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
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
Relations that are encompassed by the term FRIEND
(PHILOS , pl. PHILOI) in Homeric society:
- household: OIKOS (pl. oikoi)
- city: POLIS (pl. poleis)
- comrades-in-arms: HETAIROI (already plural!)
- foreign friends: XEINOS (pl. xeinoi; the
friendship is called XENIA)
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
- 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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