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Iliad 9, 225-227

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Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Bart » Sun Jul 06, 2014 7:05 pm

The Greek envoys are in Achilles' tent. After being treated to some nice meat roasted and cut by the big guy himself, Odysseus begins his speech thus:

χαῖρ᾽ Ἀχιλεῦ: δαιτὸς μὲν ἐΐσης οὐκ ἐπιδευεῖς
ἠμὲν ἐνὶ κλισίῃ Ἀγαμέμνονος Ἀτρεΐδαο
ἠδὲ καὶ ἐνθάδε νῦν,

I think that ειμέν should be understood with ἐπιδευεῖς. So, we have something like: we are not lacking an equal feast, nor in the tent of Agamemnon, nor here and now.
So, he just got X, and says: I don't lack something like X, nor in the past with A., nor now with you.

Is this Greek idom or just a very clumsy way of saying that the food and drink was above average? Or do I miss something?
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:20 pm

I think this is a very subtle exchange.

Odysseus reminds Achilles that in the past Agamemnon has entertained him--and implies that Agamemnon is willing to meet his demands. Achilles' response conveys the message that of course Agamemnon has entertained him in the past (and may be willing to accommodate him now), but at this point, that's irrelevant; Achilles doesn't care.

δαιτὸς ἐΐσης -- denotes fairly divided portions of food at a feast, but here the implication is a fair division of spoils. That was Achilles' original complaint, but by now Achilles is already far beyond that.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Bart » Mon Jul 07, 2014 12:28 pm

Okay, that helps. Thanks. Reminding Achilles of Agamemnon's hospitality in the past makes sense.
Still, the construction with ἐπιδευεῖς seems strange to me and hard to translate.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jul 07, 2014 1:27 pm

δαιτὸς μὲν ἐΐσης οὐκ ἐπιδευεῖς -- This is part of a system of formulas. See Iliad. 1.468, 1.602, 2.431, 4.48, 7.320, 23.56, 24.9. It generally means that no one lacked their fair share--the mark of a good meal in accordance with conventions of reciprocity in the heroic society depicted in the Homeric poems.

But in this passage in Book 9, as I mentioned, it takes on a symbolic weight and meaning. Odysseus' invocation of the conventional ethic of reciprocity is brushed aside by Achilles, who rejects these conventions and no longer feels bound by them.

It seems to me that this is a striking example of how the traditional formulas of the epic language aren't necessarily just meaningless filler in the Iliad: sometimes they are, but here a formulaic expression is pregnant with meaning.

And its significance here arises precisely out of the formulaic character of the expression and the fact that the formula embodies the conventional heroic ethic of reciprocity: this passage stands the formula on its head.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Bart » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:11 pm

Very helpful, as always, Qimmick.
How did did you find all the passages where this formula is used? Is this a search option of the Perseus site?
Please don't tell me you just knew them by heart; that would be too discouraging.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Tue Jul 08, 2014 2:23 pm

How did did you find all the passages where this formula is used?


The Prendergast Concordance to the Iliad. There is also one by Dunbar to the Odyssey. There are instances of this formula in the Odyssey, too, but I didn't cite them.

The Perseus search engine could be used for this purpose, too. Search the Iliad for all forms of δαίς.

A number of years ago there was an article in the magazine that my undergraduate university puts out for alumni about an alumnus who memorized the entire Iliad and Odyssey in Greek. He is (or was) an accountant by profession. Maybe if and when I retire . . .
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Bart » Tue Jul 08, 2014 3:41 pm

Book IX is surely another higlight after book I and VI. One of the purposses the embassy serves is no doubt to bring Achilles, whose wrath is after all the theme of the Iliad, back on stage and it does so very effectively.

I think I have read in Griffin or Mueller that the value and sincerity of Agamemnon's atonement offer (tripodes, horses, women, kettles, and some mycenean real estate) is a point of literary controversy. To me, as a first time reader, it is pretty clear that Achilles is in the wrong here. Till the embassy it seems natural to sympathise with him in his quarrel with Agamenon, but no longer so after his blunt refusal. Not only does Agamemnon offer a lot more than Briseis alone, the original point of contention, but Achilles speech shows his anger, as the man himself, to be out out of control. One gets the strong impression that nothing Agamemnon could conceivably have offered or done, would have been good enough for him.

How did the Greeks see Achilles? As a flawed hero, or as the victim of a greedy and ungrateful king?
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:43 pm

My own views:

Agamemnon is a greedy and ungrateful king and his offers are insincere--they're essentially bribes to get Achilles back into the fray without a sincere admission on Agamemnon's part that he has delivered a serious affront to Achilles' honor and sense of his own worth as an individual. This is especially grievous to Achilles because it is becoming clear to him that he will die if he does go back into battle.

But for his part, Achilles is also wrong to reject Agamemnon's offers, especially after Phoenix's moving speech. And Achilles' refusal sets in motion the chain of events that leads to Patroclus' death. When Patroclus dies, I think, Achilles' frenzied rage and blood-lust, and his inhuman treatment of Hector's body, are not just the product of his grief for his friend: his grief is compounded with his own feelings of guilt and complicity in Patroclus' death.

Book 9 holds shows both the rightness and the wrongness of Achilles' refusal of Agamemnon's offers without resolving the tension.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby mwh » Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:07 am

A side-note on the Prendergast-Dunbar concordances. One or the other (I forget which—maybe both) was a clergyman, evidently with time on his hands. The concordance was compiled by hand—each verse being written out as many times as there were words in it. Hard to imagine such willing drudgery on the part of a thinking person; there seems something immoral about it.

On bk.9, I think Qimmik nails it. I wouldn't call Ag's offers "insincere" exactly, and I'm not sure Ach knows his reentering the fray will mean his death. They are my only reservations, both very small.

Modern responses to Ach's refusal (and to his withdrawal in the first place) tend to be harsher than ancient.
Oh, and the notion of the "flawed hero" is modern, not ancient.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:20 am

Agamemnon is incapable of delivering a genuine apology because for him a genuine apology to someone he regards as his inferior would diminish his status as king. Agamemnon can't really bring himself to accept responsibility for his conduct towards Achilles--he blames it on ἄτη, a delusion inflicted upon him by the gods. He says: ἀασάμην, οὐδ᾽ αὐτὸς ἀναίνομαι. 9.117.

For Achilles, however, Agamemnon's gifts are mostly worthless because he knows, or is becoming increasingly aware, that he is soon going to die if he accedes to Agamemnon's efforts to bring him back into the battle. mwh: I think this becomes clearer to him and to us over the course of the poem, but I think he has at least an inkling of his choice between a long life in Phthia and imminent death at Troy by Book 9. This is why his situation in Book 9 is so poignant.

Of course, for someone like Achilles, facing death is an obligation, as it is for Sarpedon, who embodies the heroic code of conduct in an exemplary way (12.310 ff.) and dies at Patroclus' hands. But Achilles' foreknowledge of his impending death if he goes back into battle is exactly why Agamemnon's failure to deliver a genuine apology rankles him so. Not only will he die, but his honor will not be given its due.

Note: I cross-posted this with mwh.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Victor » Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:25 am

Qimmik wrote:A number of years ago there was an article in the magazine that my undergraduate university puts out for alumni about an alumnus who memorized the entire Iliad and Odyssey in Greek. He is (or was) an accountant by profession. Maybe if and when I retire . . .

I heard this very man giving a recitation in person at a grammar school local to me (in the UK), when he was over on a visit from the States. A special evening was dedicated to his performance. The year was 1995 or '96. In addition to reciting large chunks he'd chosen himself, he was able to recite specific passages on request, though I'm not sure he was able to do this with equal facility for all of Homer. He had certainly achieved a prodigious feat of memory, all the same.

I'm sorry to say the evening was not a very pleasurable experience. His recitation style was hurried, mechanical, monotonous, and utterly devoid of drama or emotion, as far as I remember. In the end I stopped trying to make out the words and heard only the rattle of the dactyls, going on ceaselessly and unmusically like one of those wind-up toys that are a novelty for a second or two and then can't wind down soon enough.

He was in at least his late sixties in '95/'96, so he may have taken Homer with him to another world by now.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:29 am

"His recitation style was hurried, mechanical, monotonous, and utterly devoid of drama or emotion, as far as I remember."

Well, he was an accountant after all. (I should talk, right?--I'm a lawyer.)

And you have to remember Dr. Johnson's words about the dancing dog (actually, he said that a female preacher is like a dancing dog--but of course I can't say that today): the wonder is not that it's done well, but that it's done at all.

Here I am in my late 60s too (I turn 68 next week), and all I will take to another world is about the first 20 verses of the Iliad, a few of the Aeneid, the first two or three stanzas of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard and part of Don something or other's monologue from Le Cid. What a wasted life!
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 2:17 am

The resolution of Achilles' refusal to grant Agamemnon's plea to re-enter the battle in Book 9 occurs at the very end of the Iliad, when Achilles manages--with great difficulty and almost in spite of himself--to bring himself to grant Priam's plea for Hector's body, and their mutual discovery of each other's humanity. For me, nothing beats the utterly surprising conclusion of the Iliad in Book 24, the greatest, most powerful thing I've encountered in Homer, in all Greek literature, in all literature.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby mwh » Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:45 am

Does Achilles really have “foreknowledge of his impending death if he goes back into battle”? What he says Thetis told him is not what she had in fact told him in bk.1, and we have to register the discrepancy. (No use saying Well maybe she told him on a different occasion.) He’s making it up, to suit the occasion (much as Homer himself does). It’s in his rhetorical interest to play up the risk to him involved in rejoining the fighting, to present his choice as between dying and living—which we know doesn’t jibe with Thetis’ revelation of his fate. His purporting to opt for living (at the cost of glory) demonstrates just how angry he is. He doesn’t seem to anticipate being killed in the event that Hector approach the Myrmidon encampment, nor does he betray any awareness subsequently, either before or after Patroklos’ death, that he is fated to die at Troy.

There’s a chance of it, obviously; that’s in the lap of the gods, as always (while being at the same time quite predictable). But I don’t myself see his actions here or later as determined or affected by an alleged knowledge that he will die if he accedes to the pleas. I think there’s a danger of reading too much in, and over-psychologizing. Any gifts from Ag would be rejected, because he is very very angry, and he is very very angry (irrationally so, as he himself eventually acknowledges) because of Ag’s dishonoring of him. He’s an intense sort of guy, with one thing on his mind. And then of course there are the demands of the plot, which needs to defer his return.

Anything that’s fated, of course, happens. But what is fate? It’s what happens. In poetic terms it’s put back to front. Events determine fate rather than the other way around. What Ach ought to know is that his life will be short. An audience will have no difficulty in foreseeing he will die (though not until he’s killed Hector)—it’s clearly the culmination towards which the entire poem is headed. They might well be surprised when it doesn’t actually happen.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Bart » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:16 am

Ameis-Hentze-Cauer is always very keen to indicate discrepancies or improbabilities in the Homeric text. Regarding Phoenix, who makes his first appearance in line 168 of book IX during the assembly of Greek leaders in the tent of Agamamnon, it remarks dryly in a footnote -> Φοινιξ, der Erzieher des Achill, tritt hier zu erst auf. Wie es kommt, dass derselbe trotz des innigsten Verhältnisses zu Achill und obwohl er diesem die Berechtigung seines Grolles ausdrücklich zugesteht (523), nicht etwa nur vorübergehend in Agamemnons Zelte verweilt, sondern sich von Achill getrent hat, wird nirgends erklärt.

Old Ameis has a point, of course, but as a literary device, Phoenix is highly effective.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:19 am

I agree with Qimmik's views above and also I think I share mwh's reservation about Agamemnon's sincerity, or the lack of it. As to Achilles' foreknowledge of his death, I have no opinion, it's too long since I read the relevant passages.

Anyway, I don't think Homer's characters or his audience were so concerned about sincerity as we are. I think that's a modern idea that goes with our obsession with individuality. Think for example how suspicious we are about arranged marriages, which were the norm then (and actually still are for the majority of the world). What really mattered was appearances; and since (in mwh's words) Achilles is very very angry, no gift in the world from Agamemnon could win him over at this stage, nothing could make up for humiliation he had suffered from Agamemnon. The distinction between bribes and sincere gifts is a modern one. In the Odyssey this ancient obsession with gifts is even more evident and pretty surprising at times too. Though if Agamemnon really had humiliated himself – which was totally contrary to his nature – by grasping Achilles' knees in public or the like, then perhaps it might have been different. But even then, I think it's more the external appearances that count.

Bart wrote:Old Ameis has a point, of course, but as a literary device, Phoenix is highly effective.

If you are excited by remarks of this sort, you should consider reading M.L. West's book The Making of the Iliad – whether you believe his theories or not, it's a thrilling modern attempt to explain these problems.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:37 am

About concordances: there's a nice online concordance at Chicago Homer that includes Homer, Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns.

For those of you who have used the Prendergast-Dunbar concordances: do they have some clear advantage over Chicago Homer? I've seen one of the two at a local antiquarian bookstore a couple of years ago, and I'm sure he still has it. I'd like to support him for having such great books that no one wants anymore, if there's any sense in getting the book...
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:00 am

Well, you are probably right about Achilles' foreknowledge--and his angry rhetorical exaggeration. When Achilles kills Hector, even after Hector has specifically told him that he is going to die at the hands of Paris and Apollo at the Scaean Gate, this is what Achilles responds to Hector's dead body is (22.365-6):

τέθναθι: κῆρα δ᾽ ἐγὼ τότε δέξομαι ὁππότε κεν δὴ
Ζεὺς ἐθέλῃ τελέσαι ἠδ᾽ ἀθάνατοι θεοὶ ἄλλοι.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:15 am

I find the hard copy concordances easier to use than an on-line search engine, but the Chicago Homer site includes Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns, so you don't need to "liberate" the LfgE, fascicule by fascicule.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby mwh » Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:46 pm

Qimmik wrote:Well, you are probably right about Achilles' foreknowledge--and his angry rhetorical exaggeration. When Achilles kills Hector, even after Hector has specifically told him that he is going to die at the hands of Paris and Apollo at the Scaean Gate, this is what Achilles responds to Hector's dead body is (22.365-6):

τέθναθι: κῆρα δ᾽ ἐγὼ τότε δέξομαι ὁππότε κεν δὴ
Ζεὺς ἐθέλῃ τελέσαι ἠδ᾽ ἀθάνατοι θεοὶ ἄλλοι.


Quite so. Of course that sort of thing is only said by characters who are doomed, and pretty well know it, though they have to score what points they can, and they cling to the slim chance that a supportive god will step in, as Apollo did to save Croesus from the pyre or Artemis to save Iphigeneia from the altar (not to mention Aphrodite Paris in Il.3). The audience knows that won't be the case with Achilles. These finals words of Ach to Hector point forward to his death no less than do Hector's final words to him.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 09, 2014 2:21 pm

Qimmik wrote:I find the hard copy concordances easier to use than an on-line search engine, but the Chicago Homer site includes Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns, so you don't need to "liberate" the LfgE, fascicule by fascicule.

LfgrE isn't very practical as a concordance. But it's worthwhile to risk getting caught while stealing it from the university library, because of the extensive articles on each word with bibliography and all... (My university has made the business of liberating the LfgrE much more difficult by having had the Lieferungs bound in 4 big, heavy volumes, which are really difficult to smuggle out :) )
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby mwh » Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:40 pm

Concordances. There’s nothing extra in Prendergast-Dunbar, just the individual lines themselves, without further context and with some bad readings. If you have access to the TLG you can simply enter a word and see every occurrence of it, with as many lines of local context as you choose. (No variants, though.) And you can specify the range of texts to be searched—Homer, just Iliad, Hom.+Hom.Hymns, all epic, whatever. It’s neat, fast, and reliable. (It didn’t used to be. In its fledgling days at Irvine it took a whole day to run a global search on a much smaller corpus. Mind you, that was a lot faster than reading it all or consulting dozens of indexes etc.). Failing that, there’s the Chicago site.

So I’d leave the concordances with your antiquarian bookseller, and support her/him by buying something more useful and/or more entertaining. If you spot a copy of Ebeling’s Lexicon Homericum, snap it up. That definitely falls into the useful category, especially if you haven’t stolen the LfgrE.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:40 pm

mwh wrote:So I’d leave the concordances with your antiquarian bookseller, and support her/him by buying something more useful and/or more entertaining. If you spot a copy of Ebeling’s Lexicon Homericum, snap it up. That definitely falls into the useful category, especially if you haven’t stolen the LfgrE.

Yes, I thought so. The trouble is that the chances of finding anything that really interests me there are infinitely small. Typically you have books like "Alea jacta est – 1000 favourite Latin expressions" and obscure Greek-German dictionaries from the 19th century printed in Fraktur. So my support goes to online booksellers abroad. Ebeling I know, but since I don't really read Latin I've skipped it.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Bart » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:11 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:
Bart wrote:Old Ameis has a point, of course, but as a literary device, Phoenix is highly effective.

If you are excited by remarks of this sort, you should consider reading M.L. West's book The Making of the Iliad – whether you believe his theories or not, it's a thrilling modern attempt to explain these problems.


Duly noted. A new edition goes for 95 euro on amazon, quite expensive, though okay if really worthwhile. After a few months 'into Homer' I get the strong impression that one may spend a small fortune collecting a credible Homeric library. Still, some hobbies are far worse. So I tell myself at least.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Victor » Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:01 am

Qimmik wrote:
And you have to remember Dr. Johnson's words about the dancing dog (actually, he said that a female preacher is like a dancing dog--but of course I can't say that today): the wonder is not that it's done well, but that it's done at all.

I think that captures the essence of it, yes; a fairground attraction for a highbrow audience.
Qimmik wrote:Here I am in my late 60s too (I turn 68 next week), and all I will take to another world is about the first 20 verses of the Iliad, a few of the Aeneid, the first two or three stanzas of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard and part of Don something or other's monologue from Le Cid. What a wasted life!

I'm sure that's not the way you see it. Whilst it would be nice to carry around a library of favourite books entirely in our head, enjoyment of a work is not tied to a perfect recollection of it, and may even be increased by forgetting and then rediscovering parts of it when it is read again.

Your musing puts me in mind of one of poor old Gissing's best known characters:

"Scholarship in the high sense was denied me, and now it is too late. Yet here am I gloating over Pausanias, and promising myself to read every word of him. Who that has any tincture of old letters would not like to read Pausanias, instead of mere quotations from him and references to him? Here are the volumes of Dahn’s Die Könige der Germanen: who would not like to know all he can about the Teutonic conquerors of Rome? And so on, and so on. To the end I shall be reading—and forgetting. Ah, that’s the worst of it! Had I at command all the knowledge I have at any time possessed, I might call myself a learned man. Nothing surely is so bad for the memory as long-enduring worry, agitation, fear. I cannot preserve more than a few fragments of what I read, yet read I shall, persistently, rejoicingly. Would I gather erudition for a future life? Indeed, it no longer troubles me that I forget. I have the happiness of the passing moment, and what more can mortal ask?" (The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, XVII).
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Qimmik » Thu Jul 10, 2014 3:10 am

I wasn't serious. Memorizing Homer doesn't strike me as how I want to spend my dwindling years.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby Niedzielski » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:50 am

mwh wrote:Does Achilles really have “foreknowledge of his impending death if he goes back into battle”? What he says Thetis told him is not what she had in fact told him in bk.1, and we have to register the discrepancy. (No use saying Well maybe she told him on a different occasion.) He’s making it up, to suit the occasion (much as Homer himself does). It’s in his rhetorical interest to play up the risk to him involved in rejoining the fighting, to present his choice as between dying and living—which we know doesn’t jibe with Thetis’ revelation of his fate. His purporting to opt for living (at the cost of glory) demonstrates just how angry he is.


Reading the speech of Achilles we register what you call a discrepancy by noting the irony, and the imagination fills in the narrative. It should be easy to accept since the unnarrated episode fills in a natural curiosity as to what Achilles has been doing this whole time - well, he had another visit paid to him by Thetis.

We should register that the earlier pleas of Thetis to Zeus and the promises of Athena to Achilles were being fulfilled. The Achaeans are hemmed up by their ships, Achilles is being repayed as Athena promised and is being honoured as Thetis wished and there is a great longing for Achilles as he himself said there would be. The new development, the revelation of two fates, is necessary to understand why he doesn't accept the repayment. Zeus has declared that Patroclus must die, and to this end Achilles is allowed to give full expression to his anger. As Pandarus was the agent of Athena who had him, who didn't bring any one of his eleven chariots to Troy the pasture of horses because he thought they wouldn't get anything to eat, to foolishly try to shoot an arrow to break the truce, so in the same manner it is the very attribute about Achilles being such an intense guy that allows him to accept the other path he thinks he has before him.

The rhetorical force of the statement is great but it is silly to assume that because the speech is impassioned, the facts are fabricated. The magnificence of the rhetoric is appropriate to the significance of the subject. The revelation of the two paths Achilles has before him is not some isolated fact, but is integral to the whole speech, and the idea that a man has a choice to make on his own is so different from what the poet has been treating us with up to this point, particulary when Homer three times explicitly depicts three heroes debating one of two courses of action (diandicha mermerixen) which were settled by the intervention of gods, that it is unfathomable that Homer now has Achillies make it up just to "play up the risks".

The irony of the episode, and the motives of fate and glory have a parallel in the activities of Hector. He had the women pray against Diomedes already when it was rather unnecessary, seeing as Athena had ceased her lively involvement by then. We see he develops a hope to slay Diomedes, and that desire for glory, so evident and near desperate in the terms he sets out for his duel, materializes as the reckless behaviour Odysseus reports to Achilles. (The exchange of armour between Diomedes and Glaucos isn't then after all so innocent, as one can so readily imagine the desire of Hector's to strip his Trojan golden armour - and I will continue to insist that the contrast between the glorious gold and the bronze, bronze that the realist dryly notes is more appropraite to fighting battles, underscores that desire for glory.) Hector also seems to be making a choice - to fight outside the city walls, and he also shares a certain premonition of the future when he reveals to his wife that Troy will be destroyed. And of course the remarks of Helen to Hector about becoming the theme of songs is echoed by Achilles when he is found playing his lyre.

The choice the poet made not to narrate the new development has the poetic force of fittingly engaging the reader to consider what is very personal, free will, or one's relationship to the gods and fate. Throughout the poem, the poet accustoms the audience to behold the ever-present agency of the gods, and using the technique of "not saying everything" to do so is immediately apparent from the beginning, when Agamemnon rises furiously against Kalkas. Other instances of a more textual sort occur throughout the poem, as when after the Trojans have mustered for battle, Homer narrates the agency of Hera, having her complain about her sweating horses: he does not narrate it before and this has the effect of making us alert to the agency of the gods at all times. When Aphrodite is with Paris and Helen in his room, a sudden desire comes over Paris for Helen; we are not told that Aphrodite sprinkled love potion over him, but we are to understand her immediate agency - it's a minor occurence but nevertheless acustoms the audience to fill in the blanks. During the duel between Menelaus and Paris, Menelaus prays to Zeus, but Paris says it was with Athena's help that he overcame him; a trivial discrepancy but it forces the audience to consider the intricate agencies of the gods. When the duel between Aias and Hector is put to an end, we are to understand that the heralds, angels of Zeus, were of one mind to put the matter to an end by the agency of Zeus - it's not narrated but it's the natural presumption. In the ninth book the technique is used in a two fold complementary manner: The audience is aware that the poet did not narrate Thetis telling Achilles the news; but on the other hand, the audience will find that the ninth book lacks any narration of the gods all together, a feature unique to this book; we are not told what the gods are doing on Olympus, we are not told how Zeus nods his head in reply to prayers and libations. The contrast is unmistakably intended, and the crashing of Homeric formulas - another instance is reported earlier up the thread - complements the circumstances Achilles is dealing with.

I'm getting ahead of myself, but I want to remark on the remark Achilles makes to the dying Hector. I want to suggest that this is a statement of faith, and it does not betray a "rhetorical exaggeration". Perhaps at that point Achilles realizes that he never had a choice, fulfilling the will of Zeus and fate, and acknowledges his full submission to something greater than mortal man. Moreover, in killing Patroclus perhaps the purpose of Zeus was not to entice Achilles just to kill Hector and so forth - but the killing of Patroclus itself is part of the higher scheme of things, Zeus' grand plan, and hence why it is necessary that Achilles should continue to nurture his wrath and why the option of the two fold fate is very real. Afterall, who is Zeus to fulfill the entreaty of Thetis for her sake alone, or Hera's or anyone else's? The significance of the death of Patroclus cannot be understated - the fight for his stripped corpse is in the Iliad the only description of the hoplite formation.
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Re: Iliad 9, 225-227

Postby mwh » Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:32 pm

Interesting post. I’m afraid I can’t engage with it right now—hopefully others will—but clearly I shall have to justify my preemptive “(No use saying Well maybe she told him on a different occasion.)”
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