. Because he exercised his “right” as king to take what he thought he deserved, he was cast as the villain to Achilles’ misunderstood hero for the majority of the poem. But is this role deserved? In Scroll One, when Achilles says “We Achaians thrice and four times over will repay you, if ever Zeus gives into our hands the strong-walled citadel of Troy to be plundered” (1.27-1.29), Agamemnon reacts harshly, saying “What do you want? To keep your own prize and have me sit here lacking one? Are you ordering me to give this girl back?” (1.33-1.34) These two quotes set up the rest of the conflict between the two for the rest of the book, and in my mind firmly casts Agamemnon as the villain. Though Achilles offers to repay him for giving up his prize, even while he calls him “most lordly, greediest for gain of all men” (1.22), Agamemnon refuses to agree to that, for he could not stand knowing that while his girl was gone, Achilles would have one of his own. Agamemnon is a greedy and selfish man, and he chooses to take Briseis from Achilles to show that he could. He had to assert his power over the person who he considered the biggest threat to his authority, to not only put him in his place in the eyes of the soldiers, but to also shame Achilles. In Scroll Eleven he is compared to Achilles in relation to Isos and Antiphos, two soldiers that Achilles had previously had come into contact with, but had tied to a tree and returned for ransom rather than killed. Agamemnon, noticing their armor from Achilles’ encounter with them, goes in for the kill. Not only does he kill them quickly, he also “In his eager haste [he] stripped off from these their glorious armor which he knew” (11. 110-11.111). He is then compared to a lion seizing a deer, as there was no Trojan who could save the soldiers from him, as he was ferocious in his killing of them. I believe that his extreme eagerness and haste in killing them and taking their armor was just one more way to one up Achilles. It was he who killed them and took their armor, not Achilles, In keeping with his villain persona, he had to one up Achilles again by killing those that he had spared, showing his might and power. Had those soldiers not been spared by Achilles, I am sure Agamemnon would have treated them as any other enemy, but because they had had an encounter Achilles, it became personal with him.

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    1. Cordelia Davies

      I agree Alyssa. The line that you quoted shows that the killing of Isos and Antiphos is different. “His eager haste” tells me that he felt he needed to prove to the Trojans and to himself that his talent in warfare is equal to Achilles’; that those spared by Achilles should take heed when dealing with Agamemnon because he will not spare them. I think you’re right that he was trying to “one-up” Achilles and, in doing so, he struck fear into the Trojans. I bet Agamemnon reveled in that moment, especially after Achilles kind of humiliated Agamemnon by declining his offer and confirming his disdain for him after Agamemnon put his pride aside to make the offer and ask him for his help. All of these characteristics, I believe, do make for a good villain.

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    2. Joseph Reid

      I agree with your post Alyssa and believe that agamemnon was a villian to Achilles because he took briseis not just for his own pleasures but just because he he’s the king and he can do things like that. I also believe he took the sons of priam’s armor because he wanted to have something over Achilles and to be superior. He also finshed the job by applying the coup de grâce to Isos and Antiphos unlike Achilles by just releasing them for ransom. I liked how you concluded saying that Achilles victims were personal to Agamemnon, showing what little he thinks and feels about Achilles. It is like he wants to assault Achilles pride and honor on any and every occasion.

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      1. Jerome Lawrence

        All three posts talk about everything that I wanted to say concerning the relevance of Agamemnon killing Isos and Antiphos. He does seem to be trying to get Achilles to help him by showing dominance in war spirit by not sparing lives of the enemy that Achilles had previously spared, although Agamemnon was never shown to spare any of his enemies in the past. Every warrior in the Iliad seems to be looking out for himself by seeking to gain kleos in battle (examples Paris challenging warriors line 3.15, Hektor in the entire of books 7 and 8 with his talking down to Agamemnon and the entire Achain army, Paris boasting that he shot Diomedes in the leg in line 11.378) so Agamemnon killing those two soldiers might have simply been a chance to gain added kleos finishing up from where Achilles left off without him actually trying to spite him.

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      2. Cordelia Davies

        Agamemnon actually doesn’t really strike me as a villain. I see their relationship more like father son. Agamemnon is like the tortured father of a son he was most proud of and now that son, Achilles, is stepping out on his own, trying to find his own identity and proving that he is stronger than Agamemnon. All Agamemnon can retain over Achilles is that he is more ‘kingly.’ The moment when he slays Isos and Antiphos is one way that he can prove that he is stronger than Achilles and more noble.

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  2. Rashaad Sewell

    The better of the character in the epic poem is Achilles. He always tried to be a good and noble person. On the contrary, Agamemnon was characterised as a horrible person and arrogant. Agamemnon always tried to manipulate the situations and people to best fit his personal benefits.Achilleus’s reactions to things are typically over the top and disproportionate, it’s obvious that Agamemnon treated him unfairly. That’s because Agamemnon, at heart, is little more than a bully. Agamemnon repeatedly refuses to give up the girl Chryseis, even though his hundreds of his soldiers are dying from the plague. When he then insists on stealing Achilleus’s girlfriend, he doesn’t have any good reason for it except making sure his “honor” remains intact – and to punish the Myrmidon warrior for challenging him in public. When he later reveals that he never slept with Briseis, it seems less a reflection of any decency on Agamemnon’s part than a reminder that he was never really interested in her – all he wanted was to throw his weight around.

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    1. Jerome Lawrence

      I like the angle that you took in answering this question. Agamemnon really did take Briseis just to show off that he had more power than Achilles (book 1). When reading the situations as they are in books 11-12 and the events that are to come, one might suggest that Agamemnon, by causing him to grow in anger/wrath/menis since he took Brisies, his war prize, almost ensure that he ultimately gains kleos. Achilles is needed more and more as the war progresses and it seems that Agamemnon and the other Achaians are begging Achilles to return to battle. By being a foil and a villain, he really becomes one of the roads that help Achilles become a hero. Angering Achilles almost ensured that the Achaians will lose the battle. Zeus now on the side of Achilles due to the supplication of Thetis, is leading to Achilles coming back into battle against the Trojans and becoming a heroes. I say one of the roads since Hektor is also one of those roads.

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  3. Joseph Reid

    In scroll 11, Agamemnon whom we’ve saw put on his fine armour has a series of spectacular kills (a mini-aristeia). He’s finely armed, and cuts down man after man and beats the Trojans back to the city’s gates(lines 11-12 and lines 100-101). Isos and Antiphos, sons of priam, were victims of Agamemnon. This resulted in a comparison to Achilles, and the nature and purpose of this comparison was because Isos and Antiphos were two soldiers that Achilles had previously had come into contact with, but had tied to a pliant(line 105) and released them for ransom rather than kill them. I think Agamemnon is the villain of the story because of his inconsiderate appropriation of Achilles’ war prize, the maiden Briseis, which creates a crisis for the Achaeans, when Achilles withdraws from the war. He is arrogant and often selfish and is never able to bring himself to give Achilles the true apology that will bring the great myrmidon back to battle. But aside from his negative qualities he takes his role very serious as a ruler, his majesty is recognizable and provides the Achaeans strong leadership. He is also compared to a lion seizing a deer, because of his ferociousness much like Achilles is later on in Book 20 of the iliad.

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