Writing Assignment – Week 8

Upon awakening from his night with Hera, Zeus lays out the basic plot points for the rest of the epic (15.49-77). How does this narrative foretelling relate to Prof. Nagy’s argument about the importance, to the epic, of the will of Zeus? Further, in what ways is this sort of ‘spoiler’ a different narrative tactic from modern storytelling? Be sure to support your claims with specific citations from and references to the text (both in this scroll and others).

15 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 8

  1. Camille Leeds

    We talked a lot about this question in class the other day. In book 15, lines 61-71 have what we call a lot of spoilers. These lines reveal the plot of the rest of the Iliad, which no author (at least no one that I know of) reveals today. While there might be foreshadowing, we don’t actually know what’s going to happen until it actually happens or if we’re very familiar with the tropes of the genre.
    Lines 69-71 are particularly confusing because they could be taken a couple different ways. “And from then on I would make the fighting surge back from the vessels always and continuously, until the Achaians capture headlong Ilion through the designs of Athene.” This could be interpreted as Zeus’ will only extends so far as the fighting being beaten back from the Greek ships and Zeus hands the reins over to Athene, OR it could be that Zeus’ will extends through all three of those lines and then he’s going to let Athene help out with the sacking of Troy.
    I tend to think that it’s the latter. By deciding that Hektor is going to be killed, Zeus is virtually saying that Troy is going to be destroyed, because they can’t win without him. The Trojans, at least, seem to believe that, as in book 6, lines 500-502 (“So they mourned in his house over Hektor while he was living still, for they thought he would never again come back from the fighting alive, escaping the Achaian hands and their violence”) they are pretty sure that Hektor is going to die. Additionally, about 50 lines before that (l.447-8), Hektor says, “For I know this thing well in my heart, and my mind knows it: there will come a day when sacred Ilion shall perish…” So the death of Hektor and the fall of Troy seem to go together, and there can’t be one without the other, it seems to me.

    1. Neko Ramos

      i do have a question for you, Ms. Leeds. After reading your profound response, i am understanding that you believe that if Hector falls, then so will Troy, and that is what is being foreshadowed Do you believe that there is a chance that Zeus could be wrong and that there could be a chance for Alexandros to take the reigns as the leader after his brother? Or could there just simply be an error in Zeus’s prophesy? i understand that even in the spiritual sense someones will can go up against fate and actually overcome fate, so i would like to know your thoughts on whether that could be possible here in the Iliad.

      1. Tiffany Afolabi-Brown

        Camille observed another part of this epic that makes it unlike everything else we could possibly read. I look at the foreshadowing as disappointing after being born into a generation where suspense is used to keep peoples attention it is very hard to read something I personally know the ending to. I think that this fact shows a lot about what greek culture in literature or the arts believe are important. The journey of the hero, the fight for kleos, that tale is so genuinely packed with many pieces that the greeks must have found entertaining. As far as the gods, we see them as the puppeteers playing with dolls but the greeks not only believed but revelled in the greatness of their gods. I just feel this chapter brings out base level differences in culture and time .

        1. Danielle Wood

          I like that you bring this up because it is definitely clear that finding out the ending of the story wasn’t what kept people reading in the time this was written. The thought crossed my mind that maybe they thought the ending might turn out differently, even after Zeus expressed his will, that he might change his mind once again and it could end in the favor of the Trojans. But I do think that the journey as a whole was probably an interesting tale to them that knowing the ending might not have mattered. It’s hard to tell without having experienced living in that time period.

          1. Celina Gauthier

            Hi Danielle:
            In your response to Tiffany, when you stated, “the journey as a whole was probably an interesting tale to them that knowing the ending might not have mattered,” I think your statement was insightful. I am of the same mindset. When I was reading everyone’s responses, my mind kept thinking about 16, 644-51, “So they swarmed over the dead man, nor did Zeus ever turn the glaring of his eyes from the strong encounter, but kept gazing forever upon them, in spirit reflective, and pondered hard over many ways for the death of Patroklos; whether this was now the time, in this encounter, when there over godlike Sarpedon glorious Hektor should kill him with the bronze, and strip the armour away from his shoulders, or whether to increase the steep work of fighting for more men.” Clearly, the audience knows that Patroklos is going to die by Hektor’s hand, but the audience still has no idea exactly how Patroklos is going to be killed. Will the battle be fierce? How many attempts will Hektor make before he completes his mission? These details still matter to the audience. It is “the journey” that keeps the audience engaged.

      2. Camille Leeds

        From what I understand, Zeus does get a lot of say of what fate is. The Fates, obviously, have more authority about what happens, but Zeus also has a lot of control of fate. We do know, though, that Zeus is not all-knowing, as he didn’t realize in book 14 that Hera was tricking him. So I guess it is possible for Zeus to make a mistake, but I think that he probably puts a lot of thought into how things are going to work out, based on what he said was going to happen with the Greeks and Trojans. He could have just said, “Oh, well, I’ll just make the Trojans win until Agamemnon goes begging Achilleus to fight.” But instead, he said, “Well, first the Trojans are going to win until they set fire to the ships, and then Patroklos is going to beat them back, and Patroklos is going to die, which will get Achilleus to fight again and give him a reason to kill Hektor, and then Troy is going to fall.” Anyway, based on what I know of mythology and the Iliad, I think that the only way to overcome fate in mythology is to outwit the gods or to get some kind of special permission from the gods to bring someone back to life or something. I think the philosophy of the soldiers in the Trojan War is pretty much, “I can’t do a whole lot to change my fate, so what happens to me happens to me.” I think maybe they do have a choice, though, because Achilleus had a choice, either to leave Troy and live a long life, or stay and win glory and die soon (bk.9, l. 410-416).

        1. Brittany Matthews

          Camille Leeds,
          I like how you pointed out that Zeus is not all-knowing because he is tricked by Hera in book XIV. This flaw of his proved that even though he may be the most powerful god, he is not perfect. I agree that it is possible for him to make a mistake, but things are probably going to work out in his favor because he puts so much effort and work into his plans.
          You wrote “ I think maybe they do have a choice, though, because Achilleus had a choice, either to leave Troy and live a long life, or stay and win glory and die soon (bk.9, l. 410-416),” and I partially agree. Achilleus knew his fated options, but how many other warriors were warned about death by an immortal? If they do not know their options, how can they avoid certain fates? Also, just because Achilleus knew his fated options that does not mean he necessarily had the free will to choose one. If you think about it, Achilleus staying with the Achaians may possibly be a result of Zeus’s will to restore his honor and fulfill Thetis’s request.

      3. Mary McDevitt

        I agree with Camille with believing that when Hektor dies, so does Troy. If someone with good enough leadership abilities was alive and for Troy, I believe he would have shown up already. He would have, and be earning more, kleos for people to believe in him and boost their moral- just like what Hektor is doing. I don’t see Alexandros sticking out his neck for his comrades. I have seen him with a bow whenever it’s convenient and safe for him. I don’t even think if he did stand up when his brother dies to try and save his city and prizes anyone would follow him. Homer even states “everyone hates him.”

    2. Danielle Wood

      I agree with you in your interpretation of the lines you chose that is that latter, that Zeus’ will goes through all of those lines. Zeus appears to ultimately in control of every aspect, the main puppeteer of all the gods. This is shown by lines 72-74 “Before this I am not stopping my anger, and I will not let any other of the immortals stand there by the Danaans until the thing asked by the son of Peleus has been accomplished”. Even though the Achaians win in the final part of his will, he still refuses them any help until Achilles kills Hektor. His will touches everything about the Iliad.

      1. Natalie Smith

        I really like how you compared Zeus to a puppeteer. It makes me wonder why the god’s involve themselves so deeply into the affairs of mortals, though. Why is it Zeus’s will for Hektor to die? I hope that we will be able to learn why Zeus wont stop his anger until Hektor is dead. I wonder if this is related to Homer’s spoiler? Maybe Homer is showing us how involved they’re getting because he wants to emphasise that the gods are all-powerful. Perhaps he’s hoping to get the listener/reader to remember that the gods can control every aspect of mortal life. We talked in class about how maybe the god created the war to cut back on the number of heros that were being created. Perhaps this ties into the whole plot of Zeus’s will. Maybe Troy has more potential heros than Greece, and so maybe that’s why Zeus has condemned it to destruction.

    3. Natalie Smith

      I think that’s it’s really interesting that Homer included such a huge spoiler. Was it made so that the listeners would be reminded that the gods are all-powerful or was it put in so that the story tellers wouldn’t forget what was about to happen? I personally think that it was put in because Homer wanted to remind us that the gods have a lot of power and can control how things are going to happen. I agree with you that Zeus isn’t going to let go of the reins any time soon, so his will probably extends through all three of the lines. He’s supposed to be the most powerful god so I think that it’s unlikely that he’ll give up any of that power. I like how you tied Hektor and Troy’s fates because it is the truth. One cannot survive without the other. Troy cannot survive without it’s protector, and Hektor cannot survive without his precious city to protect.

  2. Neko Ramos

    In book 15 i got the full understanding that this was Homer’s moment to prophesy over the future of Troy and foreshadow some very key events for his reader. Throughout my time of reading the Iliad so far i have read about the tension between Achilles and Agamemnon, but never really saw Achilles having the urge to go up against Hector. I have seen Patrokolus be loyal to Achilles, as well as have his moment to shine as a leader. So my interpretation so far has been that all of the strong leaders will survive, but i was completely rebuked in book 15.

    Zeus gives Hera instructions to urge Iris from battle and for Apollo to be strengthen back into war, but that wasn’t the most important part. In lines 64-68, Zeus gives the ‘spoiler’; “And he shall raise up Patroklus, his companion. And glorious Hector shall cut down Patroklus with the spear before Ilion, after he has killed many others of the young men, among them my own son, shining Sarpedon. In anger for him brilliant Achilles shall then kill Hector.” So it is very interesting that even though he gives this narrative, when Patroklus does kill his son, he still tries to stop him and act as if he didn’t already foreshadow that event. I think that main difference in this ‘spoiler’ compared to other modern storytelling is that it is given during the battle and while the action is taking place, rather than foretelling events in the beginning and giving the reader a mindset to have, while reading through future battles.

  3. Brittany Matthews

    Zeus’s foretelling of the events in the Iliad is a narrative tactic that is not commonly used in modern storytelling. Nowadays, authors aim to entertain their readers with stories that have surprising events and unexpected conclusions. Events in modern stories often led to conflicts that escalate and reach a climax, which causes readers to wonder how the conflicts will be resolved. Zeus’s foretelling deprives readers of major resolutions that they can be astonished by because they can anticipate his plan to be successful. Zeus is commonly viewed and described as the most powerful god; therefore, readers can assume that he is capable of making almost anything happen. Zeus seems to have the most control over the Trojan War and goes to great lengths to make sure that his goal is accomplished. In book XVI, Zeus goes as far as allowing Patroklos to kill his son, Sarpedon, just so his elaborate plan is not ruined (16.433-434). Zeus then thinks about how he is going to get Hektor to kill Patroklos so that Achilleus joins the Trojan War (16.644-655), and directs Patroklos’s will by driving him to disregard Achilleus’s command to withdraw from the fight to insure that Patroklos would be able to encounter Hektor (16.686-691). Hektor’s deadly attack on Patroklos (16.818-821) was not a shocker because Zeus had previous explained to Hera “For Hektor the huge will not sooner be stayed from his fighting until there stirs by the ships the swift-footed son of Peleus on that day when they shall fight by the sterns of the beached ships in the narrow place of necessity over fallen Patroklos” (8.473-476).

  4. Celina Gauthier

    Hi Camille and Mary:
    In Book 6, I did not comprehend that the death of Hektor and the fall of Troy synonymously went together. However, now in Book 15, thanks to Zeus’s statement (15, 61-71) I know that Hektor is going to be slain by Patroklos and Illion will be captured “…through the designs of Athene.” My point is that when Hektor is having his discussion with Andromache in Book 6, the emphasis for me was not on Ilion perishing. I was focusing on Hektor’s feelings for his wife and son. In this regard, this Epic is similar to the storytelling of today. The foreshadowing of the plot happened in Book 6. Yet, the storytelling intended for its audience to be more preoccupied with what was happening in the moment. In addition, I agree with you both, that when Hektor dies, Troy loses its champion.

    1. Tiffany Afolabi-Brown

      i suppose from the very beginning it would be hard to figure how synonymous the fall of Troy and the death of Hektor would be but it was not so far fetched. Honestly, it is seen that not even the gods truly changed the tide of war. It was only Achilles who had the power to lead the Trojans to victory. This leads me to the idea that the will of Zeus may not be as affluent as we all think. While the gods can affect the war it seems that those who were to actually change the tide of war and affect the true outcome were the humans. The best of the warriors were the ones who could change it so to me it is the humans who make the difference.


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