The Iliad of Homer (Journal 3)

Class Period (LKH 257, Thursday, 7th Sept., 2017; 11:00am to 12:30pm)

After our quiz and roll call, we started class with a discussion of the embassy to Achilles. Dr. Sandridge stressed that this part of Book 9 was especially important because of the lessons of rhetoric contained in it. In fact, Dr. Sandridge said, according to George Kennedy, all the parts of classical rhetoric can be found in the embassy to Achilles. George Kennedy wrote about the embassy to Achilles in his book “The History of Rhetoric, Volume 1: The Art of Persuasion in Greece.” When Dr. Sandridge said this, I remembered my lessons in rhetoric from Dr. Tulin, and connected them to the different techniques of persuasion that Ajax, Phoinix, and Odysseus used during that embassy.

  • Ethos: Ethos is an argument about character, good or bad, of a subject of. We see how Phoinix uses this when he tries to convince Achilles to come back to the war. He first establishes his credibility (that is his good character) as someone whom Achilles should listen to. Odysseus also appeals to Achilles’ character as a warrior and a hero when he (Odysseus) tries to tell Achilles that the Achaians need him to protect them .
There is doubt if we save our strong-benched vessels, or if they be destroyed, unless you put on your war strength. -The Iliad 9.230
  • Pathos: Pathos is an appeal to emotion. Phoinix also uses this when he recounts how he treated Achilles as a father would. We could also see Odysseus’ appeal to Achilles’ warrior/hero nature as an appeal using the emotion of pity.
  • Logos: Logos, an appeal to logic and reasoning, is the last persuasive technique that I learnt about. Odysseus first tries this when he lists all of the gifts that Agamemnon wanted to give Achilles if he returned. To Odysseus, and to anyone in today’s world actually, this is a reasonable thing to do: accept the gifts in exchange for your help. Phoinix also tried this by giving the example of Meleagros of Aitolia. He used an example to show what the fate of the Achaians would be if Achilles did not return. This is also something logical to do. Finally, Ajax tries the line of reasoning that Dr. Sandridge called a blood price: a man who had lost a child would accept material things as a price for the child who was killed. So to should Achilles accept material things for losing his honor, which is not even as big as losing a child!

After Dr. Sandridge pointed it out, it was remarkable to see all of the branches of rhetoric at play in that scene. All three of these rhetorical tricks overlap, so certain things can be ethos, pathos, and logos.

Next, we discussed self-awareness and how reading literary fiction helps improve it (there is a difference between literary fiction and pop fiction). According to Dr. Sandridge, self-awareness can be divided into emotional states, motivation, strengths and weaknesses, cognitive states, and the impacts that one has one others. Self-awareness is an important leadership as well. The reasons why reading literary fiction helps you understand yourself better is because such texts are set in a different area of region, causing us to actively engage with the books. In addition. they provide lessons on various matters: they teach you how to behave without having to go through whatever negative experiences are involved in learning those in the real world. Finally, literary fiction helps improve one’s theory of mind. Your theory of mind is your projection of how other people are feeling or processing the world. It is anticipating how someone would feel or act under certain circumstances. We played a little game to help us find our own theory of mind. Dr. Sandridge asked if we thought that Achilles should have accepted Agamemnon’s offer. I was on the fence about this. Why?: because of the things that I value. I value long life and safety more than I value honor, which doesn’t mean that I do not value at all. However, I value caring and fighting for others more than I value minding my own business.

Book 10 (HPT West; Friday, 8th Sept., 2017; 7:00 pm to 9:00pm)

In Book 10, we see Agamemnon as he is unable to fall asleep. He decided to go talk to Nestor to get some advice. At the same time, Menelaus wakes up because he cannot sleep well either. Agamemnon tells him to go and call Idomeneus, Meriones, and Ajax, while he goes to fetch Nestor. When he got to Nestor, Nestor was surprised to find him awake, and told him to bring Odysseus and Diomedes as well. At their assembly, Nestor asks if anyone is willing to go spy on the Trojans. Diomedes volunteers, but he says that it would be nice to have someone else with him. Many of the kings came forward to accompany him, including Menelaos. Agamemnon hoped that Diomedes would not pick Menelaos because he felt that Menelaos could come to harms way. Again, we see a softer side of Agamemnon, a side that seems to care deeply for his younger brother. In a way, there relationship has parallels to that of Hektor and Alexandros. Both Menelaos and Alexandros are not particularly known for their fighting prowess (but they are capable of fighting). Their elder brothers take up causes for them: Agamemnon is fighting to restore his brother’s wounded pride as a husband and to bring back his wife, while Hektor is fighting to protect the city that Paris’ actions have endangered. Both Agamemnon and Hektor care for their brothers. Agamemnon was sorrowful when Menelaos got injured, while Hektor hinted in his dialogue with Andromachē that he was fighting to protect his father and brothers.

Diomedes and Odysseus armed themselves and went to spy on the Trojans. At the same time, Hektor called an assembly and asked if there was anyone willing to spy on the Achaians for him, with the (false) promise that he would give the person Achilles’ horses and chariot. Dolon, who the poet calls evil-looking but swift-footed, stepped forward because he wanted what was offered. On their way to the Trojan camp, Odysseus and Diomedes saw Dolon and caught up with him next to the Achaian ships. Dolon broke down in tears and asked them to save his life and he would pay ransom. Odysseus used this opportunity to get information from him about the sleeping arrangements of the Trojans. After Dolon had betrayed the Trojans, Diomedes killed him because if he left him (Dolon) go, he would come back to spy on the Achaians again or fight against them. Odysseus stripped his body of his weapons and offered them to Athena. Then they continued to the Thracian part of the Trojan camp and killed them, including a man called Rhesos. They took the Thracian horses and returned to the Achaian camp, where Nestor and the others welcomed them.

Book 11 & 12 (HPT West; Sunday, 10th Sept., 2017; 3:00pm to 6:30pm)

Agamemnon’s aristeia happens in Book 11. There is a very elaborate description of Agamemnon’s armor, listing all the cobalt, bronze, tin and gold that are on it. His corselet was given to him by Kinyras who was the king of Kypros. When Kinyras heard that the Achaians were going to war, he gave the corselet as a gift to Agamemnon. I had thought that he gave the gift to him as a sort of guarantee that his land would be spared Agamemnon’s wrath. When I checked the map at the front of the text to see where Kypros was located, I could not find it. I figured that Kypros was Cyprus, and when I looked up a map of Greece and Cyprus, and I was amazed at the distance between the two countries. There is a whole other country between the two (Turkey, which is where Troy would have been, I think)! So, I still don’t know why he gave the corselet to Agamemnon. Maybe it was a gesture of friendship.

Map showing Greece and Cyprus

We can compare Agamemnon’s aristeia to that of Diomedes. I would say that Diomedes in his aristeia was more heroic than Agamemnon’s. For starters, Diomedes’ aristeia involved a lot of gods and goddesses. Athena was the one who inspired Diomedes’ aristeia. During it, he fought with Ares, Apollo, and Aphrodite, and injured two of them. The poet says that Agamemnon was inspired by the goddess Hate. I do not know if the Greeks had an actual goddess that was named Hate, or if this was just an anthropomorphization of an emotion. Furthermore, Diomedes’ aristeia lasted much longer than Agamemnon’s. Agamemnon’s aristeia ended in pain, when Koön stabbed him to avenge his brother. Diomedes’ ended in a truce when he exchanged gifts with Glaukos.

Book 11 is where we see Agamemnon leading as a warrior in battle rather than as a king. So far, he has not had the best decisions as a leader. Some of the decisions he made include:

  • Refusing to return Chryseis to her father: On a scale of 1–10 (1 being the worst, and 10 the best), this was a 2. It was not a very well thought out decision. We know that Agamemnon values old age because he is holds Nestor in high regards as an elder statesman, but he went against this value, rebuffed old man Chryses, and even threatened to harm him if he did not leave. I want to give him the benefit of doubt and say that he did not know that Chryses was a priest. His decision here cost the lives of many of his soldiers who died in the plague of Apollo.
  • Alienating Achilles: This is a solid 1. He angered Apollo, which could have been remedied pretty easily. But then he also wounded his pride by taking Briseis. I give this decision a 1 because of the injury that it did to his force, when Achilles was no longer there to protect his men.
  • Sending Diomedes and Odysseus to spy on the Trojans: As a war strategy and a way of gaining the upper hand in battle, I give this a 9. It allowed him to do serious damage to the opposing army, and also gained his forces new weapons and horses for the war.
  • The embassy to Achilles: I give this a 7. I might have given this a higher score if we had not learnt about the possible insult that his gift to Achilles was. I commend him for thinking, accepting sound counsel, and attempting to remedy the problem that he was facing.

I don’t give any of his decisions a 10 because a 10 for me is a decision that would result in the loss of the least number of lives and military ease in sacking Troy. The Trojan Horse, for instance, would get a 10 from me.

Class Period (LKH 257; Tuesday, 12th Sept., 2017; 11:00am to 12:30pm)

We learnt a new word this class period: prosopopoeia.

Prosopopoeia: a poetic device of speaking in another persona to gain credibility.

The word comes from the Greek words “propos” meaning a face and “poeia” meaning to make something. Together, the word literally means face-making. This is what Odysseus does in his appeal to Achilles. He spoke to Achilles as his father, Peleus, had addressed him before he left Phthia for the Trojan war. Odysseus used this technique because he knew that Achilles was distrustful of him. It was a way for Odysseus to make his argument more compelling to Achilles. We also see the use of Prosopopoeia when Nestor speaks to Patroklos in Book 11. Nestor reminded him of what his father Menoitios had told him before he left Phthia.

“But for you, Menoitios, Aktor’s son had this to say to you: ‘My child, by right of blood Achilleus is higher than you are, but you are the elder. Yet in strength he is far the greater. You must speak solid words to him, and give him good counsel, and point his way….’” 11.785–788.

Dr. Sandridge said that the later books of the Iliad can be regarded as Agamemnon’s partial redemption. He has an aristeia that is short-lived when his wounded. However, his aristeia is inferior to that of Achilles. At this point, we began to compare Agamemnon and Achilles. We know that the Achilles is the center of the Iliad; every action taken in the book can be connected to him. This makes Agamemnon only a secondary character, a second lead. Some might even see him as a plot device used to show Achilles’ greatness. Dr. Sandridge played the devil’s advocate in favor of Agamemnon and said that we should have some pity on Agamemnon because the job of being king was not an easy one. This is indeed another way to look at it. Maybe no one would have been able to carry out the duties of king as well as we want them to. Maybe because of the demanding nature of his position as king, Agamemnon’s flaws are all the more evident.

When we compare Agamemnon’s and Achilles’ experiences, there are similarities and differences. Both lost their spear wives, but the difference is in the way they responded to this loss. Both lose or almost lose a companion: Achilles will eventually lose Patroklos and Agamemnon almost lost Menelaos. The “almost” here is the difference: even though Agamemnon felt similar emotions to Achilles when he almost lost Menelaos, he does not go into a menace because Menelaos is still alive. Both of them also have an aristeia, and receive appeals for ransom (Chryseis and Hektor’s body).

Dr. Sandridge asked us to contrast the beginning of Book 11, when Hate makes the Achaian soldiers long for battle rather than home, with Book 2, where Agamemnon had tried his reverse psychology mind game and the soldiers were ready to leave. Book 11 is where Agamemnon has his aristeia. He is inspired by the goddess Hate while Diomedes was inpired by Athena.

Book 13 (HPT West; Wednesday, 13th Sept., 2017; 7:15pm to 8:45pm)

In Book 13, Zeus was still trying to give glory to the Trojans. He still thought that all the gods would obey him and not interfere with the war. However, Poseidon had been watching the battle from the top of Mount Samos, and was saddened by the plight of the Achaians. He was also angry at Zeus because he knew that their condition was Zeus’ fault. He went to his house in Aigai, put on his armor and harnessed his horses. Then he went to stir the Achaians up, encouraging them to keep fighting. The first soldiers that he went to were the two Aiantes, in the form of Kalchas. He told them to focus on the part of their wall were Hektor had broken in. I found it a bit funny that he was telling them to protect the wall that, not to long ago, he had been complaining to Zeus about, and that he and Apollo would eventually destroy. When he left the Aiantes, lesser Ajax was the first to recognize who he was: “Gods, though gods, are conspicuous.” Poseidon went on to encourage the rest of the Achaian force, and they formed two battalions around the two Aiantes. The rest of the book is an account of who killed who in the battle. Contrary to other times when the two sides would stop fighting as night time approached, the Trojans and the Achaians were fighting well past sunset. In Book 13, we also get the longest statement uttered by Menelaos yet (13.620–639). Even though he is one of the principal reasons for the war, we do not hear him speak much.

At this point, a good number of immortals have contributed to the actions of the Trojan war. They are:

  • Zeus: At this point in the book, he is on the Trojan side. The poet states many times that Zeus wants to bring honor to Hektor, and that by doing so, he would restore Achilles’ honor.
  • Hera and Athena: Whereas Zeus was not in firm support of either side from the beginning, Hera and Athena have been on the Achaian side since the beginning of the book. They are on the Achaian side because they want to punish Paris and Aphrodite for the judgement of Paris. I wondered why they didn’t just afflict Paris with some ailment or cause him to be murdered. They visited his “sin” on all of Troy. I guess the sins of the father are really inherited by the children.
  • Apollo: Apollo is on the Trojan side because he saved Aineias earlier in the Iliad. I also think that he is on the Trojan side because of Agamemnon and his refusal to obey him by returning Chryseis to Chryses.
  • Aphrodite: Aphrodite is on the side of the Trojans. Even though she is not a fighter, she wanted to protect Paris because he had chosen her in his judgement.
  • Ares: Ares was originally on the Trojan side. We know this because Diomedes injured him, under the direction of Athena. My guess was that he was on the side of his sister/consort Aphrodite. However, in Book 13, we see that his son, Askalaphos, is killed by a Trojan. Since the gods always try to protect their children or those related to them (Zeus saved Sarpedon, Aphrodite saved Aineias), will Ares switch sides now? We don’t know because at this point, Ares still does not know that his son is dead.
  • Hephaestus: Hephaestus was mentioned when he saved Idiaos, one of the sons of his priest, so that his priest Dares would not be alone in his old age.
  • Poseidon: The Earth-shaker is a newcomer to the battle. He is on the Achaian side because he had pity on them. It could also just be because of sibling rivalry between him and Zeus. We also see that his wrath is stirred by the Trojan side when Hektor hit his grandson Amphimachos, instead of Teukros.

Again, just as Dr. Sandridge said before, it is sad to see that the immortals do not have a united front.