A King's Ransom: Iliad 24

Book 23

Funeral rites for Patroklos and Funeral Games for Patroklos. Remember that athletic competition is one means of earning timê in relation to one's peers in warrior society. Achilleus does not participate in the games, but presides over them; he settles quarrels before they escalate and distributes gifts (timê) fairly, even generously. Here we see the Homeric social system at work the way it 'should' be.

Book 24


The poem cannot end with his revenge on Hektor: Achilleus finds that there isn't enough. He drags Hektor's corpse around the funeral pyre, but it brings him no relief. He is not yet participating in the human community--eating, sleeping, etc.


The gods are angry with Achilleus; Apollo says he is a lion who eats humans, in other words, he isn't really human, and he is unable to be bent or reformed/rehumanized (Compare Achilleus' own wish that he could eat Hektor raw.)

Zeus bids Achilleus and Priam make an exchange: ransom for the body of Hektor.


Hekube opposes the settlement by ransom; she accuses Achilleus of savagery and then herself wishes she could "sink her teeth into his liver" as fitting recompense for her son.

  • Compare the references to omophagy in the Iliad: all are wishes for (dehumanized) untrammeled expression of wrath and exacting of revenge in lieu of a (civilized and civilizing) exchange of goods.


Priam, the old king and father, supplicates Achilleus and kisses his man-slaughtering hands. [Click here for images of the ransom of Hektor]

  • What is Achilles' response when he occupies a position of dominance?
  • Consider the relation of this ransom story to the ransom story involving Agamemnon and Chryses in Book 1.
  • Consider this scenario in light of the mythological background in which Achilleus was fated to be stronger than his father. Is this the way Achilleus dreamed he would achieve 'domination'?


The last lion simile of the Iliad: Achilleus bounds to the door like a lion; instead of attacking an enemy warrior to kill him, he "attacks" the cart of goods and brings them into his hut.

  • why a lion? compare this simile to Apollo's use of a lion simile earlier in Book 24.

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"Such was their burial of Hektor, breaker of horses." 24.804

But that ending! What about it?

[see 'the rest of the story' in pictures]