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.

13 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 12

  1. Maya Tomes

    Hi everyone,

    In Scroll 24, Thetis was summoned by Zeus to deliver a message to Achilles. Thetis tells Achilles “…the gods frown upon you, that beyond all other immortals he himself is angered that in your heart’s madness you hold Hector beside the curved ships and did not redeem him. Come, then, give him up and accept ransom for the body.”(24.134-7) Achilles then replies, “So be it. He (Priam) can bring the ransom and take off the body, if the Olympian himself so urgently bids it.” Priam gets word that Achilles will take ransom for Hector’s body and gets the chariot ready to leave with gifts for Achilles. Priam is escorted into the Achaians camp by Hermes until he gets to Achille’s room. Priam walks into Achille’s dwelling and grabs his knees and kisses his hands. From this point, Achilles and Priam lament, dine, and sleep. During their lamenting session we see a brief moment of empathy. The two stare at each other, “Priam son of Dardanos, gazed upon Achilles, wondering at his size and beauty, for he seemed like an outright vision of gods. Achilles in turn gazed on Dardanian Priam and wondered, as he saw his brave looks and listened to him talking.”(24.629-32) this shows a way the two connect.

    Another moment, where we see this empathy in Achilles and Priam is when they both were lamenting. “I have gone through what no other mortal has gone through; I put my lips to the hands of the man who killed my children. So he spoke, and stirred in the other a passion of grieving for his own father. He took the old man’s hand and pushed him gently away, and the two remembered, as Priam sat huddles at the feet of Achilles and wept close for man slaughtering Hector and Achilles wept now for his own father, now again for Patroclus.” (24.505-12) We see here that both Priam and Achilles understand the concept of loss and what it could do to the people left. They both are hurting and they share in this grief with each other even though they are supposed to be enemies. The theme of loss is prominent throughout the scrolls. We can go back to Scroll 1 when Achilles lost his prize, Scroll 6 when Andromache tells us of her massive loss of family, or even Scroll 16 when Zeus lost Sarpedon and the list goes on.

    Empathy also relates to this theme of loss. We see that in Scroll 24, Achilles empathizes with Antilochos. Antilochos won 2nd place in the chariot race, but since Eumelos chariot yoke had broken due to Athene and the fact that Achilles knowing he was a better charioteer than Antilochos it was suggested that 2nd prize shall be awarded to Eumelos. Antilochos being the real winner of the 2nd prize tells Achilles he would be upset if this happens because that means he would be taking his prize away from him. Achilles going through a similar situation with Agamemnon understands Antilochos anger with the decision and then gives Eumelos a different prize. Another instance of this show of empathy and loss is when Priam comes for Hector’s body. Achilles did not originally want to give Hector’s body away, but I think once they met and actually talked he understands how Priam feels. Achilles was able to give Patroclus a honorable burial yet Priam is left without this comfort of burial for his son, Hector. It reminds Achilles of how his own father will feel just like Priam when he soon dies. The iliad’s theme of loss and concept of empathy are visible throughout and many instances allude to this connection.

    Maya

    Reply
    1. Alexis Rogers

      Maya,

      Thank you for your introduction and detailed response.

      I believe Priam and Achilles interaction can also be related to the theme of the relationship between the gods and men. When Achilles was dragging around the body of Hektor in book 24 the gods began to take pity on Hektor and he could not rest in peace. Apollo in reactions says, “You are hard, you gods, and destructive. Now did not Hektor burn thight pieces of oxen and unblemished goats in your honor?” (24.33-34) He goes on to try and convince the gods that it is their duty to try and help Hektor because they all like Hektor and their relationship (god and man) is well enough to not let him suffer after death at the hands of Achilles. They then go through certain measures which is how Priam and Achilles get to meet. When Priam asks for his sons body Achilles knows that it was the gods who sent him so, “Then Achilles called out to his serving-maids to wash the body and anoint it all over; but take it first aside, since otherwise Priam might see his son in the heart’s sorrow not hold in his anger at the sight, and the deep heart in Achilles be shaken in anger; that he might not kill Priam and be guilty before the god’s orders” (24.581-586). Although Achilles does not want to take care of the body and give it back he is forced to because of the god to man relationship that has taken place. In addition the gods have made it clear that Priam should not die when asking Achilles for his son, so here too Achilles must control himself and his wrath.

      This is similar again to numerous situations throughout the Iliad. Many times the relationship between god and man have been the reason for a god to interfere to prevent a certain death or maintain a certain respect. For instance, most recently again with Petroklos’ body when Achilles was dragging it around and Aphrodite put oils on it to keep the dogs away and Apollo keeping the suns rays away. But also you see this type of relationship during the duel between Paris and Menelaos. Although this was the perfect duel, for it was because of them the war started, the god-man relationship between Aphrodite and Paris was to strong to let Paris die: “But Aphrodite caught up paris easily, since she was divine, and wrapped him in a thick mist and set him down again in his own perfumed bedchamber” (3.380-382). She did this just before Menelaos was about to kill him. We are aware of Paris’ and Aphrodite’s relationship so I need not repeat it. But it is clear here the same type of theme as we see in book 24

      Alexis

      Reply
      1. Alexis Rogers

        I forgot to relate it empathy, but I feel it was self-said. Aphrodite had empathy with Paris, so she felt the need to protect him. She knew that Paris was no match for Menelaos, and there was no doubt that he would lose, so because of empathy she had to save him from an early death.

        Reply
      2. Rebecca Salustri

        Alexis,

        The themes of loss and divine intervention are closely linked throughout the epic. Perhaps most prominently in Book 8 when Zeus lays out the plan for the rest of the poem, he says “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./ This is the way it is fated to be” (8.473-7).”

        In this section Zeus reveals a fate that will pain both Priam and Achilleus as they lose the ones they treasure most. It also serves to remind the reader of a greater loss to come, for Achilleus is fated to die soon after Hektor. This prophecy of death clearly affects Achilleus. For when Priam says “give him [Hektor] back, so my eyes may behold him, and accept the ransom we bring you/ which is great. You may have joy of it, and go back to the land of your own fathers” (24. 555-7), Achilleus becomes angry because he knows that he will never be able to rejoin his father in Phthia.

        Best,

        Rebecca

        Reply
        1. Ashleigh Hamilton

          When Achilleus gets angry because he is reminded at this moment when a father is grieving over his son that his father will grieve over him and that he will never reunite with him. He also grieves over the loss of his dear friend Patroklos. Now that he has avenged the death of Patroklos he knows his death is near and knows that the “ransom” which Priam offers him of going “back to the land of [his] own fathers” (24.557) can never be realized. Do you think if Achilleus had not know his fate, granted the whole Iliad would be different, he would have given back Hektor’s body for that ransom?

          Reply
          1. Maya Tomes

            Ashleigh,

            I don’t believe he would have given the body back only because the reason he was so upset was for the death of Patroclus. If Hector had not taken Patroclus away from Achilles however I believe Achilles would have stripped his armor and gave his body back to his father as soon as he killed him for a respectable burial, but not only would that have made for a dull story but not much of a tragedy either in my opinion.

            Maya

    2. Chris Pinto

      Maya,

      Thank you for a great first post. When I finished reading this book and then read the prompt for this weeks discussion, the first theme that came to mind that ran through the entire Iliad was the theme of loss. Loss runs throughout the entirety of the Iliad, beginning from book 1 and carrying on through all 24 scrolls. Book 24 starts with Achilleus still grieving the loss of Patroklos; “the rest of them took thought of their dinner and of sweet sleep and its enjoyment; only Achilleus wept still as he remembered his beloved companion” (24.2-4). When Priam goes to see Achilleus about getting the body of Hektor back, Achilleus at first doesn’t agree. But it is the empathy that he feels for Priam about the loss he is enduring, coupled with the own emotions of loss Achilleus is feeling about Patroklos that lead him to allow Priam to leave with the body of Hektor so that they can mourn and bury the body properly.

      Instances of loss and empathy are apparent all throughout the Iliad.

      Reply
      1. Rebecca Salustri

        Hello all,

        Thanks for the meaningful discussion this week, another thought to consider…

        “Priam, son of Dardanos, gazed upon Achilleus, wondering/ at his size and beauty, for he seemed like an outright vision/ of gods” (24.629-31). This passage reminded me of the scene in Book 3, when Priam asks Helen to point out the Achaian heroes to him “so you could tell me the name of this man who is so tremendous/who is this Achaian man of power and stature?” (3.166-7). She identifies the man as Agamemnon and continues to identify Odysseus, Menelaos, and Aias. I was reminded of this passage because it seemed odd that after nearly a decade of fighting, Priam had not met and could not recognize the majority of the Greeks. I could not find any evidence of Achilleus and Priam meeting prior to this encounter. This may contribute to the empathy that they share for one another, as they have never met; yet their respective camps have caused one another to lose their families. It is particularly sad because we can see many elements of a strained guest friendship develop when Achilleus offers Priam a bed on his porch. Perhaps under a different fate the house of Priam and Peleus could have be guest friends and had a positive relationship.

        Best,

        Rebecca

        I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you all this semester!

        Reply
  2. Alexis Rogers

    All,

    Another theme that is displayed during this encounter between Priam and Achilles is that of mourning. Achilles knowing the need to mourn respects Priam’s respect for an 11 day mourning time:

    “If you are willing that we accomplish a complete funeral for great hector, this, Achilles, is what you could do and give me pleasure. For you know surely how we are penned in our city, and wood is far to bring from the hills, and the Trojans are frightened badly. Nine days and we would keep him in our palace and mourn him, and bury him on the tenth day, and the people feast by him, and on the eleventh day we would make the grave-barrow for him, and on the twelfth day fight again; if so we must do” (24.660-667).

    This is clear example of how the mourning process takes place. Priam asks of this to Achilles, and Achilles respects this. This idea of a “process” in order to mourn and bury the dead (funeral) can also be seen when Achilles and the Achaians wanted to mourn the death of Petroklos and Achilles told them of what to do. Of course like when Priam requested and Achilles obeyed, when Achilles requested the Achaians obeyed. Achilles says, “Myrmidons, you of the fast horses, my steadfast companions, we must not yet slip free of the chariots our single-foot horses, but with these very horses and chariots we must drive close up to Patroklos and mourn him, since such is the privelege of the perished” (23.6-11). This mourning time continues as they feast and even past when Patroklos comes to Achilles in his dream, where afterwards they make a pyre for Patroklos (like when Priam talks about burying Hektor). This is the way mourning works, everything including quarreling, battle, etc stops in order to mourn someone.

    Alexis

    Reply
    1. Chris Pinto

      Alexis,

      I agree with you that mourning is definitely another very apparent theme that plays throughout the Iliad. The scene that you cited in your post was the one that I think best showcases mourning in the iliad. Another good example is in the beginning of book 23, starting with, “so they were mourning through the city” (23.1) then the mourning continues a few lines later as you have already cited. This mourning leads to another common theme that is displayed throughout the iliad – the lament. Peleus’ son laid his hands on Patroklos chest and lamented, “Good-bye, Patroklos. I hail you even in the house of the death god. All that I promised you in the past I am accomplishing” (23.19-21). The lament and mourning I feel are intertwined and both are common and important themes in the Iliad.

      Reply
  3. Brandon Copeland

    Good evening!

    I think that a major theme reflected in the moment between Priam and Achilleus is shown after Achilleus directs Priam to sleep outside. Glory is the theme that I found prominent in this moment, when Priam asks almost as an afterthought for the burial of Hektor (24.660-24.667). By admitting that the Trojans were
    “penned in” Iliam and considering that the men fight on the 12th day of mourning, Priam recognizes the battle when contemplating the death of his son. Instead of giving in to the Trojan effort, and conceding to the man who killed his son, Priam shows his enemy the utmost respect and sleeps outside. He seems to know that Achilleus will not stop for the glory that he is promised upon defeating the Trojans. Experiencing the sadness of a destroyed family, seeking to gain the glory for their subjects, Priam is on the other end of the spectrum. The only glory he can gain is within this moment, and that is only for the will of Achilleus being swayed. He has experienced, through Hektor, what it means to feel the glory of defeating “achilleus” (patroklos) and through (real) Achlleus, he empathetically understands that a search for glory will end up in some sort of sorrow. Achilleus, reflecting on Priam as he would his own father, gets a taste of what true sorrow is (because he is empathetic to Priam) as Priam understands what true glory is.

    Reply
    1. Alexis Rogers

      Brandon,

      I completely agree with your idea of glory being an important theme in this encounter and throughout the book. A similar situation happened when Sarpedon was dying. As he was dying Sarpedon calls out to Glaukos and asks him to fight for him, so that he shall receive glory for his fighting:

      “First you must go among men who are lords of the Lykians everywhere, and stir them up to fight for Sarpedon, and then you yourself also must fight for me with the bronze spear. For I shall be a thing of shame and a reproach said of you afterwards, all your days forever, if the Achaians strip my armour here where I fell by the ships assembled” (16.495-500).

      This is similar into what you said for Achilles asking Priam to sleep outside, so that Achilles will still receive glory (it is like Achilles is dying as well). Achilles says,

      “Sleep outside, aged sir and good friend, for fear some Achaian might come in here on a matter of counsel, since they keep coming and sitting by me and making plans; as they are supposed to. But if one of these come through the fleeting black night should notice you he would go straight and tell Agamemnon, shepherd of people, and there would be delay in the ransoming of the body” (24.650-655)

      Achilles is sure if people see the two of them together in one room, it would seem as if Achilles pride and glory in respect to Patroklos’ death. Therefore, like you said, Priam respects this requests knowing how that is important to Achilles. Glaukos too respects the calling for glory when he honors Sarpedon’s respect. As you can see the similarities are detrimental in considering the importance of the theme of glory throughout the whole poem.

      Alexis

      Reply
      1. Maya Tomes

        Brandon & Alexis,

        I agree with both of your points in glory being one of the most important themes in the iliad. The whole book is based upon Achilles basically making his people suffer because of some people’s lack to acknowledge his glory and how he is one of the best. I won’t go on and on about this theme becasue you both did such an excellent job on explaining this in detail so this post is mainly to tell you both as much.

        Maya

        Reply

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