Iliad 9


Did you get these salient points?

 One of Agamemnon's 'gifts' to Achilleus was a tripod. Tripod cauldrons were not used except as prestige goods, which were frequently given as gifts between friends or to sanctuaries. Above is a tripod cauldron found in Olympia and dating to the 9th century BCE.

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View Ingres' Embassy to Achilleus

In Books 7 and 8, which we did not read, the tide of the battle turns, so much so that the Greeks are forced to construct a wooden palisade around their ships for defense. By the end of Book 8,


The situarion: the Greeks are hemmed in behind their wall and the Trojans, sure of victory on the coming day, are camped on the plain; in short, the Greeks are losing and Agamemnon is crying.
Nestor's plan: Nestor, in private council, exhorts Agamemnon to persuade Achilleus to return to the fighting (and thereby save the Achaeans) by sending him SOOTHING GIFTS accompanied by SOOTHING WORDS.


Agamemnon offers gifts and words: What is he trying to achieve? What is his strategy?


What is the embassy's task?
What is each speaker's strategy, in other words, what is the basis of each appeal; what is the effect of each on Achilleus?
The embassy speeches: capitalize on the speakers' relationship with Achilles, use "the father" as a persuasive device, supply the soothing/supplicatory words that Agamemnon eschewed, and thereby disguise the real nature of Agamemnon's offer.



ODYSSEUS (skilled in speaking): appeals to Achilleus' common interest with the Achaeans ("like it or not, we're all in this together!"), to Peleus' paternal authority, and to Achilleus' self-interest (earn timê and glory); he omits Agamemnon's choice of words for the gifts, "ransom," and also the demand for subordination. How faithfully does Odysseus represent Agamemnon's offer?

 I hate a liar; Agamemnon is unfair; I don't need Agamemnon's stuff because I have my own stuff and my own father; no amount of goods can make me return UNTIL he has paid back the outrage; I have two destinies: long life at home without fame (kleos) OR premature death at Troy with fame (kleos).

PHOINIX (friend and surrogate father): three monitory (warning) stories:

  • his own autobiography (negative example);
  • parable of Ruin and Supplicatory Prayers;
  • epic of Meleageros (negative example); how heroes respond to gifts and supplication ("but don't do like Meleager and wait until it's too late to get gifts")

You can't be Agamemnon's friend and my friend too; "father"?, go back to Phthia with me;

  • takes Meleager as a positive example ("I can get revenge and gifts both"?)

AIAS (Achilleus' cousin): friendship; legal model: even a family member takes recompense for a daughter or brother, but you refuse it for 'just a girl'!

What you say is close to what I want, but Agamemnon has treated me like an enemy, so I'll [act like an enemy and] not fight until fire touches my own ships.


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