Friends and Family


Iliad Book 6








Corinthian vase from 7th century showing hoplites (heavily armed warriors) in phalanx formation. It is a nice illustration of what the Homeric audience may have imagined that Hektor's scary helmet looked like.

We have been talking about HOMERIC SOCIETY. We have talked about sexual politics/gender relations, about negotiation of status relations among men through competition to accumulate various forms of timê; we've discussed divine - human relations in this society; we've started to get a picture of what a hero is in this society; and now today, we look at relations of friends and family.

Keep in mind that HOMERIC SOCIETY does not equal GREEK SOCIETY of any particular time period. Homeric society must be very like Greek societies, in different ways at different times, or else it would make no sense to the Homeric audience. But Homeric society is related to Greek society a little like Seinfeld's world is related to New York: you definitely recognize it, but you have to have watched Seinfeld as well as having been in NYC in order to really 'get it'.

Relations that are encompassed by the term FRIEND (PHILOS , pl. PHILOI) in Homeric society:

Three stories of particular importance

for understanding the interaction of various relationships among philoi in the Iliad

1) VIOLATION OF FRIENDSHIP: Adrestos, 6.34-65

Take note of Adrestos' supplication and offer of ransom in exchange for his life and how his offer relates to the economy of timê and to the oikos. (Cp. goals of the war at various stages of the game! How has it changed?)
Also observe the pattern set by Agamemnon: he rejects an offer of ransom, with supplication, in favor of exacting revenge for an earlier wrong. Who violated the relation of "foreign friendship?"
Keep in mind the narratorial comment on Agamemnon's words: he "urged justice." Is there any anxiety about Agamemnon's denial of mercy? Hold this thought and keep it in mind as you continue to read. . .

2) FRIENDS: Glaukos and Diomedes, 6.119-236

Glaukos and Diomedes don't compete in warfare; do you see the arena in which they DO compete?
What conflicting loyalties claim Glaukos and Diomedes on the battlefield? Which one takes precedence this time? Homeric society affirms both loyalty to one's own community and allies, but also to one's xeinoi.

But wait, there are more loyalties clamoring for attention here. . .

3) WE ARE FAMILY: The journey of Hektor into Troy, 6.237ff

Hektor's mission (to tell the women to offer gifts to Athena and ask for her help) is accomplished as soon as he meets mom (Hekabe). But then, he also runs into brother and sister-in-law and wife.
The poet's mission is for Hektor to meet Andromache. In this scene the poet gives us a memorable scene depicitng the incompatibility of warrior society/heroism and the family. Pay attention to the IRONY of Hektor's prayer for his son.
  • If you aren't sure what dramatic IRONY is, check the Core Studies 1 Glossary.

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