Category Archives: Briseis

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.

Writing Assignment – Week 11

In XXII 477-514, Andromache expresses a climactic lament (in fact, it is the longest and most elaborate lament in the Iliad). Taking this lament as your starting point, compare it to her previous lament (VI 407-439). Next, think about and discuss the other two reactions to Hector’s death in scroll XXII in comparison (you are encouraged draw upon other, earlier laments, as well). Last, think and write about the language of “equal to a maenad (mainadi īsē, XXII 460), taking into consideration similar language in Patroclus’s climactic moment (XVI 698-711). Note, particularly, the phrase “equal [īsos] to a superhuman force (daimōn)” found around line 705 (daimoni isos, translated in our text as “like something more than a man”) and then, importantly, again at 786-7 (daimoni isos, translated “like something greater than human”).

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

Writing Assignment – Week 10

In Scrolls XIX-XX, we see two assemblies take place (XIX.54-237; XX.1-32). Much like in Scroll I (I.53-303; I.531-611), one of these consists of the leaders of the Achaians, and the other of the immortals. In what ways do the speeches and discussions between Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus, and others (XI.40-144) rehearse and resolve arguments from earlier in the epic? Who and/or what has changed, and why (or why not)? Be sure to support your claims with specific citations from the text.

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

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.

Writing Assignment – Week 8

Upon awakening from his night with Hera, Zeus lays out the basic plot points for the rest of the epic (15.49-77). How does this narrative foretelling relate to Prof. Nagy’s argument about the importance, to the epic, of the will of Zeus? Further, in what ways is this sort of ‘spoiler’ a different narrative tactic from modern storytelling? Be sure to support your claims with specific citations from and references to the text (both in this scroll and others).

Writing Assignment – Week 7

Thus far in our reading of the Iliad we have looked closely at rhetorical displays (e.g. lamentation, the embassy). In many ways it is possible to see heroic boasts as yet another type of rhetorical display. In Scroll 13 there are, at least, the two boasts of Idomeneus (13.374-383, 13. 446-45), with a boast of Deiphobos in between (13.413-416), and Menelaos’ boast later on (13.620-639). Using one (or more) of these as a starting point and finding at least one earlier example from the Iliad, craft a well-supported and articulate post of 350-400 words that addresses the following questions: What are the typical features of this kind of rhetorical display? How does boasting play an important role in crafting one’s heroic identity? And finally, in what ways is boasting explicitly connected to other rhetorical displays?
*Please* be sure to respond to and engage with at least one other post (unless you are initial).

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

Writing Assignment – Week 6

Much of Scroll Eleven is Agamemnon’s “aristeia” (= greatest epic moments). At one point, in the slaying of Isos and Antiphos, he is brought into direct comparison with Achilles (11.101-121). But what exactly is the nature and purpose of this comparison? How does this comparison relate to Agamemnon’s role elsewhere in a poem that claims to be about the “wrath of Achilles”? Is Agamemnon the “villain” of the story, a “foil,” a “father-figure” to Achilles? Or something else? Please be very careful to cite your evidence from the text.

*Please* be sure to respond to and engage with at least one other post (unless you are initial).

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

Writing Assignment – Week 5

The embassy to Achilles in Book 9 marks our first encounter with the hero since he departed the fighting in Book 1. In his reply to Odysseus (9.307-429), Achilles sets out his rationale for refusing the gifts and promises offered by Agamemnon. Through a careful reading of this speech, discuss the arguments that Achilles puts forth and elucidate what it is, exactly, that Achilles identifies as his reason for not returning to battle. As you consider your response, pay close attention to the structure of Achilles’ speech as a whole and the rhetoric he employs throughout, keeping in mind how other characters (and especially Phoinix) react to what the hero says. You might also consider how this Achilles is or is not like the Achilles we meet in Book 1 (i.e. how he has or has not changed since the argument with Agamemnon?) and if his reasoning changes between his answers to Odysseus, Phoinix, and Aias. As you think through this passage and Book 9, it might be helpful to consider other instances in the Iliad in which a character (mortal or immortal) changed his or her mind, and why. Be very careful to cite your evidence from the text.

Writing Assignment – Week 4

Outline and map out the divine events in Book 8. How does it compare with the actions of the mortals in that book? What is the relationship between the actions of the mortals and gods in Book 7-8? Are the two related or simply concurrent (or mixed)? What does it say about the experience of the mortals in these two books “on the ground,” compared with other books in the Iliad, e.g. 5-6?

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

Writing Assignment – Week 3

Every lament has a progression that starts from a particular perspective, leading into invocations of the past and the future, and even the present,that are folded in, in specific ways. Within your working group, help craft a fully developed “language and formula of lamentation” for the Iliad, starting here in Book 6 with Andromache (lines 407-432), that you can envision applying to later books of the Iliad. Try to think about lamentation in the poetry as a ritual; what are the poetics of the lament? Be sure to take into consideration the videos from Hour Three (Achilles and the Poetics of Lament) in The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours in your answer.

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