Writing Assignment – Week 12

Perhaps the most important scene in all of the Iliad is the encounter between Achilleus and Priam in scroll 24. Here we find a moment when both heroes gaze upon the other with a sense of wonder (24.629-632) that reveals a shared understanding of the other or empathy.

This empathy indicates an internal reckoning of many crucial themes in the poem. Using this encounter as a starting point choose one theme from the list below and a passage from the encounter between Priam and Achilleus that specifically engages with that concept. Using additional examples from the text to support your opinion articulate in what ways the epic as a whole revolves around that theme and how it relates to the concept of empathy.

For those writing responses: each response must cite a passage from the epic not employed in either the initial post or other responses.

Themes: Lament, Glory, Memory, Death, Loss, Mortality, Familial relationships, Competition, Gods and Men, Emotions

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

3 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 12

  1. Hanna Gilley

    I perceive Achilles and Priam to be experiencing a sense of mutual understanding on the nature of loss. Both men have lost someone very important and sacred to them but they had yet to understand what the other man had truly lost. This is empathy. The ability to fully understand the emotion and experiences of another person, that “I know exactly how you feel.” Before, especially in the case of Achilles, it was a more selfish portrayal of emotion. He had lost someone dear to him, and that made his anger rise. Achilles was not thinking of how anyone else was feeling about the loss of Patroklos, especially how Priam would feel with the death of his son, the one who had killed Patroklos. Therefore, Achilles was not seen as an empathetic man. After the continued fighting and the desecration of Hector would Achilles look into the eyes of a man who had also lost and truly understand the depth of loss.
    During the lament of Briseis in scroll 19, we can see the empathy associated with loss as she says, “…therefore I weep your death without ceasing. You were kind always”(19.300). Homer shows us even more of Briseis’ empathy for loss when he says, “and the women sorrowed around her grieving openly for Patroklos, but for her own sorrows each”(19.301-302).
    Furthermore, in scroll 18, we see the empathic emotion of a mother when Thetis meets with Achilles. She tells the women, “while I see him live and he looks on the sunlight, he has sorrows, and though I go to him I can do nothing to help him. Yet I shall go, to look on my dear son, and to listen to the sorrow that has come to him”(18.61-64). I believe not only is Thetis experiencing Achilles’ loss, but her own loss as well, the loss of Achilles himself. “There as he sighed heavily the lady his mother stood by him and cried out shrill and aloud, and took her son’s head in her arms, then sorrowing for him she spoke to him”(18.71-72). This can also be seen as a mother’s compassion for her son and the death of his good friend, but deeper she knows she will also lose a loved one, thus sharing the experience with Achilles.

    1. Anisa Bailey

      First, I liked your post Hanna. I feel that you touched on good examples from the text. When it comes to empathy, I feel that Achilles does portray it but just in a different capacity. He knows and feel that the war has caused a lot of sorrow for others and himself, but when it comes to the death of Hektor, that empathy runs out. I think its easy for us to say he wasn’t empathic with Priam for the loss of his son, but seeing that Hektor killed the most important person to Achilles, do we really blame him? I feel that in his encounter with Priam, Achilles at least tried to identify with Priams loss. After having a moment to grieve for their losses Achilles extends kindness to Priam. “The heart in you is iron. Come, then, and sit down upon this chair, and you and I will even let our sorrows lie still in the heartfor all our grieving.” Through this we can see that though Achilles may not be sorry for the death of Hektor, he definitely shows empathy and identifies with the loss.

  2. Sallie Puffer

    I enjoyed reading your post but I struggle to agree that Achilleus or any of them showed empathy. I think to truly be empathetic is irrational in regards to war. I do not think that Achilleus felt that the loss of Hector was equal to the loss of Patroculus because in Acheilleus mind Hector was deserving of his death as he killed Patroculus. I struggle to believe that any of us would truly be empathetic towards a dear one’s killer. I think there are just some things that are past empathy. I think that if the gods had not intervened then Achilleus would not have returned Hector’s body which I must admit does show empathy. Especially when Achilleus was so adimmant on appropriately honoring Patroculus. ” to Patroklos and mourn him, since such is the privilege of the perished.” (23.9)


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