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.

15 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 12

  1. Brittany Matthews

    The way that Achilleus and Priam gazed upon one another with a sense of wonder (24.629-632) hints at a connection between their grievances. Patroklos was Achilleus’s closest friend. Achilleus loved Patroklos so much, that he deemed his death as more devastating than the death of his father (Peleus) or his son (Neoptolemos) (19.321-327). Hektor was one of Priam’s favorite sons. Priam loved Hektor so much, that he wished the nine sons that were still alive had been killed in Hektor’s place (24.253-254). Since both Achilleus and Priam had experienced losing someone very dear to them, they understood how one another felt and was able to put aside any negative feelings they may have had for each other when they met.

    “Priam, son of Dardanos, gazed upon Achilleus, wondering at his size and beauty, for he seemed like an outright vision of gods. Achilleus in turn gazed on Dardanian Priam and wondered, as he saw his brave looks and listened to him talking” (24.629-632). Since there was empathy between them, they could objectively identify remarkable qualities in each other. Priam faced the man that killed his dear son, and was still able to acknowledge his god-like features. Achilleus faced the father of the man who killed his dear friend, and was still able to acknowledge his brave features.

    An encounter between Achilleus and Antilochos is another example of the connection between loss and empathy. During the horse-race that Achilleus hosted, Athene broke Eumelos’s chariot yoke (23.391-391), which ultimately led to him coming in last place. Achilleus had pity for Eumelos and believed he deserved the second place prize instead of the fifth place prize (23.536-538). Antilochos had won the second place prize and had nothing to do with Eumelos finishing the horse-race last. Achilleus was going to take Antilochos’s prize and no one else’s, for an occurrence that was not his fault. Antilochos expressed how upset he would have been if his prize was taken (23.543-554), which is similar to Achilleus’s expression of how upset he was when his prize was threatened to be taken (1.149-171). In the first scroll, Agamemnon took Achilleus’s prize and no one else’s (9.334-336), for an occurrence that was not his fault. Achilleus had nothing to do with Agamemnon having to return his prize (Chryseis) because Chryses persuaded Apollo to kill the Achaians (1.35-42). Since Achilleus experienced losing something that he earned for no rational reason, he was able to have empathy for Antilochos when he almost experienced the same thing.

    In the Iliad as a whole, losses occur frequently because the epic is based on a war and many fighters are killed in it. These fighters had friends and family members who grieved for them after their deaths. This theme of loss draws connections between characters and enable them to have empathy for one another.

    1. Camille Leeds

      This scene in which Achilleus and Priam gaze upon each other reminds me of the scene in book 3 when it’s as if Priam had never seen the Greek heroes of the Trojan War before (3.161-242); it’s as if it is the first time Achilleus and Priam have seen each other. Additionally, I do think that the empathy of a shared realization that they have both lost the person most important to each of them causes them to have this moment (18.80-82; 24.241-2). Another part of this encounter between Priam and Achilleus that illustrates loss is when Priam, in ignorance, told Achilleus that he could have the ransom and take it back to his home country (24.555-557), after which Achilleus becomes angry with Priam, most likely because Achilleus knows he will not be going home. Additionally, I would like to highlight that Helen, as she states at the very end of book 24. This whole war began with the loss of Helen (her being stolen), and now she has suffered a loss, with Hektor’s death, because he was one of the few who did not condemn her. She had also lost her first husband, and her home. I think that it particularly interesting that it all starts with her, and the Iliad ends with her (24.760-775).

    2. Danielle Wood

      I definitely see loss as a huge theme throughout the Iliad for everyone involved. Every single person in the war has lost someone or something: loved ones, belongings, their own lives. I think there is also a connection between Achilles and Priam here, though they aren’t aware, that they both knew they were going to lose something before it happened. Achilles knew he was going to lose his own life and Priam knew he was going to lose Hektor: “O child of my bearing, nor can your generous wife mourn you, but a big way from us beside the ships of the Argives the running dogs will feed on you” (22.87-89). They also both lost things because of decisions made by the gods, specifically Zeus, who laid out the whole plan beforehand in book eight (8.473-476).

      1. Celina Gauthier

        Hi Danielle:
        I also agree that Priam and Achilleus are very much aware that they both are in the predicaments they are in because of the gods. Achilleus tells Priam in line 24:525, “Such is the way the gods spun life for unfortunate mortals.” It makes me think back to Book 3.If Aphrodite had let Paris die, life would have been much simpler for Priam and Achilleus. Also, I think that if Athene had not posed as Deiphobos, Achilleus may have chased Hektor for eternity. The will of Zeus has been a difficult thing to comprehend throughout this Epic. Yet, so much has happened because of it.

      2. Natalie Smith


        I agree that loss is a strong theme throughout the epic. I think that in general, war is loss, and going in knowing you’re going to die must be awful. And–for both Priam and Achelleus–seeing someone you dearly love would be the worst form of loss to experience. War in general is loss, but no one is truly prepared to lose the person they love most in the world. You did a great job in choosing a quote that linked the theme and used plenty of evidence.

  2. Joseph Reid

    Great post Brittany, you introduced your argument very well saying that Priam and Achilles’s connection was a result of a mutual aberration. They both lost what’s near and dear to them and they used that to spark a little friendship. I agree with your statement about an encounter between Achilleus and Antilochos is another example of the connection between loss and empathy. This was a great example because they had something in common, which was their prizes being taken. Their connection could span back to book 18 when Antilochus told Achilles that Patroclus died. You concluded very well saying that the theme of loss draws connections between characters, as it was a very common theme in the iliad, with examples like Patroclus and Glaucos experiencing loss.

  3. Emily Berg


    I think you are right to call upon the idea of the grievances and losses of Achilles and Priam. A passage I would like to bring to attention reads, “For my eyes have not closed underneath my lids since that time when my son lost his life beneath your hands, but always I have been grieving and brooding over my numberless sorrows and wallowed in the muck about my courtyard’s enclosure” (24.635-40). These words are spoken by Priam to Achilles. This passage clearly demonstrates the emotional and physical impact death of a loved one has on these men who are continuously portrayed as heroic, strong, competitive, burly men. The main point I would like to make is that I think this passage displays the theme of glory in a way we haven’t seen before. After reading this passage, I began to view Priam and Achilles as the two character who have achieved the most glory because they have had the most upsetting losses. Throughout the work, glory is described as conquering other and conveying extreme strength. Yet, all the mortal men in this work have demonstrated that at some point or another while very few have demonstrated the physical and emotional grievance that Priam and Achilles demonstrate. To me, that is true glory.

    1. Camille Leeds

      I really thought your idea of connecting the ideas of glory and loss. It reminds me of the fact that Achilleus lost Patroklos because of his desire for glory. I do think that the two themes are intertwined, because it seems that in order to attain glory, the heroes must suffer some sort of loss. Now Achilleus has his glory, but he lost the person he holds most dear. Priam has earned a brief truce of no fighting during Hektor’s funeral, but he had to lose his son in order for that to happen, and he will soon lose everything, his city, his wife, sons, his life. And the sense of loss and glory is illustrated when Achilleus apologizes to Patroklos for returning Hektor’s body and promises Patroklos a fitting portion of spoils, just like in a battle (24.592-595). It ties back to the very beginning when Agamemnon refused the ransom for Chryseis, despite being worthy, and causing the story of the Iliad to be spun out (1.8-32).

    2. Katharyn Hill

      I completely agree with you Emily that showing that emotional side makes them into a more well-rounded character because they aren’t just angry and blood-thirsty warriors throughout the entire war, but more human which in turn makes them more praise worthy and deserving of glory. Achilles in particular has shown readers how real his emotions are and the reactions are very human and understandable, although at some points they are a little bit extreme, but it allows us to understand him better. Unlike many other characters, he has stayed in mourning instead of giving a lament and quickly moving on. “…only Achilleus wept still as he remembered his beloved companion, nor did sleep who subdues all come over him, nut he tossed form one side to the other in longing for Patroklos, for his manhood and his great strength and all the action he had seen to the end with him…”(24.3-24.7).

    3. Celina Gauthier

      Hi Emily:
      While I agree that Priam and Achilleus have lost much, I disagree that they are the ones that have lost the most. For example, Zeus lost his son, Sarpedon. Andromache lost her husband, Hektor. Ares loses Askalaphos, his son. Mortals and immortals both grieved deeply for their losses throughout the Illiad. I do agree that Priam and Achilleus both have reason to mourn. Nevertheless, in Priam’s appeal to Achilleus he states, “Achilleus like the gods, remember your father, one who is of years like mine, and on the door-sill of sorrowful age, And they who dwell nearby encompass and afflict him, nor is there any to defend him against the wrath, the destruction. Yet surely, he, when he hears of you and that you are still living, is gladdened within his heart and all his days he is hopeful that he will see his beloved son come home from the Troad,” (24: 486-492). Priam is a man that has lost a son and Achilleus is a man that will never see his father. Achilleus knows he will never return to his homeland Phthia. He is destined to die in Troy now that he has killed Hektor. Peleus will never see him or his body again. I believe Achilleus is moved by this emotion because he knows his father will grieve for him just as if Priam is grieving for Hektor.

    4. Natalie Smith


      I feel Priam’s words could have also come from Achileus because of how well they fit both men’s experience. Of course, there would have to be slight changes, but overall the message capture the essence of what both men are feeling. They both lost the person closest to them–the person they loved the most. I feel like this experience has been devastating to them both.

      I like how you tied this in with glory. Both Patroklos and Hector died as a result of wanting glory. I think you make some really good and interesting points, Emily.

    5. Brittany Matthews

      Emily Berg,
      I completely agree that the interaction between Achilleus and Priam in scroll XXIV presents glory in a different way. In previous scrolls, glory was accomplished through wounding and killing enemies; in other words, by displaying superior fighting skills. In the last scroll, Achilleus and Priam exhibited glory by being emotionally strong during the exchange of ransom for Hektor’s body.

      I like how you connected Achilleus and Priam’s losses with glory. However, I believe that glory has more to do with a person’s war reputation and nobility. I say that because in my opinion, Andromache has lost more than any other character in the Iliad, but she is not as glorious as Achilleus or Priam. She lost her father, mother, seven brothers (6.413-428), and husband (22.321-327). Achilleus lost one dear friend, and although Priam lost many sons, he lost one dear son.

  4. Neko Ramos

    I believe that the ultimate theme throughout the entire Iliad is the concept of loss. Every war, battle, quarrel, and argument has always started with the loss of a life. In the beginning of the Iliad, Agamemnon took Chryses, returned her, then took Briseis, which caused a huge barrier in the relationship between him and Achilles. The fact that Agamemnon took Briseis and had a very arrogant attitude about it, made Achilles build a huge grudge against him and caused him to not want to help him in any battles throughout the Iliad.

    In book 3, Helen was taken by Paris, although she never fought this as hard as it was expected, this was the main issue that most would say started the Trojan war. This caused a battle between Menelaus and Paris, and then eventually ensued more battles to come. A loss can come in many different forms, whether someone losses a loved one by “kidnapping” or someone loses them by a sudden death.

    So when Patroklus died, Achilles lost his one and only friend. He lost someone who was like a brother, son, father, uncle, counselor, and some may even say that he was like his lover. Priam lost his favorite and most beloved son. This was the son who had a connection to the gods and who had much respect from the gods, and this was also the son who was the strongest warrior and a great representation for the family.

    1. Katharyn Hill

      I definitely agree with you Neko that loss is a very prevalent aspect of The Iliad, from Book 1 with Briseis to Book 24 with the series of laments and the grief everyone is going through. I think that it’s not only loss of a friend or family member, but loss of one’s pride and glory which can be seen when Priam first goes to Achilles: “Honor then the gods, Achilleus, and take pity upon me remembering your father, yet I am still more pitiful; I have gone through what no other mortal on earth has gone through; I put my lips to the hands of the man who has killed my children” (24.503-24.506). Although this moment seems desperate and Priam is giving up his pride and glory to take back Hektor’s body, he is doing it with the most pure intention which is admirable.

      1. Danielle Wood

        That’s an excellent point about loss not simply being physical, but emotional too. There have been several sacrifices of pride, including Agamemnon’s own, though he was resistant at first. When Achilles first brought it up, wanting back everything that was took from him, Agamemnon refused out of pride, but when the situation became desperate, he was willing to sacrifice it in order to have Achilles rejoin them on the battlefield. It is then that Achilles’ pride get the best of him and he refuses, relinquishing that later on after Patroklus is killed.


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