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.

17 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 6

  1. Kendal Longmore

    Achilles is obviously seen as the great war hero and the central character of this epic poem. Agamemnon is the leader of the Achaians so it seems fitting that they would often be compared. (11. 104-109) “Before this Achilleus had caught these two at the knees of Ida, and bound them in pliant willows as they watched by their sheep, and released them for ransom. This time the son of Atreus, wide-powerful Agamemnon, struck Isos with the thrown spear in the chest above the nipple and hit Antiphos by the ear with the sword and hurled him from his horses,”. Here Achilles is being honored for his “compassion” as we are told that he lets them go for ransom. Whereas Agamemnon is notorious for taking no prisoner when it comes to wars. He kills both men without the slightest hesitation. He also described as the “wide-powerful” where Achilles is not described as anything, not even the usual “swift-footed”. It then goes on to describe how exactly Agamemnon killed these two (11.113-115) “And as a lion seizes the innocent young of the running deer, and easily crunches and breaks the caught in the strong teeth when he has invaded their lair”. Agamemnon here is referred to as an animal, a beef who ruthlessly kills these two Trojans without remorse. This right here might foreshadow how the Achilles wrath may look like when he reenters battle. Although we have heard of Achilles fighting tactfully and intelligently we have not experienced him in a totally rage.
    With all being said, I think Agamemnon simply serves the purpose of someone to compare Achilles too. I do not see him as a father-figure to Achilles nor a villain. Even though he may have stolen Briseis, he did it without thinking and realized his mistake. Agamemnon and Achilles are both some of the best warriors the Achaians have seen and it seems only right to compare them. Agamemnon is the catalyst in the story of Achilles wrath and a person who will ever be compared to Achilles.

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    1. Taliah Broyard

      You make a very good point when you mention that Homer described Achillleus as nothing while describing Agamemnon as “wide-powerful.” I believe this suggest that this is clearly Agamemnons time to shine. It is his rage and animalistic tendencies “as a lion seizes the innocent young of the running deer..” (11.113) that finishes the job that Achilleus did not have the courage to finish. This excerpt displays the characteristic differences in these two great warriors. Achilleus was clearly being compassionate to Isos and Antiphos when he caught them at the knees of Ida and Agamemnon does not believe in compassion at all when it comes to war. It will be… ironic in the books end(for lack of better words) when his rage overtakes any compassion he may have had before. Almost as if he saved all of his rage for the right moments.
      I believe this only foreshadows Achilleus aristeia. Diomedes had his aristeia in book 5, now Agamemnon, and Achilleus is to come. The fact that Agamemnon gets injured after his largest moments also could be foreshadowing the injury that Achilleus will receive after his aristeia.

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      1. Kendal Longmore

        I like your comparison of the aristeias we have seen so far. Diomedes, Agamemnon and Achilles will all differ but I think that by Agamemnon walking off the battle field realizing that he is hurt posses a big difference from him and Achilles. I predict Achilles will fight to the death and not retreat as he knows that this is how he will get his glory. Agamemnon on the other had doesn’t feel this way. This is why I believe Agamemnon is simply someone who Achilles will forever be compared too for the duration of the epic.

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    2. Teresa Plummer

      Hi Kendal,

      I agree that Agamemnon “serves the purpose of someone to compare Achilles too.” That seems pretty clear from the section in Book 11. Agamemnon kills his captives and Achilleus releases his for ransom. I think it is noteworthy that these two guys that Agamemnon kills were the same ones that Achilleus had previously taken pity on. Do you suppose Agamemnon did that on purpose? To show his superiority over Achilleus? And, if so, wouldn’t that make Agamemnon a bit of a “bully” or villain? He seems to always be trying to put Achilleus in his place (i.e., “that you may learn well how much greater I am than you (1.186); “And let him yield place to me, inasmuch as I am the kinglier” (9.160).

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      1. Natasha Moore

        I find the differences between Agamemnon and Achilles that you pointed out as well as Kendal’s point about Agamemnon being referred to as an animal interesting. You point out how Agamemnon is killing the individuals that Achilles has previously taken pity on. As Kendal said previously, he kills these men ruthlessly and with no remorse. For now it would seem as if in this respect Achilles and Agamemnon differ but Achilles’ anger will later cause him to mirror Agamemnon’s actions. After the death of Patroklos Achilles also becomes ruthless. He’ll come to destroy his enemies and when he battles Hector he mentions eating him instead of returning his body to his family. If this isn’t animalistic then I don’t know what is. His anger turns him into Agamemnon in terms of his lack of pity in battle but his superiority means that he will be able to cause a lot more damage.

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        1. Kendal Longmore

          I think the big difference between Agamemnon and Achilles here that you have pointed out is the Achilles acts ruthlessly because of the death of Patroklos. Agamemnon acts this way because it is in his nature giving reason to why he didn’t take pity on the two warriors. Achilles is not like Agamemnon but will react when heavily provoked. I think here is the most striking differences and maybe even the purpose of this scene was to see this.

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        2. Avery Tucker

          We can surely agree that Achilles is the more respected warrior. Stepping ahead, later in book 15 it is proposed to Patroclus to wear Achilles’ armor because the Trojans will fear even an impersonation of Achilles in battle. Achilles’ armor will work for the Achaeans also, re-establishing their faith in winning the war without being killed or having to retreat with the head being Agamemnon. The point that sets Achilles far superior to Agamemnon is that it is never mentioned how a soldier will look in Agamemnon’s armor and if it will even effect the way in which either side thought about the war, even after Agamemnon’s “aristeia”.

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    3. Teresa Plummer

      I had to look up the definition of “foil” to see if this is what was really happening here. The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines it as “A character whose qualities or actions serve to emphasize those of the protagonist […] by providing a strong contrast with them.” Do you think that Agamemnon’s actions help to emphasize Achilleus’ actions? At one point in your post, you mention that Agamemnon’s method of killing “as a lion seizes the innocent young” might “foreshadow how Achilles wrath may look when he reenters the battle,” but if Agamemnon is a foil to Achilleus, wouldn’t Achilleus wrath and fighting be different from Agamemnon’s (i.e., “a strong contrast with them)? It makes me want to read ahead and find out!

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    4. Alicia Wooten

      I think that Agamemnon is a foil character to Achilleus. The key thing that is meant to be highlighted is Achilleus’s mercy. If you recall book 1, Agamemnon is the one who started the whole conflict in the Iliad. He was unwilling to take the generous ransom offered for Chryseis even though “all the rest of the Achaians cried out in favor that the priest be respected and the shining ransom be taken” (1.22-23). Now in book 11, Agamemnon kills two Trojans who Achilleus spared. Later in the Iliad, Achilleus will eventually release Hektor’s body when he is offered ransom for it by Priam. Agamemnon’s relentlessness emphasizes Achilleus’s ability to show mercy.

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      1. Paulina Horton

        I agree that Agamemnon is meant to be a foil character in this story. I also agree with you Alicia in the idea of him highlighting Achilles’ mercy and compassion. I also think Agamemnon is meant to highlight just how devastating Achilles’ wrath is. The most compassionate, level-headed men have the worst tempers when provoked. I think Homer is trying to illustrate this by constantly comparing Achilles and Agamemnon. At this point in the story everyone is aware of how merciless Agamemnon is, but when it comes to Achilles we only know that he is stubborn but merciful. When he does return to battle after the death of Patroklos we don’t see that man anymore. My question is why isn’t Agamemnon the villain in this story? Looking back it’s obvious that he set of the chain of events that lead to Achilles’ wrath so why can’t we necessarily call him the villain?

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        1. Alicia Wooten

          I am not entirely sure that Agamemnon is the villain. He may have initiated the plot, but in the end it is Hektor who is the one who lets loose the wrath of Achilleus. Hektor may be very selfish, but I believe he really wants the best for his people. When the Achaians were really in trouble, he was willing to attempt to reconcile with Achilleus. He also was willing to return home in shame because it would save his people. It wasn’t until Hektor killed Patroklos that Achilleus began his rampage. Does this not make Hektor the villain? After all, Agamemnon may have taken some of Achilleus’s honor, but Hektor took Achilleus’s brother.

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        2. Natasha Moore

          I think that his intent is what makes us unable to claim that Agamemnon is a villain. He realizes later that provoking Achilles by taking away Briseis was not the best move on his part. He later offers her back to Achilles but by then it is too late. He learns from his mistakes and as we progress through the Iliad we see him starting to listen to his advisers more, learning from his mistake of ignoring them when they cried out for him to agree to the offer concerning Chryseis.If anyone could be considered a villain I’d probably say that it would be Paris. Both Paris and Aphrodite are to blame for the war with the taking of Helen and the adultery that was committed. Had Helen not been taken or had Paris died in book three, the war either would not have occurred or would have been resolved.

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          1. Paulina Horton

            I know it was Hector’s killing of Patrols that sets off Achilles’ wrath, but it’s a war. Unless Patroklos tries to beg Hector to spare his life, which I don’t think he does, isn’t Patroklos’ death just a natural part of war? Did Hector know that he was killing Achilles’ best friend? Was he purposely trying to hurt Achilles? I think he was just trying to save his city. On the other hand, it’s obvious that Hector has stopped taking the advice of his advisors. His arrogance is part of his undoing and I see how that can transform him into a villain, even though his intentions were good. If anything I think Aphrodite is the true villain in this story like Natasha was saying. Her giving Helen to Paris knowing hat she was already married starts the war in the first place. Can we also consider Hera and Athena villains because they are the ones in Book 3 that restart the war because they are so bent on seeing Troy destroyed?

      2. Sheree Goffe

        I agree with you Alicia, even though Agammnon initiated the drama with Achilleus, Agammnon cares for his people. He may come off as a selfish, self righteous, pompous jerk in the iliad but he shows a form of compassion when he realized how the Achaians’ might loose and asked Achilleus to come back to war. Agammnon is a foil, throughout the iliad there are multiple comparisons between the two. So i agree on the foil theory. The contrast is that Achilleus is a child of a divinity and Agammnon is a child of a mortal. They are both known for their strength in battle and they are both leaders to their own people. Achilleus fights for glory and Agammnon for riches. Throughout the books of the Iliad they always commented on Achilles and Agammnon style of battle. Achilles fights but has compassion, like when Hecktors wife taked about how he slaughtered her father but gave him a respectful burial. IL.6.414-19 It was brilliant Achilleus who slew my father, Eëtion,when he stormed the strong-founded citadel of the Kilikians,Thebe of the towering gates. He killed Eëtion but did not strip his armour, for his heart respected the dead man, but burned the body in all its elaborate war-gear
        and piled a grave mound over it

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      3. Avery Tucker

        Agamemnon could be seen as a foil and a father figure to Achilles. If Achilles were free to lead the Achaeans and Agamemnon had no place in the Iliad there would be a lot more violent books like chapter eleven but they would be at the hands of Achilles. Agamemnon has foiled Achilles multiple times in the power struggle between them. Achilles attempting to get Agamemnon back by not returning to war is a interesting way that the poem chooses to use Agamemnon to stop Achilles from doing what embodies him as the greatest warrior in the script. It is interesting to think if Agamemnon were on the side of the Trojans what role he would play. Would he oppose Hector the same way? Also, would Achilles then have any emotion or rivalry towards Agamemnon or would it just be a strict strength battle between Achilles and Hector.

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  2. Sheree Goffe

    Agammnon and Achilleus have a connection. Achilleus is known to be a better warrior but Agammnon is a respected leader and loved by the gods. They are both highly favored by the gods. In the end Hecktor is killed by Achilleus the “better” man.

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