Honor: the name of the game

What is Iliad Book 1 about. . . ?


H. Hartman

Patriarchy: "relations between men, which have a material base, and which, though hierarchical, establish or create interdependence and solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women."

E. Sedgwick

On the exchange of women (as brides, slaves, prizes of war) in patriarchical societies as "the use of women as exchangeable, perhaps symbolic, property for the primary purpose of cementing the bonds of men with men."

R. Girard

On exchange of women in patriarchical societies: the bond that links the two rivals is as intense and potent as the bond that links either of the rivals to the 'beloved'; the link to the beloved cements and sets in hierarchy the bond between the two rivals.

2) POLITICS OF TIMÊ (HONOR, PRESTIGE) [make a mental note to put a long mark over the ê in timê; and underline or italicize it as a foreign word]

Honor (timê) refers both to the esteem in which one is held by one's peers (social ranking) and to prestige goods, which convey honor or status.

Honor is understood to be limited in quantity (i.e., it is a zero-sum game); this lends to fierce competition, among ones peers and in battle against the enemy, to acquire honor.

  • A warrior can gain timê through the exchange or capture of prestige goods, by competing with his companions in athletic contests and in speech, and by exercising martial prowess against the enemy in battle (defeating his enemy on the battlefield and either killing him and stripping his armor OR capturing him to hold for ransom).

Since, in Homeric society, you ARE what others think of you, when someone takes away honor in any form, it regularly calls for revenge (an attempt to recover your time by taking it away from your opponent).

3) THE "POLITICS OF OLYMPOS," OR, THE WILL OF ZEUS in relation to the conflict between Achilleus and Agamemnon may be understood in light of the mythological background: the struggle between Achilles and Agamemnon enacts the struggle that DOES NOT take place between Achilles and Zeus.


4) The NARRATIVE PATTERN of the Chryses story:

Observe how the SEXUAL/ STATUS/ AND OLYMPIC POLITICS and the above NARRATIVE PATTERN structure the larger story of the Trojan War and the story of Achilles' wrath up to Book 9.

Think about the POLITICS and NARRATIVE PATTERNS of these sets of relations (cp. the diagrams I drew on the board) that drive the plot of the Iliad:

  • Menelaos-Helen-Paris-Agamemnon
  • Chryses-Chryseis-Agamemnon-Apollo
  • Achilles-Briseis-Agamemnon-Thetis/Zeus

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