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Discussion - Homer, The Iliad > Iliad through Book 17

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments So Euphyorbus, having literally stabbed Patroclus in the back, thinks he deserves his (really, Achilles’s) armor, and thinks Menelaus will just say “sure, kid, here, have it”? Ha! You want to follow your brother down to Hades on my spear point, do you? But the arrogant ones never learn, do they? Way to go, Menelaus.

Apollo keeps on helping the Trojans. Not only did he strip the armor off Patroclus, leaving him vulnerable, but now he rushes to get Hector to protect Euphorbus’s armor from Menelaus. Menelaus, who we know is valiant but older and not up to facing Hector alone, himself goes for help, and while he and Ajax are too late to protect Patroclus’s/Achilles’s armor, they are in time to shield Patroclus’s body.

So ensues the great battle over Patroclus’s body. And here we see a principle that still resonates in the heart of every Marine 3,000 years after Homer: never leave a fallen comrade behind, no matter what. This is not a battle for goods, for territory, for military advantage: it is purely a battle of honor.

But those beside the corpse kept holding their sharp spears,
with no pause in the fighting. The mutual slaughter
continued on. Bronze-armed Achaeans talked together,
using words like these:
“My friends,
there’d be no glory for us if we went back
to the hollow ships. So let the black earth
open here for each of us. That would be better
for us all by far than if we leave this corpse
for horse-taming Trojans to carry off,
back to their city, winning glory.”
Great-heated Trojans, too, spoke words like these:
“Friends, if we’re all fated to be killed together
by this man, let no one leave the battle.”
Men talked like this to strengthen their companions.
Then they fought on, the smash of iron rising up
through the bronze sky.

Johnston 17.415

Follows the incredibly poignant scene of Achilles’s horses refusing to leave the field, but themselves mourning for Patroclus, and the famous passage of Zeus pitying the horses and asking why immortal horses had been given to mortal men. “No other creature that breathes and crawls the earth / is half as miserable as mortal man.” Jacobs 17.446

In the end, the Greeks are able to save Patroclus’s body and bring it back to the Greek camp. But how many lives were lost fighting over the remains of a single dead soldier?


message 2: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4434 comments Armor seems to be a symbol of honor. The honor enshrined in a set of armor transfers from the defeated to the victor when the defeated is stripped. There is a similar dynamic when the "booty" seized by Achilles is taken away by Agamemnon: it dishonors Achilles, putting him in the position of a defeated opponent.

The ancient Greek memorial to victory was a trophy consisting of armor seized by the victors, which was then set up on the battlefield. It's a tangible reminder of the victor's time.


message 3: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Everyman wrote:In the end, the Greeks are able to save Patroclus’s body and bring it back to the Greek camp. But how many lives were lost fighting over the remains of a single dead soldier? "

Not one more than necessary.


message 4: by Adelle (last edited Mar 03, 2012 01:25PM) (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Misc. Background on Book 17/ Bits I found interesting

from A Guide to the Iliad:

Armor. Pretty much what Thomas has posted above.

"The armor of a hero, like a slave or a team of horses, represents the prize of battle and a tangible emblem of honor and fame. [.... the Trojans try to win the body that they might mutilate the corpse].

The archaic Greeks believed that only a proper burial would ensure passage of the soul of the dead to the underworld. Consequently, not only friendship and honor but religious piety demanded that the corpse be rescued and given proper rites. Glaukos and Zeus shared this concern for Sarpedon. In XXIII the shade of the dead Patroklos [it would be a spoiler]. In XXIV Priam [it would be a spoiler].

So in several ways the last third of the poem is concerned with the dead: claiming the body on the field, revenging a dead friend, honoring the fallen, saving a body from sacrilege. Through all this we know that the living have consigned themselves to death, Hector when he disregards the advice of Poulydamas and Akhilleus when he willfully chooses to avenge the death of Patroklos. But despite the thematic importance of death the poem is neither morbid nor pathetic: the characters remain vigorous and the poet retains his dispassionate objectivity" (225-226).

Monologues.

"Hector loosing a savage cry and flaring on like fire,
like the god of fire, the blaze that never dies.

And the cry pierced Menelaus, deeply town now
as he probed his own great heart: 'What can I do?
If I leave this splendid gear and desert Patroclus--
who fell here fighing, all to redeem my honor--
won't any comrade curse me, seeing me break away?

But if I should take on Hector and Hector's Trojans
alone...." (Fagles 17. about 95).

Hogan writes that this is only the 2nd true monologue in the Iliad, and that ALL the monolugues in the Iliad were "concerned with whether or not the warrior should take his stand and fight."



Ambiguity concerning armor

Hogan continues: "Whose 'good armor' is at issue? The preceding description 'bent over/to take his gear'; 'He might with east/have borne Euphorbos' gear away' point to Euphorbos'[armor]. But 'leave Patroklos' and lines 122 and 125 ('his gear in Hektor's hands'; 'he had stripped Patroklos of his armor') indicate Patroklos' [armor]. His arms, however, were knocked off by Apollo just before he was killed. J. B. Hainsworth follows F. M. Combellack, who offers the following explanation. When Hektor kills Patroklos, he stikes a warrior whose armor has already been stripped from him by Apollo. (more details/ supposition given).




A Guide to the Iliad: Based on the Translation by Robert Fitzgerald


message 5: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Anger. Lily?

So often in Book 17, when anger is mentioned, the anger seems to be portrayed as a "positive" characteristic:

Euporbus is threatening to spear Menelaus and rip his life away. "But the red-haired captain flared back in anger:"

Apollo/Mentes tells Hector that Menelaus has killed Euphorbus, "stopped his fury cold."

About line 140, Apollo has filled the hearts of the Achaeans "with quaking fear," and there is growing likelihood that the Trojans might take the body of Patroclus, and Menelaus urgently relates this to Ajax,
"So he roused the fury in battlin Ajax' heart"


About line 210, Hector cries, "Trojans! Lycians! Dardan fighters hand-to-hand / now be men, my friends, call up your battle-fury!"

In THIS Book, Homer seems to sing the praises of anger.


message 6: by Adelle (last edited Mar 03, 2012 01:37PM) (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Patrice wrote: "Remember what Thomas told us? That there were many words for anger? I didn't read those words as the same kind of anger that Achilles feels. I read them more like "spiritedness". The way Plato ..."

That may be the case. I did look up the definition of "fury" : "intense, disordered, and often destructive rage," which, of course, made me think of "the rage of Achilles" ...

You're right, though, that the Greek might well have a somewhat different meaning.

I think of Ajax there. And at heart, he's concerned for the body of Patroclus. But concern won't motivate him to fight. Somehow he has to access his anger. I don't know. In this Book, Homer seems, to me at least, to be emphasizing the importance of anger in fighting, in fighting fiercely, in finding that one has more endurance than one had thought one had. In 17, to me, anger appears to be "good/useful."

Patrice continued, "But what Achilles felt really was something set apart. An anger that no other has felt. An anger so great that it stopped him from fighting, rather than caused him to fight. I think that it's interesting that one anger stopped the fight in him and the other anger drove him to fight.
Not sure what the significance of that is but it seems interesting.


THAT is very intriquing. mmmmm. THAT is something to keep in mind.


message 7: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments 17. about 47.

"And he stabed Menelaus' round shield, full center,
not battering through--the brazen point bent back
in the tough armor."

I read in some background book that the bronze, not being as strong as iron, really did bend back if it hit something too hard-- a well-crafted shield, a bone hit from the wrong angle. That such bent spears have been found in graves. And then it made sense that the warriors would have so many extra spears.


message 8: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Agamemnon, Agamemnon, Agamemnon.

Look here! Even the Trojans recognized Achilles as the greatest. Why couldn't Agamemnon?

"For the man we cut down here was the loyal friend
of Prince Achilles--far the greatest among the Argive ships" (Fagles 17.188).


message 9: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Here's what I don't get.

The Trojans and the Arives both inflict absolute disrespect on the bodies of the men they kill. Heads cut off. Bodies mutilated. Dogs and birds fattened. And they gloat over what they plan to do to the bodies of the fallen. Yet they take SUCH offense when the bodies of THEIR comrades are treated like that.


message 10: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Fagles 17. about 470:

Very, very, very, very nice foreshadowing on the part of Mr. Homer.

"But great Achilles knew nothing yet of Patroclus' death.....

Achilles never dreadmed Patroclus would storm all Troy
without him, not even WITH him. No, time and again
his mother Theit told him this was not to be,
she told him alone, in secret...
always bring word of mighty Zeus's plans,
but not this time. One thing she never told him--
his own mother--"


message 11: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Everyman wrote: "the famous passage of Zeus pitying the horses and asking why immortal horses had been given to mortal men. “No other creature that breathes and crawls the earth / is half as miserable as mortal man.” Jacobs 17.446
.."


Yes.

"There is nothing alive more agonized than man
of all that breathe and crawl across the earth" (Fagles 17.515).

In both translations. Yes.


(Probably really nice in Greek, too.)


message 12: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Good Post there at 17. Makes me think. Patrice wrote: ".[Picture] it shows Achilles when Breiseis is taken from him. I never would have pictured the scene this way but it is supposed to come from a lost play by Aeschuylus.
He is wrapped in cloth and bent over in agony. His hand to his head. //Adelle: I would break here.///The great warrior is bereft. Helpless. Turning in upon himself. Anger brought to that level incapacitates.

."


There was something in either Book 17 or 18. Some line. Book 18. Well, I would think we've all read 18 now, but (view spoiler). I now agree with Bill. Achilles loved Brisies. So I can well imagine Achilles there, prostrate with grief and sorrow. *But it's not anger that incapacitates him.* You might be able to argue that his anger brought him to this state. But then, whatever grief he felt when Brisies was taken...he would have felt that grief whether he got angry at Agamemnon or not, right? I would think he would have felt grief at losing Brisies even more intensely in the first day or two after losing her. When his fighting or not fighting wasn't really an important issue, because the Greeks were doing OK then.

If only the plays of Aeshylus had survived.

Patrice wrote: "
I think on the one hand you could say he stopped fighting out of principle. But it does remind me of Aristotle's golden mean. There is a "mark" a place between two extremes, that we have to try to hit in order to succeed. I suppose with anger menes might be at one end and total passivity at the other? Not sure what the opposite of anger would be. But somewhere in the middle there is a sweet spot. Maybe "spiritedness'?


I've read this now a number of times. Mulling. Interesting what you wrote. But...no....I don't see this --- (lol, I wear glasses.) --- as a question of finding or achieving " a golden mean." 1) It just doesn't strike me that way. and 2) I can't imagine there being some epic poem on the virtue of finding the middle way. Epics.. well, all or nothing. (the new book on Patreus is called All In. Patreus...looks like a Greek name.)

Again, this is just my take (and I kinda change my take as I read), but I don't think it was principle that made Achilles stop fighting. I don't get the impression that Achilles knows himself well enough to know what his principles are. Because, look, Achilles has known for sometime that Agamemnon is taking more than his fair share of plunder. And Achilles' hasn't said anything about it prior to this. So even if Achilles has been thinking, "That is not right," he hasn't been thinking about it strongly enough for it to have become a principle for him.

I think he initially stops fighting for two reasons. The primary reason, of course, would have been the oath---that he's NOT going to fight until the Agrives recognize his worth and beg him to fight. As of Book 18, that STILL hasn't happened. Mmmm. I wonder if it will. So if the result of breaking an oath is death, and if Achilles goes out to fight even if the Argives don't acknowledge his worth and don't BEG him to fight, then I would have to think that the gods will make sure that Achilles dies---since he would have broken his oath. Now you leave me looking forward to Book 19.

The secondary reason, I think, is that Achilles doesn't really know what he's going to do. Again, I think Achilles is re-thinking his value system. Or rather, having rejected the one he's been living under, he's trying to construct a new one. I think his rage at Agamemnon is such that it's been a psychological shock to him [Achilles]. Rejecting Agamemnon and what Agamemnon stands for. After all, in taking Brisies, Aamemnon HIMSELF betrays what Agamemnon stands for. But Achilles doesn't have another value system to use structure his life around. Or not yet. And he wavers. First he spurns the gifts of the Embassy and says he's going to leave. But before they leave his tent, he softens due to Phoenix, and he speaks of his love for Phoenix, and suggests Phoenix stay the night, "Then, tomorrow at first light, we will decide / whether we sail home or hold out here."


Sometimes he talks of gifts and glory---as though those might still be motivating factors for him ("and they, / they'll send her back, my lithe and lovely girl, and top it off with troves of glittering gifts"). Other times, he seems to be ... beyond them...("what do I need with honor such as that?") maybe because he believes---erroneously as it turns out---that Zeus has his back. His mother has brought assurances from Zeus. But just like Odysseus...who, in his parley with Achilles, omitted those things that Agamemnon had said that Achilles would not have liked, so too, Thetis, didn't fully tell Achilles everything that Zeus had told her.


message 13: by Adelle (last edited Mar 03, 2012 04:10PM) (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Patrice wrote: "Just to clarify, I'm not denying the importance of anger! I think it runs straight through the book.

That's what the first paragraph tells us, that it's the story of the anger of Achilles, but then my goodness, everyone is angry at everyone else.
But maybe because the fury is attached to action, to fighting, in my own mind, I interpreted it as meaning something different from what Achilles was feeling.

..."


No, I think you're right there. The anger of Achilles is fundamentally different than "fury." Fury is the anger that will motivate men to kill other men. The anger of Achilles is the anger that will motivate a man [Achilles] to kill his respect for and his belief in the values that he's taken for granted his whole life and will motivate him to live or die for reasons that are important to him personally. Not imposed from outside and accepted. But forged within his own soul.

Or...maybe I'll see it differently by the end.


message 14: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Patrice wrote: "Remember what Thomas told us? That there were many words for anger? I didn't read those words as the same kind of anger that Achilles feels. I read them more like "spiritedness". The way Plato ..."

And yet, I have been thinking, too, on those lines in 18 which seem quite critical of anger.


message 15: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Patrice wrote: "The armour is always "stripped" from the body. Originally I thought that the way they took the armour was similar to the way Indians would scalp Americans. There is something about that word, of c..."

So maybe... well, scalps seem to have a natural, indisputable right to be on heads...and came off only through force. Kind of groping here... The armor did seem to truly belong to the man who was wearing it...and had to be stripped off by force--"to rip the splendid armor off their bodies." And Brisies...did seem to truly belong to Achilles and "right from his grasp the might Agamemnon tore her." Here's a line that indicates that it's robbery: "Now the son of Atreus stripped him, robbed his corpse" (Fagles 11.284). Life seems to belong by natural right to the man who holds it. "and Diomedes...with a spear destroyed them both, stripped them of life breath" (Fagles 11.387). Achilles: "Agamemnon ...stripped me of all my rights."

So...perhaps somewhat along the lines of time. Something that really did belong to one man (his glory, or his life, or his honor, or his rights, or his armor) is taken by another man (whose glory, or time, or collection of armor is increased). ?


message 16: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Patrice wrote: ".This poem is full of echoes. Glaukos tells Hektor "no Lykian will go forth now to fight with the Danaans for the sake of your city, since after all we got no gratitude for our everlasting hard struggle against your enemies".

Doesn't this sound a lot like Achilles talking to Agammemnon? Why should we fight if we get nothing in return? It kind of reinforces the correct code of behavior and lets us know that it's not just Achilles who feels this way.


.."


Yes. And in Achilles' case, not only was he not being properly compensated, but what he HAD been awarded was now taken away.


message 17: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Patrice wrote: "Wasn't the oath a result of the anger? And the anger was a result of Agamemnon's act? I think of the oath as a final consequence, not a cause.

About Achilles being hurt or angry. I'm not sure t..."


Will sleep on this.


message 18: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4434 comments Patrice wrote: "Wasn't the oath a result of the anger? And the anger was a result of Agamemnon's act? I think of the oath as a final consequence, not a cause.

About Achilles being hurt or angry. I'm not sure t..."


Anger, grief, shame and guilt. I think we see all of these things come to a head in Books 17 and 18. While Achilles is "nursing" his anger at Agamemnon he has the company of his dear Patroklos, and he is able to sing. HIs anger is real, but it is restrained. He is waiting for the gods to restore his honor. But when Patroklos is slain in battle his anger becomes something else. The Trojans who fight so hard to take the body of Patroklos aren't merely fighting to save their city, they mean to dishonor the Greeks, and to dishonor Achilles by proxy. Achilles is responsible for this because he lent his armor to Patroklos. He feels the guilt of this, and compounded by grief his anger is transformed into something terrifying, but it is no longer directed at Agamemnon.

My feeling at this point in the Iliad is that Homer is describing what war is really about. It isn't about the cause. Whatever the reason is that Achilles engages in this expedition, it no longer matters. His philos is dead. And even if he isn't ultimately responsible for this, he feels that he is. I think this is a transformational moment in the book.


message 19: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4434 comments BTW -- I'm really impressed by the close reading you all are giving this text. And I'm really glad we're only doing two books at a time, or I'd be completely swamped!


message 20: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4434 comments Adelle wrote: "So often in Book 17, when anger is mentioned, the anger seems to be portrayed as a "positive" characteristic:

Euporbus is threatening to spear Menelaus and rip his life away. "But the red-haired captain flared back in anger:" "


I had some time to look into the Greek -- here Euphorbus threatens Menelaos, telling him that he will "seize your sweet spirit (thumos)".


Apollo/Mentes tells Hector that Menelaus has killed Euphorbus, "stopped his fury cold."

"Fury" (ἔπαυσε δὲ θούριδος ἀλκῆς) here is more literally "his fighting strength."

"So he roused the fury in battlin Ajax' heart"

More literally, "he stirred Ajax's spirit (thumos)". The phrase here is almost the same as the one we discussed earlier when Helen is stirred to anger by Aphrodite in Book 3.

About line 210, Hector cries, "Trojans! Lycians! Dardan fighters hand-to-hand / now be men, my friends, call up your battle-fury!"

θούριδος ἀλκῆς again -- fighting strength.


message 21: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4434 comments Patrice wrote: "Do you know of a more literal translation? Why say fury rather than spirit? I don't get it. "

I think Adelle is quoting Fagles, who tends to play a little loose with the Greek in order to craft engaging English. His translation is certainly defensible in context, though I don't like the implication that "fighting spirit" is necessarily anger. But maybe it is! What is the passion that is aroused in battle? Is it something like fury? I'm not sure if that's the right word or not. I prefer the more ambiguous translation, but I can also see why a translator would prefer to err on the side of clarity.


message 22: by Adelle (last edited Mar 05, 2012 04:51PM) (new)

Adelle | 139 comments At 23 "Patrice wrote: "Wasn't the oath a result of the anger? And the anger was a result of Agamemnon's act? I think of the oath as a final consequence, not a cause.

Adelle wrote "will sleep on this."


Behind I am, so I'm ... well, perhaps not brusque, but I'm cutting to the quick.

The oath WAS a result of anger. You are unquestionably right there. And the anger WAS a consequence of the words and actions of Agamemnon. You are unquestionably right there. {may have more later. Note self: Remember.}

I question that next bit. I find the reason that Achilles' won't fight to be.... the oath. Something also causes something else.


message 23: by Adelle (last edited Mar 05, 2012 05:02PM) (new)

Adelle | 139 comments At 36 Thomas wrote: " ..thumos"

Oooh, Thomas! I was reading about this. Almost learned me a Greek word the other day: thumos.


Many thanks on that post. All kinds of nuances going on. Differences. Not all words translatated as "anger" = "anger."

So I ran across this online. Dealt with thumos to such an extent that I felt as though I were actually ALMOST within arm's reach of understanding the concept.

http://books.google.com/books?id=_4ps...

The Justice of Zeus by Hugh Lloyd-Jones The Justice of Zeus

(Apologies for shortness. Desperately trying to get to Book 18.)


message 24: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments at 41 Patrice wrote: ""Blameless Achilles", so apparently Homer does not think that Achilles has done anything wrong?

And this really jumped out at me
Line 321

'Argives, even beyond Zeus' destiny, might have won glory..."


1) Could you give me a little more info on where you found "Blameless Achilles"?

2) VERY interesting line you quoted there. very.

Fagles 17.371: "And they, they would have seized enormous glory--
yes, defying even the great decree of Zeus--
by dint of their own power and striking force.
But the god Apollo himself spurred on Aeneas..."

Unless...Zeus has the power to nudge Apollo to spur on Aeneas...thus keeping the fate in fate.

Oh! That reminds me. My favorite song about fate.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGgafB...
(Note---I like the cover by Joan Baez. But it's not available---today :)--on YouTube.


message 25: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 139 comments Gott sei Dank, heute Freitag est!

LOL. Not really, but...Thank Goodness...It's on to 18.


message 26: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4434 comments Patrice wrote: "I did pick up on a couple of different choices that had confused me. For instance, Lattimore describes the armour as "immortal" which implies that it somehow has life. Mitchell calls it "indestructible" which means it's a thing. "

The word Homer uses is ambrota, meaning "divine". Immortal or indestructible are acceptable English translations, but the sense of it is that the armor is something that belongs to or comes from the gods, not men. According to the lexicon, it is used "of persons as well as things."

"Blameless" (amumon) is an honorary epithet -- it probably shouldn't be read literally. It could also be translated as excellent or noble, or more literally as "without disgrace." I don't think it is reflects on whether Achilles is really blameworthy of anything in particular. I think it speaks to his character in general.

Patrice wrote: "I am questioning the point of doing such a close reading when we are reading in translation. We're pondering over words that the translator has chosen, not the words that Homer has chosen."

This is definitely something to be aware of in reading anything in translation (particularly translation from a dead language). If we find ourselves making arguments based on word choice we should probably take a step back and make sure the argument makes sense in the larger context as well.


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