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"The Iliad" By Homer: Achilles' Wrath

1248 words - 5 pages

Many excerpts from the Iliad by Homer deal with Achilles, but the one that truly sums him up is found in book eighteen, lines one-hundred and eleven to one-hundred and twenty one. This quotation says a lot about the behavior and character of Achilles. It reveals his temperament, attitude, perspectives, duties, and priorities. It highlights the extent to which anger, revenge, pride, and honor play in Achilles' life and, by extension, the entire epic. It also serves as a turning point in the narrative for Achilles, and consequently Hektor, the Trojans, and the Greeks. This excerpt embodies many of the themes of the poem and helps us understand Achilles' character and behavior."Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus and its devastation" (1:1-2). These opening lines of the Iliad by Homer really sum up Achilles and the entire epic as well. The Iliad, at first glance, seems to be a twenty-four chapter (book) novel about the Trojan War. Ostensibly the narrative poem is nothing more than a recollection of the events by Homer of the war between the Greeks and Trojans-but in reality it's much more than that. If the Iliad were simply an in-depth historical or mythological recounting of the events of the Trojan War than Homer would have began the epic with the beginning of the war, not during the ninth year of a ten year war. If the Iliad were about the Trojan War, it would have ended with the Trojan horse through which Troy was finally overtaken, or it would have ended with the death of Achilles by Paris. But it ended with Achilles giving permission to Priam to retrieve the body of his son, Hektor, and return it to Troy. Therefore the question arises: What is the crux of the Iliad since it's apparently not about the Trojan War specifically? Although there is no certain answer to this question, it is commonly accepted that the Iliad is essentially about the wrath of Achilles, or as the epic begins-"the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus." The wrath of Achilles plays many pivotal roles in the Iliad. The epic begins with a quarrel between him and Agamemnon-thereby introducing the reader to the anger of Achilles, and ends with his giving into the supplication of Priam for the corpse of Hektor-thereby showing the quenching, or taming of his anger. Since the poem opens and closes with the anger of Achilles, it is clearly the essence of the poem.In book eighteen, lines one-hundred and eleven to one-hundred and twenty one, the anger of Achilles arises once again. "So it was here that the lord of men Agamemnon angered me. Still, we will let all this be a thing of the past, and for all our sorrow beat down by force the anger deeply within us. Now I shall go, to overtake that killer of a dear life, Hektor; then I will accept my own death, at whatever time Zeus wishes to bring it about, and the other immortals…So I likewise, if such is the fate which has been wrought for me, shall lie still, when I am dead. Now I must win excellent glory."(18:111-121) In...

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