Writing Assignment – Week 9

At 16.821-822 Homer says that Patroklos fell “to the horror of all the Achaian people”; but at the beginning of Scroll 17 it is Menelaos who is first mentioned as seeing the fallen hero. He thus stands over Patroklos’ body “as over a first-born calf the mother | cow stands lowing, she who has known no children before this” (17.1-8). Of all the possible Achaeans to notice Patroklos, why does Homer pick Menelaos? What is the significance of the simile that describes his care for him? In your answer be sure to focus on previous descriptions of Menelaos and his role in the Iliad, as well as previous instances where heroes have been likened to women/mothers.

17 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 9

  1. Neko Ramos

    I believe that there was a specific reason as to why Homer decided to pick Menelaus as the warrior to claim the body of Patroklos. Throughout the Iliad and ever since book 3 when he had his duel with Paris, Menelaus has pretty much dissapeared and hasn’t really shown any more signs of strength and inferiority. Ever since he had that one instance where he was able to boastfully defeat Paris and make him quit, he was over shadowed by his older brother, Agamemnon. The one factor that has always stopped Menelaus from having more involvement with the battle is the fact that Hector, the main antagonist, is too strong and mighty for Menelaus to battle, so Homer knew exactly what he was doing by putting Menelaus to the side, while Agamemnon and the two Ajax’s over take the Achaian side of the battle.

    Since Agamemnon was wounded and could no longer be the strong leader that he once was, Menelaus found a great opportunity for him to finally take the reigns as leader. Menealus became very protective of not only Patroklos, but i believe he became protective of “the opportunity of kleos”. He did not want to share this with anyone, especially not Euphorbus who was in opposition of him, declaring that he was indeed the one who deserved the glory for Patroklos body.

    As soon as a young calf is born, the mother cow is ready to be in attack mode for anyone who comes in harms way of her newborn. She hovers over it and guards it to make sure that no one sees it, and they even go as far as hiding them in their bush for the first couple of weeks. This is exactly how Menelaus was reacting to the protection of Patroklus body, so that is why he had insisted on killing Euphorbus because he came to close to his newborn.

    This reminds me of the instance where Agamemnon was compared to a women by crying and having the aches and pains that are similar to a womans time during pregnancy. It is very interesting to see mortals and warriors have women like behavior because it goes to show how important it is to actually capture them in their vulnerable states, as well as their states of strength and courage.

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    1. Tiffany Afolabi-Brown

      I definitely agree Neko, I see how bringing back Menelaus is because his brother, Agamemnon is injured but I believe it is also because the Achaians are missing a leader. Throughout this epic we can see that these men are tired and constantly need a leader to encourage them and lead. Whether it was Agamemnon, Odysseus, or even Nestor. I believe Homer needed to fill the space with a leader and warrior till Achilles could steal the show.I think it also showed Menelaus as
      more than an overzealous younger brother and showed he has a lot of heart and respect for the men he fights alongside with.

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      1. Camille Leeds

        I tend to agree, that Menelaos has been underestimated to a certain extent, and that he’s not a younger brother trying to follow his brother’s footsteps. He’s very brave, as shown right before the duel between Hektor and Aias, when he volunteered to fight Hektor, and the only reason why he didn’t was because Agamemnon took matters into his own hands to protect his younger brother, reminding Menelaos that he would die if he fought Hektor and mobilizing volunteers to fight Hektor. Additionally, in Book 10, he was awake worrying about what was going to happen to the Greeks, and he roused himself to go wake Agamemnon, showing that he does have some initiative in being a leader.

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      2. Brittany Matthews

        I agree with Neko Ramos that defending Patroklos’s body was Menelaos’s opportunity to earn “kleos”. I believe that since Menelaos has been overshadowed by the “aristeia” of Diomedes, Telamonian Aias, Agamemnon, and Patroklos, Homer wanted to give Menelaos a glorious moment. However, I do not believe that Menelaos protected Patroklos’s corpse solely for honor. I believe that he also understood how important Patroklos was to Achilleus and he wanted to do something good for his fellow companion.

        I also agree with Tiffany Afolabi-Brown that Homer used Menelaos to fill the missing leader spot since many of the stronger Achaians were injured. Homer wanted to show that no matter how many good leaders in the Achaian army had to step away from the battle, there was always another Achaian who would be willing to step up to the plate.

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    2. Camille Leeds

      Neko,
      While I agree that Agamemnon’s injury has provided an opportunity for lesser fighters in the battled, I don’t think that Menelaos was defending Patroklos because of a desire for glory, nor do I agree that Menelaos did not want to share this opportunity with anyone else. As it says at 17.101-104, “… if somewhere I could only get some word of Aias of the great war cry, we two might somehow go, and keep our spirit of battle even in the face of divinity, if we might win the body…” Menelaos knew that he could not protect Patroklos by himself, so he decided to get help. Additionally, at 17.91-93, “Ah me; if I abandon here the magnificent armor, and Patroklos, who has fallen here for the sake of my honor, shall not someone of the Danaans, seeing it, hold it against me?” When he says “for the sake of my honor,” that shows that he feels bad that Patroklos died in the war to get back Menelaos’ wife, but he also decides to defend the body because the other Greeks will judge him if he runs away from the oncoming Trojans. I think the reason Homer chose to portray Menelaos in this moment is to show his sense of responsibility over the fates of all the Greeks dying for his cause.
      The simile describes a mother cow standing over her first, newborn calf. There seems to be a sense of wonder and stubbornness in the description, because it says, “she who has known no children before this.” While I doubt that Menelaos is in awe of the dead Patroklos, I do think that because of his sense of responsibility for his comrade and because this warrior died for his cause, he does have this stubbornness to refuse to leave Patroklos.
      This particular simile hearkens back to the beginning of the previous book (which sadly was the one in which Patroklos died – he’s my favorite character), in which Achilleus likens Patroklos to a small girl running to her mother to be picked up (16.6-11). In both similes Patroklos is the young child/cow, that needs to be cared for/protected, and at the beginning of book 16, he’s going to Achilleus, but in book 17, in Achilleus’ absence, it’s Menelaos who feels responsible for him.

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      1. Celina Gauthier

        Hi Camille:
        I agree that I think Menealos is emotionally bearing some of the burden as to why Patroklos is dead. Yes, Patroklos’ death is a result of the battle between the Achaians and the Trojans. This, would not have happened if it were not for Menealos’s need to win back Helen from Paris. However, Agammemnon’s actions cause Achilleus to refrain from the fighting and send Patroklos into the battle without him. (This makes me think that Achilleus grief is unbearable.) Anyways, do you think it is ironic that in this chapter the female species is actually praised in this Chapter? When I think back to all the references of the female species in this Epic, I think of how often the troops are likened to women. For example, 7.96, “You women, not men of Achaia! This will be defilement upon us, shame upon shame piled, if no one of the Danaans goes out to face Hektor.” Yet, a cow is praised for its protective instincts?

        Celina

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        1. Mary McDevitt

          Celina, I agree with you when you point out this was a lot of Achilleus fault and not everything was Menelaos. Yes, it is his woman they’re fighting for, but there are other people to look at if we look at Patrolkos’s death. Nestor, I think has a part in this for saying to put on the armor. Everyone knows that once people think Achilleus is in battle, Hektor will go eliminate that threat. Patroklos, as good as he was, isn’t as great as Achilleus. Patroklos is also to blame for his own death. He was warned to only send the Trojans away from the ships, not to chase after them. But, Celina, I have to disagree with you when you call the simile a praise for women. I feel like Homer is saying even though there were mother instincts there, there was no protecting his life or his body. Menelaos watched Patroklos die and had to get help protecting the body, there was no use in his motherly instincts.

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    3. Celina Gauthier

      Hi Neko:
      While I agree, that Chapter 17 portrays Menealos as a great leader. I disagree why Homer chooses Menealos to protect his corpse. For me, there is some sort of symbiotic relationship between Agammemnon and Achilleus still taking place. The plot to the Illiad is dependent on each character. We know that Menealos and Agammenon are close brothers and share a close bond. As Camille mentions, Agammemnon worries when Menealos decides to accept Hektor’s challenge. Agammemnon persuades Menealos to step down from the challenge. While it has been suggested, in other versions of the Illiad that Achilleus and Patroklos are lovers, in this particular version, their relationship is platonic making the relationship between Achilleus and Patroklos similar to Agammemnon’s and Menealos’s. Therefore, Menealos’s status is very similar to Patroklos’s because they both play significant roles in the two great leaders and warriors lives. I think this similarity is the reason why Homer chose Menealos as the one who protects the body of Patroklos.
      Celina

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      1. Neko Ramos

        After reading everyone’s perspective, i am really honored and thankful to receive another outlook on not only the character of Menelaus, but the his important connection to Patroklus. I understand that Menelaus is a great leader and Homer has many reasons for bringing him back the way that he did, but i believe that this is the perfect time for him to come back with a mind of vengeance because Achilles is now after Hektor. I do understand the perspective that Menelaus is not as selfish as i thought he was, simply because he has a what i believe to be a symbolic connection to Patroklus. As i was reading Celina’s comment, i received a revelation that there are great similarities between Patroklus and Menelaus. Menelaus is the younger brother to Agamemnon, but that absolutely does not stop him from having the passion and heart of a warrior. Patroklus seems to be Achilles closest companion and his best friend. I believe that Patroklus is well-respected just as Menelaus is well-respected, and i don’t believe that neither of these characters let titles or backgrounds constrain them. This is a great way to understand the significance of a “sidekick” and watch the development of someone grow out of that shadow, just as Patroklus did, as well we now see Menelaus continuing to grow out and become his own man.

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      2. Christopher Boivin

        Hi, Celina 🙂
        I think you’re the first to identify a very significant parallel in your assertion that Menelaos is to Agamemnon as Patroklos is to Achilleus. This relationship provides a sub-cultural story beneath the saga of those that represent more “leading roles” within the epic’s hierarchy of heroes. Those main protagonists, characters like Agamemnon and Achilleus, have been revealed by Homer to each have something of a brother figure to care for and protect. This scene, in a very well crafted and careful way, helps illuminate a theme of identification between all four of these characters, for the characters themselves, but possibly even more especially and powerfully for the reader.

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    4. Joseph Reid

      Great post classmate, you had a great introduction saying that Menelaus has pretty much dissapeared and hasn’t really shown any more signs of strength and inferiority, probably because of Hector’s influence. Hector is clearly the better fighter of the two. I agree with the comment you made about Agamemnon being wounded, and Menelaus taking the mantle as leader of the Greeks. Ever since Book 11 when Coon got Agamemnon in the arm, he never been seen doing much fighting. You concluded very well saying that it’s very interesting to see mortals and warriors have women like behavior whether it’s in their states of strength(aristeia) or in a state of vulnerability.

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    5. Danielle Wood

      I agree that this was both a chance for him to lead and try to earn kleos. His brother already had plenty of battle moments, being both king and leader, while Menelaos was left on the sidelines for most of the fighting. It’s both his chance to shine as well as to protect the body of this great, well-loved fallen hero. I think the point of the comparison of a mother cow to its dead calf is to show how Menelaos, in the moment, showed qualities of possibly sadness, protection, love, and vulnerability. He just watched a great man die and now he stepped up to try and protect his body from being disgraced at all costs.

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    6. Aliyah Barbee

      I definitely agree with Neko’s post about Menelaus protecting Patroklos’ body like a mother cow does its newborn. Menelaus wants to make sure Partoklos body can have a proper burial that way Achilles can have time to mourn him. Menelaus doesn’t want Patroklos body to be disrespected in any way, thinking he can at soften the blow a little bit for Achilles. I disagree with the notion that Homer only used Menelaus because he had been ‘underused’ and on the back burner for the last couple of chapters. I definitely think it is pretty symbolic. Patroklos and Menelaus are also alike that they have a lot of compassion. Patroklos is a healer and Menelaus is known to take pity on his enemies and spare them.

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  2. Brittany Matthews

    I believe that Homer picked Menelaos to guard Patroklos’s corpse to compare and contrast the importance of the two warriors. Both warriors were men that the Achaians wanted to stay alive during the Trojan War. Patroklos was a warrior who could fight very well and help heal the wounded; therefore, he was a great asset to the Achaians. The Achaians were fighting for Menelaos because they wanted his wife, Helen, to be returned to him; therefore, their years of fighting and the deaths of their warriors would have been for a lost cause if Menelaos was killed.

    For ten years, Menelaos did not give up on the fight for Helen. When Menelaos saw Patroklos fall, he did not give up on protecting the corpse. Even when he had to leave the corpse, it was to find a strong Achaian (Telamonian Aias) to help him retrieve it (17.113-122). The simile that describes Menelaos protecting Patroklos’s corpse (17.1-5) is significant because it shows how determined Menelaos is. These actions could possibly be foreshadowing a later event in the Iliad. Since Menelaos’s determination enabled him to retrieve Patroklos’s corpse, maybe he will be able to get Helen back as well.

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    1. Natalie Smith

      Brittany,

      I like how you stated that the two were chosen for comparison and to contrast. I feel like the Achaians didn’t just want Menelaos because of Helen, but also because he’s a good fighter. While I agree that the fighting would have been worthless if Menelaos died within the first year, I believe that if he had been killed any later than two years after the start of the war his death wouldn’t have mattered. Eventually the fight became less about Helen and more about which side was stronger.

      I agree with you that Menelaos is a determined person. I think you make a really interesting point about this being foreshadowing. This book is filled with spoilers, similes, and foreshadowing. I feel like he could potentially get Helen back because Troy is destined to fall.

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    2. Christopher Boivin

      I think you’re correct, Brittany, that Menelaos’ protection of Patroklos had equitably if not more so to do with personal compassion than it did honor itself. Patroklos’ death has impacted Menelaos in a distinctly profound way, and his sadness and fear of leaving the fallen body to be taken and “ ‘. . . given to the dogs of Troy . . .’ ”( Aias, 17.255) is emboldened by his words to the Aiantes and Meriones: “Aiantes . . . and you, Meriones . . . remember unhappy Patroklos who was gentle, and understood how to be kindly toward all men while he lived. Now death and fate have closed in upon him” (17.669-72).

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  3. Aliyah Barbee

    In my opinion I believe Homer chose Menelaus to be the one to first witness Patroklos’ death because it could have very well been him instead of Patroklos. People like to compare Achilles and Agamemnon, then that means Patroklos would be compared to Menelaus because they’re the closest friends of the main two characters. Back in book 4 when Menelaus is hurt by Pandaros’ arrow, Agamemnon goes bezerk; in book 18 so does Achilles. He reacts the way I would expect Agamemnon too if Menelaus had been killed. Menelaus can sympathize how much pain Achilles will be in when he finds out about his partner, and I believe Menelaus should have been the one to deliver the news to Achilles.

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