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Discussion - Homer, The Iliad > Iliad through Book 16

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Homer, the consummate story teller, has not forgotten Patroclus. As the longest day of battle draws nearer its close, he returns to the forefront of the story.

The interchange between Achilles and Patroclus is one of my very favorite passages in the Iliad. Patroclus standing before Achilles with the tears running down his face “like a spring dark-running / that down the face of a rock impassable drips its dim water.” (Lattimore, 16.3) Does Achilles really not know why he is weeping “like some poor little girl”? Surely Achilles should know that no news from Phthia can have reached him since he left their shared quarters this morning. Is Achilles mocking him? Or is this genuine concern? What is his tone of voice as he accuses Patroclus of being like a child running after her mother to be picked up? Affection or insult? It bothers me that I don’t know.

And I am gratified and somewhat surprised that Patroclus can be so direct and almost offensive to Achilles. The sight of the Greeks being pressed back hard, their great danger, has obviously deeply affected him, not only in his tears, but in his willingness to “call out” Achilles, to accuse him of being pitiless, of dishonoring his father, which is a very great insult. “May no such anger take me as this that you cherish!” This is talk straight from the heart.

The whole exchange reminds me, though the context is quite different, of Kipling’s line “When two strong men stand face to face.”

So Achilles will still not enter the battle himself, but as he sees the ships starting to burn he not only grants Patroclus’s request to don his armor and strike the fear of Achilles into the Trojans, but sends his Myrmidons into the battle also. But he sends Patroklus with the warning that he shall not pursue the Trojans all the way to Troy, but will stop when he has driven them from the ships and not cheat Achilles of the glory of bringing the final defeat to the Trojans. Ah, if only....

Interesting that the Myrmidons have apparently not been pleased with Achilles keeping them out of the battle, because given the chance to join in they are “as wolves / who tear the flesh raw, in whose hearts the battle fury is tireless,” as wolves who bring down a great stag and “then feed / on him till the jowls of every wolf run blood.” (16.156)

So Patroclus arrays himself in Achilles armor, and goes out to battle. And as he and the Myrmidons fling themselves on the Trojans, even Hector knows that the tide has shifted.

And here we get another of the more famous moments of the Iliad when Zeus looks down to see his son, Sarpedon, about to die, and debates whether to save him. If the fates have willed this to be his time to die, should, or even can, Zeus reverse the will of the fates and save him from this death? I understand that scholars differ on whether even Zeus can reverse fate, but after a wonderfully described struggle with himself, he lets Sarpedon die. This is a new side of Zeus, Zeus the loving and grieving father, quite a contrast to the Zeus we saw at the beginning of Book 15.

A fascinating little aside: at 584, Homer suddenly addresses Patroclus directly:
“So you, horseman Patroclus, charged the Lycians / and chased the Trojans, heartsick for your comrade.” Jacobs. “So straight for the Lykians, o lord of horses, Patroklos, / you swept, and for the Trojans, heart angered for your companion.” Lattimore. “even so straight against the Lycians, O Patroclus, master of horsemen, and against the Trojans didst thou charge, and thy heart was full of wrath for thy comrade.” Murray. So it’s not a matter of a translator erring, but it seems clear that Homer is directly addressing Patroclus. I haven’t seen this anywhere else in the poem. Was it there and I missed it? Does it mean something? Or is it an errata that some scribe slipped into the poem by mistake and that settled into it? At any rate, I found it quite interesting.

Well, it happens as Zeus said it would. Patroclus, blinded by the lust of battle, forgetful of Achilles’s warning, does pursue the Trojans to the walls of the city and three times tries to scale the wall. (One excavator of the site noted that at one point the wall isn’t vertical but follow the steep slope of the hillside up, and it would be possible for men described, as the men of this time are, as having far more strength than the Greeks of Homer’s time, to scale it even in armor. I don’t know whether that’s true, but Homer has tended to be pretty accurate so far, so I wouldn’t be surprised.) And so, having ignored Achilles’s warning, he dies at Hector’s hand.

A final note: if, as many scholars believe, the Iliad was recited over three days of a festival, the end of this book would be a natural stopping point for the end of day two. Once again, Homer leaves us at a highly dramatic moment.


message 2: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Thank you Everyman for the great overview of Book 16! I read it a few days ago, and before I start re-reading, let me respond or comment on 2 or 3 items you raised:

1) Everyman wrote: "Surely Achilles should know that no news from Phthia can have reached him since he left their shared quarters this morning ."

Are we sure of that? I realize that the odds would be against it, especially in the midst of a fierce battle, but I would assume that ships and news from home would make it there to Troy every so often... Might there not be an outside chance that news did arrive that morning...that Achilles might have concerns?

2) Everyman wrote: "Interesting that the Myrmidons have apparently not been pleased with Achilles keeping them out of the battle, because given the chance to join in they are “as wolves / who tear the flesh raw, in whose hearts the battle fury is tireless,” as wolves who bring down a great stag and “then feed / on him till the jowls of every wolf run blood.” (16.156)
."


Oh, but those Myrmidons are fighting men! I like the analogy to wolves, suggesting that the Myrmidons are natural fighters. So I can easily imagine them chomping at the bit...especially if they are used to gathering a large portion of the spoils to themselves. By staying out of the fight, they are denying themselves the opportunity to win time and to earn spoils. Looked at that way, they must be very loyal to Achilles to give up their livelihood for him.

3) Everyman wrote: A fascinating little aside: at 584, Homer suddenly addresses Patroclus directly:
“So you, horseman Patroclus, charged the Lycians "


Wasn't that something? I noticed it too. There I was reading along, and suddenly, one of the characters was being addressed by name by the song-singer. Maybe someone here knows some background info on this passage.


4) Everyman wrote: "One excavator of the site noted that at one point the wall isn’t vertical but follow the steep slope of the hillside up, and it would be possible for men described, as the men of this time are, as having far more strength than the Greeks of Homer’s time, to scale it even in armor"

I can't find the line right now, but back in Book 15 (I think that was the Book), Fagles writes of Troy's "beetling walls," which I thought implied walls that weren't totally vertical. I'll see if I can find that line later.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Once again, I think Homer showed an admirable understanding of human nature in having Patroclus not stop, as Achilles had told him to do, after driving the Trojans from the ships and wall, but he and the other Greeks harried the Trojans all the way back to Troy, and he tried three times to climb the walls. It seems clear that in the heat of battle the excitement, adrenalin, and passion of the chase after fleeing Trojans showed the triumph of blood-lust over caution. We have seen this in other wars, when having broken the enemy line the soldiers will race pell mell after them without thought or care. The Romans at time even used this tactic to their advantage; they would pretend to yield their center, they would deliberately retreat, enticing the enemy to chase after them, then they would suddenly swoop in from their flanks, turn their center to stand, and, attacking the enemy now from three sides, destroy them. It seems that almost a mob mentality takes over when fighters see an enemy fleeing before them, and they just race on without thinking whether this is the intelligent thing to do.


message 4: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Everyman wrote: ". It seems that almost a mob mentality takes over when fighters see an enemy fleeing before them, and they just race on without thinking whether this is the intelligent thing to do.


..."


There may be an aspect of "mob mentality."

My thinking, though, is that there is also an aspect of the individual feeling as though he is invincible...or feeling that he "knows" he can succeed... It had seemed to me, that Hector, Protroclus, etc., when winning, somehow ... felt one with their fates... and at that moment believed it was their fate to succeed.


message 5: by Adelle (last edited Feb 27, 2012 09:20AM) (new)

Adelle | 148 comments "Patroclus...
wept warm tears like a dark spring running down
some desolate rock face, its shaded currents flowing...

'Why in tears, Patroclus?
Like a girl, a baby running after her mother..."

At 1 Everyman wrote: "Is Achilles mocking him? Or is this genuine concern? What is his tone of voice as he accuses Patroclus of being like a child running after her mother to be picked up? Affection or insult? It bothers me that I don’t know.

..."


I don't think Achilles is mocking Patroclus. Or if he is mocking him, I don't think Achilles is mocking in a critical or "mean" way. More...more as though Achilles is using the ... joshing? ... little girl/baby lines simply to establish, to maintain, a little manly distance between them. And then, too, Achilles, seems to be saying that he and Patroclus have a close enough relationship that they can talk to one another about issues dear to their hearts. He says to Patroclus,

"Out with it now! Don't harbor it deep inside you.
We must share it all."

And Patroclus, "with a wrenching groan," answered.

I don't take it to me critical mocking because I read in some background book that in the Bronze Age crying wasn't seen as a sign of weakness in a warrior. (King David was given as an example. Someone else, too, whose name I don't recall.)

Also, back in Book 1, following the scene in which Briseis, "in all her beauty," was led away, Achilles himself cried and was himself comforted my his mother.

"But Achilles wept....
Reaching out his arms,
again and again he prayed to his dear mother..."

And she came, and settled beside him while he wept, and said to Achilles, "What sorrow has touched your heart?
Tell me, please. don't harbor it deep inside you.
We must share it all."
"And now from his depths
the proud runner groaned..."(Fagles 1. about 410)


message 6: by Adelle (last edited Feb 27, 2012 09:47AM) (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Mmmm. So obviously I'm re-reading Book 16.

Maybe Achilles' tone is hard to place because it's mixed. On re-reading, while I still don't think that Achilles starts out in anger, it does look as though his anger may have flared up---or was in danger of flaring up again-- when he thought that Patroclus was crying because of the Argives.

Achilles has just spoken of how he and Patroclus would indeed have cause for sorrow if there fathers had died. And then, quite likely, his tone changes:

"Or weeping over the Argives, are you? Seeing them die
against the hollow ships, repaid for their offenses?"

And Patroclus seems to say that either Achilles IS angry now or that Patroclus knows he will be angry when he admits that that is why he weeps:

"Achilles, son of Peleus, greatest of the Achaeans,
{nice touch there: re-affirming that he believes that Achilles really IS the greatest of the Achaeans...showing that he, Patroclus, is not totally disloyal to his friend} spare me your anger, please--"


message 7: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments "You heart of iron."

"But still, if down deep some prophecy makes you balk,
some doom your noble mother revealed to you from Zeus,
well and good"

Even Achilles' good, good friend, Patroclus, can not understand that Achilles (really, I think) is no longer basing his decsion not to fight on the gift system.

It's not just the tent of Achilles that is pitched apart from that of the other men. Achilles in is thinking is becoming a man apart.


message 8: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Stripped.

"I'd sacked a walled city, won her with my spear
but right from my grasp he tears her, might Agamemnon,
that son of Atreus! Treating me like some vagabond,
some outcast stripped of all my rights..."
(Fagles 16. about 65)

It seems to me that there is an important connection to be made here. The fighters, they don't need that armor of their oppenents so badly that they must risk life and limb to tear it off the bodies of the fallen in the midst of the battle. Rationally, they could always gather the armour, the trophies, up AFTER the battle. So, no, there must be more to it.

The act of tearing the armor off (tearing away Brisies), stripping the armour off (stripping Achilles of his rights), very likely is an deliberate action that is intended to inflict deep, deep humiliation.

Possibly it even means the one stripped has been "un-manned." Some Book back the stripped bodies were referred to as "women."


message 9: by Adelle (last edited Feb 27, 2012 04:27PM) (new)

Adelle | 148 comments More mixed emotions.

Fagles 16. about line 70.

Patroclus has made his plea. And Achilles has aired his anger. Perhaps just being able to verbalize--once again---how outraged he was by Agamemnon's action, Achilles' anger ebbs a little.

It's been two weeks. Now it seems to me that a part of him would LIKE let go of his anger and would LIKE to armor up and fight the Trojans back at this point....

"Enough.
Let bygones be bygones now. Done is done.
How on earth can a man rage on forever?"

However...Achilles reconizes that re-joining the Greeks is not an option for him:

"Still, by god, I said I would not relax by anger, /
not till the cries and carnage reached my own ships.....

if only the mighty Agamemnon met me with respect

And then Achilles agrees to Patroclus' request...Patroclus, who has forgotten, or disregarded, Nestor's suggestion that he FIRST, as a companion, try to persuade Achilles to rejoin the fight.


message 10: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments For king, and country! For England!

Achilles is again thinking like the rest of the Arives, his mind on glory, the girl, and gifts.

I keep thinking that every so often Achilles is trying to construct or discover a different value system for himself...but he wavers...

"Win great honor, great glory for me.....
and they,
they'll send her back, my lithe and lovely girl,
and top it off with troves of glittering gifts."

That repeated, semi-stuttering, "they" suggests to me that Achilles is engaging in wishful thinking here, that he's dreaming a bit. Otherwise, I think it would have been a straight-forward sentence: "and they will send her back."


message 11: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Patrice wrote: "...But by establishing this relationship, the pathos of the scene, we're set up to be clobbered by what happens next.

I hadn't thought of that. But, Yes! It truly does. I cn't say more without saying more, but I think that is a great observation.


Remember that scene from "On the Waterfront"? "Charlie, you are my brother. You shoulda looked out for me, at least a little." "

what a great scene. What a great movie.


message 12: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Ah, no! Sorry, Patrice, I had thought that this was the first instance of thigh slapping, and then I noticed how near in the epic was talk of sacrificing "thighs." That made it easy to see Patroclus as a sacrifice, or a substitute sacrifice. But if men are slapping their thighs right and left, I may have to rethink it. Ah well.


message 13: by Silver (new)

Silver Patrice wrote: "2. Thigh slapping. Whats up with that? I remember in the bible someone makes a vow with his hand on his thigh and someone once told me that was a euphenism for vowing on genitals. But there is a lot of thigh slapping in this poem and I'm not sure if it has any deeper meaning. "

This reminds me of a work of Historical Fiction I read once about ancient peoples (thought not of Greek origin) but frequently in the book men would touch their genitals as a sort of charm for good luck and to ward off evil spirits. I do not know if this was a common tradition , but maybe the thigh slapping is a sort of cultural custom.


message 14: by Adelle (last edited Feb 27, 2012 05:51PM) (new)

Adelle | 148 comments So you made me go back and re-read and re-read yet again with your message 19. But let me address 20, first.

Patrice wrote: "Do you think that perhaps this scene was necessary to reaffirm what the issue really is? It seems it could be taken as cowardice, not to fight. Or that, as Patroclos says, he is merely obeying Zeus or Thetis.

This little interchange reinforces what this is really about. It's not the prize, it's not the gods, it's not saving his life, it's honor. He was dishonored and he must be honored or he won't fight. I can understand this pov, and i can understand the need to reiterate the issue at this point


Yes, I do think this scene was necessary. Necessary because for the last 15 Books it's been repeated ad nauseam by just about everyone --(note: just because everyone says something does not mean it's true; everyone used to say the earth was flat)--- everyone says that Achilles should accept the gifts and return to fight beside the Argives. Even Patroclus, friend of his heart, tent-mate, Patroclus here, too, upbraids Achilles, even going so far---and I think it must be quite far---as to deny Achilles' parentage:

"...He was not your father,
the horseman Peleus--Theitis was not your mother.
Never. The salt gray sunless ocean gave you birth
and the towering blank rocks--" (Fagles 16.37).

In a culture so attuned to genealogy, disavowing another's paternity, that would seem to be worse than calling one a bastard, because the field is full of Priam's bastards and they are well-regarded. So Patroclus, I think, has hit Achilles here the hardest blow of all. It IS the blow the makes Achilles waver. (Again, it might have been sufficient to bring Achilles back to the fight...save that Patroclus jumped in too quickly with the suggestion that HE fight in Achilles' armor.)

However...the arguments of Patroclus, Nestor, etc., have all been driven by need. THEY need HIM. Therefore, their argument goes, he SHOULD return to the fight.

So here we hear Achilles articulate, in a much more brutally honest way than he has heretofore, how this has affected him.

So Patroclus has been reeling off the names of the injured Argives?

"Our former champions, all laid up in the ships...
...powerful Diomedes brought down by an archer,
Odysseius wounded, and Agamemnon too...
and Eurypylus took an arrow-shot in the thigh...
Healers are working over them, using all their drugs,
tryin to bind the wounds--"

Achilles is also a "former champion." The greatest.
Achilles has also been laid up...in his tent.
Achilles is also wounded:

"That's the pain that wounds me, suffering such humiliation"

Achilles also took an arrow...an arrow to his heart.

As soon as healers could get to the wounded warriors, they started "working them over, using ALL thieir drugs, trying to bind the wounds--

But Achilles, when he was wounded, aggrieved, humiliated, symbolically un-manned ("stripped of all [his] rights")... Well, the Greeks sent no healers to him. Days and days passed, without an appeal from the men below or an embassy from the men above ... to try to bind the wounds. Let him bleed.

In effect, the Argives said, Let him see how we don't need him. Until they did need him.

"You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Chuck him out, the brute!'
But it's 'Saviour of 'is country' when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool you bet that Tommy sees!"
----------------- "Tommy," Rudyard Kipling

Achilles sees, too.


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Adelle wrote: "I don't take it to me critical mocking because I read in some background book that in the Bronze Age crying wasn't seen as a sign of weakness in a warrior. (King David was given as an example. Someone else, too, whose name I don't recall.)

Also, back in Book 1, following the scene in which Briseis, "in all her beauty," was led away, Achilles himself cried and was himself comforted my his mother.
"


Excellent point. I was falling into the fault of applying modern rather than classical thinking to the action.


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Adelle wrote: "It's not just the tent of Achilles that is pitched apart from that of the other men. Achilles in is thinking is becoming a man apart. "

You've nailed a point that Vandiver also makes strongly; that an important aspect of the poem is Homer using Achilles to challenge some core norms of Greek society. Achilles is indeed becoming a man apart, and I really like your pointing out how his physical apartness mirrors his growing cultural apartness.


message 17: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Everyman wrote: "You've nailed a point that Vandiver also makes strongly; that an important aspect of the poem is Homer using Achilles to challenge some core norms of Greek society. Achilles is indeed becoming a man apart, and I really like your pointing out how his physical apartness mirrors his growing cultural apartness. ..."

A question that has been nagging me is whether Achilles really cares about the Greeks as men -- we know his feelings about Agamemnon, but the effect that his refusal to fight has on the individuals he came to fight with is devastating. He is most certainly a man apart, but I wonder if he isn't also convinced that he is more than that. Agamemnon is not wrong to think that Achilles believes himself above command. I think Achilles does believe that, despite his protestations to the contrary. In this case I think his actions speak louder than words -- he watches good men die and does nothing. He sends Patroclus out to fight and sits tight, knowing that if Zeus is true to his word that Patroclus will most probably not survive. He is a man apart. But isn't he also an egotist of the first order?


message 18: by Adelle (last edited Feb 28, 2012 09:57PM) (new)

Adelle | 148 comments This should be a fuller response; but quick-like:

I don't see Achilles as sending Patroclus out. Patroclus was the one who introduced the idea the he, Patroclus, fight:

"...at least send ME into battle, quickly.
Let the whole Myrmidon army follow my command--
I might bring some light of victory to our Argives!

And give me your own fine armor to buckle on my back,
so the Trojans might take ME for you, Achilles..."
(Fagles 16. about 43).

1) It was Patroclus who suggested this action to Achilles.

2) Patroclus is a grown man, not a child. It is only loyalty to Achilles that is holding Patroclus back from the fight. Therefore, in acceding to the request of Patroclus, Achilles is respecting Patroclus as a man.

3) Patroclus, I think, makes this suggestion because it was suggested to HIM by Nestor, AND, I think that Patroclus has taken to heart Nestor's "remembering" that Patroclus's father sent him with those last words: you are older than Achilles; give him good advice. (BTW, Nestor wasn't actually saying that Patroclus was capable of giving Achilles good advice. Nestor was saying that in order to leverage Patroclus into pressuring Achilles.)

4) Achilles actually warns Patroclus to not get carried away and fight too far: "But take this command ["command"] to heart--obey it to the end /.....Once you have whipped the enemy from the fleet / you must come back, Patroclus. Even if Zeus / the thundering lord of Hera lets you sieze your glory / ...(What if one of the gods comes down?). The deadly Archer loves his Trojans dearly. No, you must turn back--as soon as you bring the light of victory to the ships....Let the rest of them cut themselves to pieces on the plain! [you are my friend. come back to me. "you and I alone"]

Achilles has told, nay commanded, Patroclus exactly when to turn back. Had Patroclus obeyed the command of his leader or heeded the plea of his friend and turn back when he was supposed to, Patroclus would be alive and well.

5) Thomas, I'm sorry, I may have missed it, but I don't see anywhere where Zeus has warned Achilles that whoever goes out there to fight will die. Does Achilles "know" that? I know Achilles has been asked a couple of times, "if down deep some prophecy makes you balk, some doom your noble mother revealed to you from Zeus"...but I can't find anywhere---or I haven't yet found anywhere, where Achilles says he has such knowledge...nothing that suggests that THAT is why he is sitting in his tent. Yes, back in Book 9, Achilles says...blah, blah, blah...two fates..."If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy, my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies"... but he knew, I think, that prior to joining the expedition, and he hasn't held back from fighting...he knows that he will die before the end...but he doesn't know when... Or have I overlooked those lines?

6) Sigh. We all have our hang-ups. Patrice has been strong for the demands of friendship. I am probably blind, but I haven't seen the Greeks as being Achilles' friends...I see them simply as another contingent in the war, hailing from completely different countries. To the extent that Achilles "has friends," those would be the Myrmidons...and they have refrained from fighting for his sake...or, by his orders. Patroclus should have followed orders.

And I am hung-up on oaths. So for me, bottom-line, it looks that Achilles, now, would LIKE to rejoin the fight, but for sacred reasons [his oath...not just empty words, but his oath} his cannot: "Still, by god, I said I would not relax my anger, / not till the cries and carnage reached my own ships." (Fagles 16.71).

7) It doesn't matter what Achilles does regarding Patroclus. Fate has already decreed Patroclus is to die:

"And he [Achilles], he will launch his comrade Patroclus into action
And glorious Hector will cut him down with a spear
in front of Troy, once Patroclus has slaughter
whole battalions of strong young fighting men...
"
(Fagles 15.80).

Done is done. That it hasn't happened yet is a mere detail.

I am strong for Achilles!


message 19: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Patrice wrote: "It's why Patroclos tells him he's not a human being. He comes from the sea..."the rider Peleus was never your father nor Thetis was your mother, but it was the grey sea that bore you and the towering rocks, so sheer the heart in you is turned from us."

He is "pitiless". Is Homer touching a nerve that exists in all of us?

..."


I just don't get it. How can you say Achilles is "pitiless." LOL, apparently Homer has not not touched that nerve in me. I mean...Patroclus went to war to fight, he says he wants to fight, he practically begs to be allowed to fight. Achilles cares for him so much that he is willing to "free" Patroclus to fight. And Patroclus does win glory. What more could he ask for?

The quote. Yes, Patroclus says those words. But that doesn't make those words true. I think it's Patroclus angry or not comprehending Achilles...but Patroclus's postition, it seems to me, is the childish position: You don't do what I want you to do, therefore you are bad.

It just seems to me that Achilles belongs to Achilles, not to the Greeks. Therefore Achilles should make decisions for Achilles.


message 20: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Sorry. Stupid Iliad. Drawing me in. Engaging me. Making Achilles live. Deep breath. I'll lay low for a day or two and come back less acrimonious.


message 21: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Adelle wrote: "I don't see Achilles as sending Patroclus out. Patroclus was the one who introduced the idea the he, Patroclus, fight: "

I agree with that. I can understand, and to an extent agree with, the argument that it was past time for Achilles to get over it and get out there and join the battle, but I don't fault him for giving in to Patroclus's desire himself to join the fight. And giving Patroclus his armor would both give him better armor and therefore a better chance to live, but would also add to his ability to terrify the Trojans just by the presence of Achilles's very famous armor.

Granted that he was wrong not to go himself, but given that he isn't going, what should he have said? "No, Patroclus, even though you're a grown man, I won't let you go out there to join the battle, but will force you to sit here weeping at the deaths of your fellow Greeks without letting you do anything about it"? Is that how a friend should treat a friend?

And he did admonish him not to pursue the Trojans to the walls of Troy, and if P had followed this advice, presumably he would have lived. And if you believe, as the Greeks did, in the reality that it is fate that decrees when a man will die, well, it was Patroclus's day to die, and there's nothing anybody -- not even Zeus -- could have done about it. Better to die valiantly in battle than to die of a broken heart sitting by the ships grieving.

I fault Achilles for not going himself. But I don't fault him for letting Patroclus go when he wanted to.


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Adelle wrote: "Sorry. Stupid Iliad. Drawing me in. Engaging me. Making Achilles live. "

This is why the classics are classics!!!

And wait 'till you see what the Odyssey will do for you!!!!!

Deep breath. I'll lay low for a day or two and come back less acrimonious.

No laying low. Not allowed. [g]

And if that was acrimony, we need a lot more of it.


message 23: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Adelle wrote: "It just seems to me that Achilles belongs to Achilles, not to the Greeks. Therefore Achilles should make decisions for Achilles.
"


Absolutely, but as much as Achilles is his own man, he is also a Greek. He stands apart, which was as problematic in Greek culture as it is in ours today. Not necessarily bad, certainly not in all contexts, but problematic. (The greek word idios, meaning private or personal, is the root of the English word idiot. It wasn't as pejorative in the Greek sense, but it distinguishes someone as self-centered and uninformed.)

I think of Socrates as someone who was just as wronged as Achilles, though it was by his city rather than his general. Socrates did not withdraw from society, in fact he refused to run away even to save his own life. He made the injustice that was inflicted on him a platform for dialectic and died with his friends.

Your defense of Achilles is quite good, I think, and there is much to admire about the man. But there is another side to him, or another way at looking at his behavior, which shows how very complex he is.


message 24: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "Absolutely, but as much as Achilles is his own man, he is also a Greek."

Well, actually, no. He was a Myrmidon. There was, as Vandiver emphasizes, no concept of Greek as we think of it. There were independent city states which came together from time to time in (often uneasy) joint ventures, but there was no idea of nation or of Greekness. Achilles made clear that he came to Troy not out of hatred for the Trojans, and I think by implication not out of some love of his fellow Achaeans, but for plunder and for the love of battle and the glory it brought. There was a big fight coming, lots of booty at stake, and he wanted in.


message 25: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Adelle wrote: "5) Thomas, I'm sorry, I may have missed it, but I don't see anywhere where Zeus has warned Achilles that whoever goes out there to fight will die. Does Achilles "know" that? "

I can't say that he "knows" that with certainty, no. But Achilles can see that the tide has turned against the Greeks, and he knows that the divine plan is for the Greeks to suffer defeat as a mechanism to restore his honor. He tells Patroklus to turn back at a certain point. Patroklus is not a boy, but he is not a demi-god either. He can die like any other man, and Achilles must be aware of this. Despite this he chooses not to join him in battle. His honor is more important to him than his friendship.


message 26: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Everyman wrote: "Thomas wrote: "Absolutely, but as much as Achilles is his own man, he is also a Greek."

Well, actually, no. He was a Myrmidon. There was, as Vandiver emphasizes, no concept of Greek as we think ..."


Just curious -- does Vandiver explain the origin of terms like "Argive", "Achaean" and "Danaan" to signify those people called the Greeks? Why does Homer use these terms of generality if there was no conception of "Greekness"?


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "Just curious -- does Vandiver explain the origin of terms like "Argive", "Achaean" and "Danaan" to signify those people called the Greeks?"

Basically, she says that these were later (not from the time of the Trojan war, but developing more toward Homer's time) convenient ways of describing the combined group, but it had no sense of the idea of nationhood that Greeks implies for us. It was more like the term "Allies" during World War II; easier to say than listing all the nations involved, but it didn't imply any sort of political relationship among the allies other than coming together against a common enemy. The problem with saying "Greeks" is that we think of Greek as a nation-state, and there was nothing of that sort. Really, "temporary allies" would probably be the most accurate term.

If, at least, I understand her correctly.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Patrice wrote: "Except, unlike the Allies,I think they all spoke one language, Greek, and worshipped the same gods. If i remember correctly."

True. They shared a culture, but were independent and proud of being so.


message 29: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Everyman wrote: "Patrice wrote: "Except, unlike the Allies,I think they all spoke one language, Greek, and worshipped the same gods. If i remember correctly."

True. They shared a culture, but were independent a..."


And Achilles is the most independent of them all, apparently. A country unto himself, perhaps.


message 30: by Adelle (last edited Feb 28, 2012 10:49PM) (new)

Adelle | 148 comments At 31 Patrice wrote: "So if Achilles belongs to Achilles, his action was not a good one. He is hurt by it.



In the larger sense, I think it was a postive for him. Remind me when the book read is done. (Haven't quite got a sure handle on it, but QUITE sure that this was "good" for Achilles...no matter how he suffered.

At 43, Ooooh, remind me when the book read in done to give you one interpretation of Wuthering Heights. (It ties in.)[And is SO cool.]

LOL. I couldn't stay away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwlYo8...

LOL.


message 31: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Yes, I think that I can see them as an "alliance" somewhat along the lines of the allies in WWII. The "Greeks" (a catch-all for everyone fighting with Agamemnon)did seem to have the same language. And, if not exactly the same culture, there were enough shared aspects. Yes, perhaps like the English, Americans, French, shared a "Western" culture. Importantly in both groupings, they had a shared goal--enough to get them to work together...not unlike the WWII allies who, while disagreeing over many policies in peacetime, managed to find a way to work in tandem to overcome Germany.

(There is a bit, though, of labeling even amongst Agamemnon's allies: the Argives, of course; "Idomeneus, captain of the Cretans"; the Myrmidons. But you may well be right that the Trojans differentiate more than the Greeks do. Hector does seem to rally his allies by groups. I wonder why that is. Mmmm. Twice, at least, I have heard Hector urge the men to fight for the fatherland. No such plea from Agamemnon.)


message 32: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Thomas wrote: "The greek word idios, meaning private or personal, is the root of the English word idiot.."

What an intriging word derivation. I would never have thunk it. So...without necessarily viewing the word as negative, we could say that Achilles was an idiot?

At Fagles 16.309:

Regarding the wasps that the boys stir up...
"idiot boys they make a menace for every man in sight"

Although Achillies wasn't tormenting anybody, he was, like the boys, basing his actions/inactions on his personal needs, disregarding the needs of anyone else.


message 33: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments At 31 Patrice wrote: "I don't think I'm projecting my own "hang ups' ..."

Apologies. Poor wording on my part. I was thinking that you been focusing on friendship; like I have been focusing on oaths. And really, truly, it does say that the Trojans DO think that Achilles has put aside his rage for the sake of friendship. So they must see friendship as a value that can affect actions.


message 34: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Wisdom.

I've seen Zeus described as the god of the thunder, and I've seem him threatening, and I've seen him described as a wayward, boasting husband.

Now for the first time (unless I missed it before), I see Zeus described as one with wisdom.

"So Achilles prayed (give P courage; keep P unharmed)
and Zeus in all his wisdom heard those prayers.
One prayer the Father granted, the other he denied"
(Fagles 16.294).

I found this to be interesting. I could have easily understood Zeus granting the prayers as he did based on Fate...but this would seem to come very, very close to implying that this was the wise decision. Why?

Is it like when it had seemed that Zeus had the actual power to save his son Sarpedon, but restrained from so doing? Is Homer saying to go against Fate wouldn't be wise? And if so, is it because letting one man escape his Fate …is unfair? or against the rules? And the unfairness or the blatant disregard for the rules enrages people?

As Achilles was enraged in Book 1. And here in Book 16, when Zeus is considering saving his son, Hera says, “Do as you please, Zeus… [But] beware! / Then surely some other god will want to sweep his own son clear of the heavy fighting too. / Look down. / Many who battle round King Priam’s mighty walls are sons of the deathless gods-- / you will inspire lethal anger in them all” (Fagles 16.526).


message 35: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments At 43 Patrice wrote: "I think I figured out why the symbolism of the armor seemed so powerful to me. It was. I think that when Patroclos put on Achilles armor, he became Achilles in a way. That's why he was able to kill so many Trojans and why he did not stop fighting when he should have. The armor changed who he was.

.."


Patrice, Patroclus in Achilles’ armor. Since you wrote that, in re-reading I noticed that while Achilles has been more than once described as “great-hearted,” Patroclus hasn't been. But NOW, wearing the armor of Achilles, Patroclus is so described for the first time: “Myrmidons, battalions ranged in armor with greathearted Patroclus” (Fagles 16.305).

You may be on to something.


message 36: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments 16.592: “Death cut him short.” Sarpedon. I know it’s sad that he died…still…I thought he gave rather a long speech before death cut him short.


message 37: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Adelle wrote: "What an intriging word derivation. I would never have thunk it. So...without necessarily viewing the word as negative, we could say that Achilles was an idiot? "

Well, maybe, but I don't think Homer actually uses that word to describe him either. From what I understand, an idiotes is strange or peculiar because of his alienation from society. To be focused on oneself to the exclusion of the community was truly peculiar in Greek society. I don't think it was a value judgment necessarily, but it was just plain weird.


message 38: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Weaving. (just interesting)

At 60 Patrice wrote: "
l. Fate can't be changed because it would unravel everything else. You don't know where it will end.

..."


So for thousands and thousands of years, humans have made cloth. They've woven cloth. We don't weave cloth anymore. We purchase it already in cloth form or we simply buy clothes.

Yet the concepts of weaving/and unraveling is apparently so woven into our DNA that we still use phrases and we still understand the concepts that are being referred to.

Homer wove songs. The lives of the lovers were woven together. It all started to unravel. Etc.

http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/key...
http://thinkexist.com/search/searchqu...


message 39: by Adelle (last edited Mar 01, 2012 01:14PM) (new)

Adelle | 148 comments At 55 Patrice wrote: "What i've been thinking of lately is the gods. [...]



People are made in their image. Actually, much more in their image than we are to our God. [...]

What made me think of this was a line in book 16 where Parocolus is running to the walls of Troy in his wonderful armor.
Line 705 "As Partoklos for the fourth time, LIKE SOMETHING MORE THAN A MAN, came at him..."

..."


Mmmm. No spoiler. (view spoiler)


message 40: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Patrice wrote: "And isn't this an interesting thread?"

I had thought initially that Book 16 was going to be simply fight, fight, fight; but it wasn't.


message 41: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments But Patrice, you do know how to hide spoilers. You just don't know that you know. You do it exactly the same as italics or underline or bold: Start with (view spoiler). Bam!


message 42: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Patrice wrote: " Many have gone before!"

Laughing!


message 43: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Wait! I got it. Do it as listed below...EXCEPT... Within the carrots <>, don't put the dots in.

Spoiler: <.spoiler> write words here <./spoiler>

* bold text: <.b>...<./b>
* italic text: <.i>...<../i>
* underline text: <.u>...<./u>
* strike text: <.s>...<./s>
* indent text: <.pre>...<./pre>
* blockquote: <.blockquote>...<./blockquote>
* paragraph: <.p>...<./p>

Spoiler: <.spoiler> write words here <./spoiler>


message 44: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Patrice wrote: "And isn't this an interesting THREAD?;-)"

Oy, Patrice. In addition to the "no spoiler" rule we need to add another one prohibiting puns. ;)


message 45: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments !!! Thank you, Thomas! Oi vey, I didn't even spot that until you pointed it out!


message 46: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments ! :-)


message 47: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Adelle wrote: "Patrice, Patroclus in Achilles’ armor. Since you wrote that, in re-reading I noticed that while Achilles has been more than once described as “great-hearted,” Patroclus hasn't been. But NOW, wearing the armor of Achilles, Patroclus is so described for the first time: “Myrmidons, battalions ranged in armor with greathearted Patroclus” (Fagles 16.305). "

Fantastic find.

Who was he Achilles to, I wonder? Obviously, originally to the Trojans, until they figured out it was "only" Patroclus. But to himself, did he feel more Achilles-like?

As to armor, my son (against his mother's strong wishes!) played high school football, and he told me that when he put on all his equipment, pads, helmet, etc., he felt like a different person, transformed from the usually quiet person he was when not in his armor to somebody stronger, fiercer, almost invincible. I think the same sort of thing must have happened as the Greeks (and Trojans) put on their armor, which may be why Homer spends so much time on it -- it transforms them, perhaps physically but more so mentally, from ordinary men into warriors. It's more than just putting on armor, it seems to me it's also putting on a whole new persona, a whole different character.

So it would make sense that putting on Achilles armor, seeming to the enemy to BE Achilles, must have made him internally more Achilles-like.

This is reinforced, perhaps, by his requesting asking Give me your armour
to buckle round my shoulders, so Trojans,
mistaking me for you, may stop the fight.


He intends to become Achilles.

(Query: If later in the book Hector puts the armor on, will he also feel more Achilles-like? It's not yet clear whether he will, but if he does, we should perhaps look for that.)


message 48: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Everyman wrote: "Who was he Achilles to, I wonder? Obviously, originally to the Trojans, until they figured out it was "only" Patroclus. But to himself, did he feel more Achilles-like?

.."


I appreciated the story of your son suiting up and feeling himself to be stronger, fiercer, more invincible. Then, too, children dress-up...and "become" the mommie or the daddy. I think it might be worth noting that until Patroclus put on that armor there had been no scenes with Patroclus fighting. Also, I may be mis-remembering (great word), but either in the Iliad or in supplemental reading, it was said that Achilles had provided Patroclus with women...that Patroclus hadn't won his own.


message 49: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Patrice wrote: "Well, Achilles was Brad Pitt!"

OMG! Brad Pitt! Next thing I know, you'll be telling me Hector was Eric Banner.


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