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.

8 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 12

  1. Noah Lyons

    Many a time in the competition is a reoccurring theme that we often times see between mortal characters. Frequently we see competition in the many fighting seems and battles that the Iliad had. However, we see competition at its finest in Scroll 23 during the funeral games, which can also be viewed as an athletic / olympic type games or competition. But the most important competition is the wrestling match between Odysseys and Ajax. We see the two men fight to a draw [23: 707-737]. It is important that they came to a draw because this prives that since they came to a draw that no one will be able to take the place of Achilles. This truly shows how mighty Achilles is that when the next two men who want to show their might, in the end fall to a draw. This leads us as readers to ask many questions that are often unanswerable as to who will be the next mightiest and best of the Achaeans after the death of Achilles.

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    1. Brea Marshall

      Nice Noah! Competition is recurrent and concludes the difference among great men. More-so, there’s a shameful and revengeful nature to competition. There’s a personal reason for doing something, but also there’s peer pressure to continue to do something; this is recurrent for mortals.
      A competition in the Iliad for the mortals usually consists of 1) not running away, 2)setting guidelines to follow, and 3) either a person killing or ransoming their opponent.
      We see the brutality and unpredictable nature of war and the victims of war. For the most part, these steps involved in competition are often betrayed-once during Paris and Menelaos’s battle and another during Achilleus’ and Hektor’s battle. This brings up the question of why is competition necessary if it just leads to even more disputes and arguments. Similar to Achilleus and Hektor’s final battle, Achilleus never fulfills Hektor’s guidelines:

      Come then shall we swear before the gods? For these are the highest who shall be witnesses and watch over our agreements.Brutal as you are I will not defile you, if Zeus grants to me that I can wear you out, and take the life from you.But after I have stripped your glorious armor, Achilleus, I will give your corpse back to the Achaians. Do you likewise.(22.254-259).

      As a competitor who has strength,sorrow,hatred,a title, and youth, it is hard to control. Achilleus is the greatest warrior and has the ability to fight. This reminds me of Agamemnon, who has the title as lord of men and the ability to fight somewhat. the situation with Priam could also be Achilleus’ recurrent idea that he needs to still prove himself as better than Agamemnon by still being merciless towards Priam, though now Achilleus feels sorrow and shows more empathy with Priam than Agamemnon ever did with Chryses, the Priest.

      This shows how competition runs in cycles, and that the “best” can be proven to be “the worst.”

      Reply
      1. Anna Bates

        Brea, I like how you outline the nature of competition between individuals of opposing sides and how there seems to be recurring themes and actions during those encounters. In addition to competition between opponents on the battlefield, another recurring form of competition is between heroes on the same side, even heroes that are friends. Most notably are Achilleus’ parting words to Patroklus’ before he leaves to fight against the Trojans in Achilleus’ armor. Achilleus’ requests that Patroklus does not “set [his] mind on fighting the Trojans… without me” or else Patroklus will “diminish [Achilleus’] honor” (16.89-90). This scene between the two Achaians shows that Achilleus’, who is Patroklus’ friend and who knows he y far the better fighter, is still competitve about the amount of glory he will receive.

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        1. Anisa Bailey

          Anna, I like how you pointed out competition on the same side. I immediately thought of the gods when you said that. Even though the gods chose which sides they would fight for in book 20, I still consider them on the same “team” as immortals. We see one glimpse of their involvement in competition in Book 23 during the chariot race when Apollo and Athena get involved. Apollo knocks the whip out of Diomedes hand out of anger (23.383-385). Athena doesn’t miss a beat and returns the whip to Diomedes and instills strength in his horses. She also goes on to sabotage Eumelos’ chariot. This shows that even the gods get involved in competition just as much (if not more than) the mortals.

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    2. Nate Contreras

      Hey Noah,
      Great thought provoking post in questioning who would be the next great warrior to replace Achillies. What if we looked at the Iliad books 1-24 and considered that a micro narrative of the Trojan and Achaeans saga?…What other figures could rise up to fill those shoes within a macro narrative?…
      In regards to your second post, I have to agree with you that the competition theme is larger than originally perceived. As we can see throughout the Iliad, the stakes are always high when competitive situations arise. Death, Honor and loss are all consistent factors in all of these competitive situations.

      Reply
  2. Noah Lyons

    To inform you all I am not the initial poster just getting the ball rolling with my thoughts on the prompt.

    In addition, I feel as if the theme of competition is truly bugger than it originally appears to be. Competition is the reason why many characters make the actions that they do. Frequently the result of a competition is a winner and loser. And in the Iliad there is a large stock taken in being the biggest competitor in welcoming all challenges but even more value in beating those challengers. Often the greatest winners are the warriors also have gone through many battles and lived such as Achilles, Hector, Ajax and Agamemnon. Competition is the reason why Achilles the battlefield because he felt as if Agamemnon was trying to best him in competition. So Achilles retreated and rejoined until he knew he could get the best of Agamemnon and to admit he was not better than him. In all, competition is a huge theme in the Iliad and is the cause of many acts and behavior by characters.

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  3. Anna Bates

    Noah, I think you are right to suggest that competition is a more dominant and impactful theme throughout the Iliad than it may originally seem. While the war is ostensibly about regaining Helen, her things, and Menelaus’ honor, the individual soldiers are each motivated by their own competitive desires to impress and win glory for themselves. As such, even during some of the most emotional scenes, we are reminded that all of the Iliad takes place in the midst of a cutthroat, competitive war. For example, Achilleus’ meeting with Priam is a very humane and touching scene, yet we are reminded of the danger of the war when Achilleus tells Priam to “sleep outside… for fear some Achaian/ might come in here” and notice the leader of the enemy asleep in Achilleus’ shelter (24.650-651). In effect, while Priam may be safe with Achilleus’ the intensity of the war is such that he would be immediately reported if anyone else knew about his presence.

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    1. Brea Marshall

      This is very eye-opening, Anna. Your idea about war needing to be addressed even after Priam’s and Achilleus’ emotional moment brings into perspective the idea that similar encounters will happen in the future. Great idea. Similar with the funeral games as Noah mentioned when Achilleus is trying to figure out who is the best of the Achaians to succeed Achilleus, now we have Achilleus who “slept in the inward corner of the strong-built shelter…(24.675)while Priam sleeps “in the porch’s shelter (24.274).” Achilleus has everything manmade that he could want, but his competitive spirit eats away at his heart. It could be that he’s been great for too long, and he can’ t turn it off.

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