Writing Assignment – Week 7

Thus far in our reading of the Iliad we have looked closely at rhetorical displays (e.g. lamentation, the embassy). In many ways it is possible to see heroic boasts as yet another type of rhetorical display. In Scroll 13 there are, at least, the two boasts of Idomeneus (13.374-383, 13. 446-45), with a boast of Deiphobos in between (13.413-416), and Menelaos’ boast later on (13.620-639). Using one (or more) of these as a starting point and finding at least one earlier example from the Iliad, craft a well-supported and articulate post of 350-400 words that addresses the following questions: What are the typical features of this kind of rhetorical display? How does boasting play an important role in crafting one’s heroic identity? And finally, in what ways is boasting explicitly connected to other rhetorical displays?
*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.

12 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 7

  1. Chris

    Heroic Boasts appear to consistently use a strong, declarative tone that is accompanied by a sense of victorious confidence in the speaker. Boasts appear to possess an optimism, a painting of hoped upon possibilities coming to fruition. In this way, heroic boasts lie in contrast to lamentation, as the lament speaks of sadness for past trauma and fear of inevitable future misfortune. These qualities of lament can be seen clearly in the lament of Andromache in Book 6, lines 407-39. Boasts seem to reflect a bitter satisfaction in the face of trauma, a way of throwing the pain of injury back confidently at the opposition. We see this explicitly in Deiphobos’ boast in Book 13 after slaying Hypsenor, “Asios lies not now all unavenged. I think rather as he goes down to Hades of the Gates, the strong one, he will be cheerful at heart, since I have sent him an escort”(13.414-16).
    This type of rhetorical display seems to employ a kind of facetious quality and a sort of bitter, mocking sarcasm in its character. We see this in Idomeneus’ boast to Othryoneus, where he actually offers him the same promise Priam had promised to dishonor Ilion and become a traitor to his great city. Here we can see the sarcastic, almost disrespectful tone come off the page as Idomeneus boasts “I congratulate you beyond all others if it is here that you will bring to pass what you promised to Dardanian Priam . . . we would give you the loveliest of Atreides’ daughters . . . if you joined us and helped us storm the strong-founded city of Ilion” (13.374-80). As he is dragging Othryoneus across the battleground by the foot he even goes as far as proclaiming, “Come then with me . . . we here are not bad matchmakers for you” (13.381-82). This characteristic of boasts creates an almost dark humor in the epic, and helps give a confident and triumphant flavor to these monologues.
    Heroic boasts can help craft a character’s heroic identity by providing a vehicle of expression to give each character a unique and bold voice, the power of which will be remembered by the audience due to the defining qualities that the boasts possess. Often, they also allow us to see a character at their best and most victorious, in the face of strong injury, and to see optimism and triumph despite overwhelming trauma and adversity.

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    1. Danielle Wood

      Chris,
      I definitely agree with your definition of a heroic boast as containing elements such as great confidence and optimism. These heroes are making a statement of their power in the face of the enemy with such self-assurance that it seems like in their minds they’ve already won the war. For example, when Idomeneus is boasting to Deiphobos after Deiphobos’ own boast: “…are we then to call this a worthy bargain, three men killed for one? It was you yourself were so boastful…Do you rather come yourself and stand up against me so you can see what I am like, Zeus’ seed, come here to face you” (13.446-49). He one-ups Deiphobos, boasting to him of his own power, challenging him and his power. He’s so sure of his victory that it causes Deiphobos to become uncertain and he walks away from him to find a fight elsewhere. Heroic boasting seems to be used in a way to assert ones dominance, to talk about being the manliest man on the battlefield but it’s also easy to see how boasting could backfire. After a prideful boast, that person could be challenged and lose, resulting in both shame and death.

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      1. Celina Gauthier

        Hi Danielle:
        What you are saying does make sense. Do you feel that the boasts are used as an intimidation factor? Because, that is what immediately came to my mind after I was done reading your post. I began to think about how Homer describes the emotions of the characters in Chapter 13 after a boast is made. For example, after Deiphobos boast in lines 13.413- 16, the next line 13.417 describes the Argives emotions, “He spoke, and sorrow came over the Argives at his vaunting…” Then in 13.455 after Idomenus kills Alkathoos his boast to Deiphobos causes him to think about his next course of action. “So he spoke, and the heart in Deiphobos was divided, pondering whether to draw back and find some other high-hearted Trojan to be his companion, or whether to attempt him singly.” As you said, the boast Idomenus makes causes Deiphobos to question his capability as a warrior.
        Celina

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        1. Megan Sweeney

          Celina,
          I love that you looked more at how the boast causes people to respond as opposed to what it says about the boaster – I had not been thinking of it that way. (Danielle, what you said about the risk of boasting meaning a higher potential shame if their boasts do not turn out to be true is what I immediately thought of when reading these texts). It is most interesting in the case of Idomeneus and Deiphobos as he is boasting at a man who yet lives. As you pointed out, Deiphobos’ immediate response was to go and find a friend to fight by his side. What does this do for Idonemeus? When he then must face Aineias, he has to call for his friends saying “I am alone, terribly I fear the attack of swift-footed Aineias” (13. 481f). If the boasts we have read seem embarrassingly proud then I would call this moment at least slightly embarrassingly cowardly.

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    2. Brittany Matthews

      Chris,

      I find it very interesting that you contrasted lamentation and boasting. I agree that both rhetorical displays are a result of trauma. Characters in the Iliad seem to accept trauma by having lamentation and cope with trauma by boasting.

      In book VI, Andromache accepted the death of her family, something that cannot be undone. She was very sad and seemed to not even be interested in avenging her family. In book XIII, the Achaians and Trojans coped with the death of their companions by boasting about an enemy they killed. Instead of showing sadness, they showed anger and fought for revenge.

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  2. Neko Ramos

    I do agree with you, Chris, in your point that that lamentations and heroic boasts are polar opposites. i believe that heroic boasts are strong, powerful, and moving statements made from a specific character that has a purpose to either change things or foreshadows their action to make a change. Each character had their moments, not only in book 13, but in the Iliad as a whole to boast on their accomplishments in war and in greed. One perfect example is Agamemnon all the way back in book 1 where he is arrogantly boasting and using his empowerment for evil; “Fly as you will, i shall make you no prayers to stay you.I have other here who will do me honour”(book 1) In this text, we notice how Agamemnon is boasting about his title and current glory, but we soon find him pleading for Achilles help, so it goes to show that sometimes boasting can lead to turmoil.
    In book 13, there were a few examples of warriors who stood strong and confident in their boasting, specifically Menelaus, just as he met up with Hector once again in the Iliad. “Even thus shall you Trojans leave the ships of the Acheans, proud and insatiate of battle though you be, nor shall you look any of the disgrace and shame which you have heaped upon yourself. Cowardly she-wolves that you are, you feared not the anger of Zeus, avenger of violated hospitality, who will one day destroy your city; you stole my weeded wife and wickedly carried off much treasure when you were her guest, and now you would fling fire upon our ships, and kill our heroes. A day will come when, rage as you may, you shall be stayed.”(book 13 lines 620-637) This is a motivating and boastful piece of text from Menelaus because i believe he is foreshadowing the actions to come and threathening the trojans that they will pay for every single thing that they did wrong to him and his family. Although this was his moment to express and purge his threats and lashings, he still was unable to take action by himself, so i believe that this represents his identity as a character who is limited when it comes to the more powerful warriors such as Hector and his men.
    This text features pain, sorrow, determination, bitterness, anger, and wrath. Menealus is still hurt by all the things he lost from the trojans, but remains determined to seek revenge when he is connected with his Acheans family.

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  3. Brittany Matthews

    I believe that the boasting between the Achaians and Trojans is explicitly connected to revenge. One good example is the gloating between Idomeneus (13.374-382, 13.446-454) and Deiphobos (13.414-416). It started when Idomeneus killed Othryoneus, a man who Priam promised to give his daughter to if he kept Ilion from being sacked by the Achaians. Idomeneus gloats by sarcastically promising “the loveliest of Atreides’ daughters” (13.378) to the deceased Othryoneus if he helps capture Ilion. Idomeneus then killed Asios, which provoked Deiphobos to get even. Deiphobos killed Hypsenor and felt like doing so avenged Asios, but I believe he gloated only because Idomeneus had gloated. Deiphobos wanted to discourage the Achaians to counter Idomeneus’s discouragement toward the Trojans. I believe Idomeneus boasted again after killing Alkathoös only to try to top Deiphobos’s previous boast. It seems like the two warriors were trying to prove that they were better than the other by killing an enemy and then bragging about it. Boasting plays a role in a warrior’s identity by acknowledging how bloodthirsty and confident he is in battle.

    An earlier example of boasting in the Iliad is one between Alexandros (11.380-383) and Diomedes (11.385-395). Alexandros shoots an arrow and hits Diomedes on his right foot and then gloats about it. Diomedes then belittles Alexandros by telling him that his bow and arrow skills are useless in combat, and trivializes his foot wound by calling it a scratch. Diomedes also claims that if he hit a man then the act would result in death, which hints that he is a better warrior than Alexandros because Alexandros’s attack did not kill Diomedes. This example lacks the feature of revenge that is connected to boasting in book XIII, but it shares the same heroic identity role.

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    1. Katharyn Hill

      I agree with you Brittany about their boasting is clearly connected to revenge. For the most part, these warriors have to be bloodthirsty and willing to fight if they are going to be effective in battle and have a shot at winning. Throughout the Iliad, characters are constantly being wronged so there is a history between many of the characters that leads to revenge. Although their boasts seem cruel and unnecessary, it’s understandable considering how much they have gone through as warriors.

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  4. Emily Berg

    Chris,

    I agree with you when you say that heroic boasts are opposite of laments. This is evident when homer writes, “Othryoneus, I congratulate you beyond all others…” (13.374). Immediately, the tone of this passage differs from that of a lament. The tone is uplifting and congratulatory rather than mournful and sorrowful. However, what is interesting is that family seems to be a central focus in both lament’s, heroic boast’s and other speech forms. Such can be seen further within the passage when Atreides’ daughters are brought up. Additionally, the heroic boast’s continue to demonstrate cheerful tones later in book 13 when Homer writes, “He will be cheerful at heart, since I have sent him an escort” (13.416). This is very interesting to me because thus far in the Iliad, we have only been able to understand the heroes in comparison to war or when in battle. However, the boast’s eliminate the war imagery and instead cause the audience to associate the heroes with happy and cheerful images. For example, “never to be glutted with the grim war noises, nor go short of all that other shame and defilement…” (13.621-22). In a sense, these boasts’s present irony, because one would not think that the heroes would be existent in scenes where battle imagery is not accepted by the characters.

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    1. Katharyn Hill

      I completely agree with you Emily about family being a central focus in laments and in boast in The Iliad. I think that it’s important for readers to understand where the character has been in their life because that is a defining factor in who they are today and who they will be in the future. The boasts are cheerful because they are celebrating a major or even minor victory in their life and by boasting about it, it allows them to build up their ego and honor. By putting down whoever they just defeated, the act of declaring their victory for everyone to know about builds up their ego, which as we have seen throughout The Iliad, is a very important aspect to the warriors.

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  5. Celina Gauthier

    Chris:

    I agree with you that the boasts each character makes give each one an identity. One thing I noticed about most boasts made by a character in the Illiad is that they include where characters are from and how they came to be. For example, in 13.446 -454 “Deiphobos, are we then to call this a worthy bargain, three men killed for one? It was you yourself were so boastful. Strange man. Do you rather come yourself and stand up against me so you can see what I am like, Zeus’ seed, come here to face you. Since Zeus, first got by Krete Minos, who cared for his people, and to Minos in turn was born a blameless son, Deukalion, and Deukalion sire me to be lord over may people in wide Kret, and now my ships have brought me to this place to be an evil for you and your father and the rest of the Trojans.” This boast informs its audience of Idomenus’s origins and how he came to be involved in this battle. Also, the boast Idomenus makes in 13.374-383, which you already quoted, allows the audience to gain more insight about Othryoneus’s involvement in this battle.

    Celina

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  6. Moneshia Smith

    Heroic boasts definitely include strong elements such as great confidence, strong judgment and optimism. Boasting is an element that is one’s nature for some heroes, however not in all. It seems the boastful side of a hero comes out when another starts talking of his past success. Diomedes is a character who boasts about how brave he is and how if necessary he will fight on his own many Trojans and he has fought many fights on his own before joining the war. Boasting plays an important role in crafting one’s identity because it gives some type of idea about one’s character as a person can get the wrong idea or get the wrong vibe. One may think a boastful person such as Diomedes is not brave but cocky about himself. Lamentation, on the other hand is harder for some people but boasting is easier. Men can be looked at as a weak individual if they are caught weeping.

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