Thursday, September 9, 11:10–12:30 p.m.
In class, we touched on books 6–9, due to missing class on Tuesday. But what I want to discuss is book 9. In book 9 we see that the Achaians are not doing too well at this point in the battle and they need reinforcements. Agamemnon, knowing that they will need to get Achilles back on the battlefield, sends three soldiers bearing gifts to convince Achilles to come back. These three soldiers being Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax (Aias) who each take a turn in persuading Achilles to come back. Book 9’s major theme is Rhetoric, which is the art of persuasion and the three stages of persuasion, ethos, pathos, and logos, are put to use by the three soldiers. In Odysseus’s speech to Achilles, he brings up their history and how he knew him since he was a baby which touches on pathos. Odysseus even uses prosopopeia as a tactic to win over Achilles, but Achilles sees right through it. He knows that Odysseus is only bringing up his father to put shame in his heart and get him back into war. Although Nestor and everyone else made Odysseus out to be the most important part of the embassy, he got turned down just like everyone else by Achilles.
Phoenix, Achilles’ instructor from Phthia, tells him that as his instructor Achilles should listen to him. He says this through tears, as he is so emotional over the fact that Achilles’ anger towards Agamemnon is clouding his judgment. I believe here, Phoenix is trying to incite guilt in Achilles and make him feel bad for letting what happened between him and Agamemnon take him out of the war and leave his comrades for dead, essentially. Phoenix even brings up the ancient story of Meleager as a way to persuade Achilles back into the war, but even that is unsuccessful in moving him. Then Ajax tries to make Achilles feel unreasonable and shameful for being petty and still not accepting Agamemnon’s blood price. Ajax is trying to make Achilles feel silly or shameful for being so petty in not accepting Agamemnon’s apology. As discussed in class, Agamemnon is paying more than a blood price, especially since no one died, so he is just giving back what he took from Achilles and then some to top it all off. So Achilles being petty and not accepting this is ridiculous in Ajax’s eyes and he wants Achilles to understand that and feel just an ounce of shame. But as a demigod, they are above feeling shame or wrong for what they do or have done. So Achilles again takes this speech with a grain of salt and essentially says nothing they say will get him back on the battlefield.
But I want to touch a bit on Achilles’ attitude throughout this whole ordeal. He is being very petty in my eyes, of all the things he could stop fighting in the war for, he chose his prize (which isn’t even rightfully his since Briseis is stolen goods, to begin with) being taken as a reason to step away from the war. There are bigger things at stake here, like people’s lives and yet he let this break his resolve. I feel like he could’ve gotten her back after the war was over if anything to not disrupt the power and control the Greeks had over the Trojans thus far in the war, seeing as he is a valuable member of their army. But as always, the men in the Iliad can be quite prideful, so something like taking a woman away could definitely make Achilles act in such a way.
If I wanted to change someone’s mind, I think the best emotion to rise out of them would be guilt or shame. No one likes to feel guilty or shameful, so they would want to do what I suggest to rid them of that feeling. For this to work I would probably have to use prosopopeia to make them feel even more shame and guilt since I’m putting someone that has authority over them into the decision-making. I think it would be easiest to arouse feelings that are uncomfortable in people since they would nine times out of ten want to rid themselves of said feelings. Whether it be shame, guilt, sadness, or any other negative emotion, most people would be moved to do better or do what I suggest in order to stop feeling that way.
Friday, September 10, 3:00- 5:45 p.m.
In my reading of Book 10, I would say this was kind of a win for the Greeks. After being bested by the Trojans for the last couple of books, Book 10 had some good in it for them. Even though they are still without Achilles, they had devised a solid plan that worked out in their favor. Diomedes and Odysseus, which by the way is a great pair, were sent out to spy on the Trojans and get some intel on their next moves. One thing I would like to point out before continuing is that they had remembered to pray to Athena for Protection when before they had before forgotten to pray to Poseidon in their building of the fortifications. I like how they added that in this scene, it kind of shows how now they are acting very cautious in their moves. I think this kind of helps them out when they encounter Dolon, the Trojan sent to spy on them. They end up getting so much information from Dolon, that they killed a few of the backup Thracian soldiers and their king sent to help the Trojans and returned to their fortifications in one piece. Which shows the good that happens when they pay homage to the Gods and pray for help before setting out on their endeavors.
But to answer one of the questions posed on the syllabus, I think there are a few ways Agamemnon can be criticized as a leader. One way is how childish he was in taking the women in the Trojan-allied city as a prize and then refusing to give one of them back when supplicated to do so by a priest of Apollo. To me, that shows his men how petty he could be, although they are at war with the Trojans, this whole altercation with Chryses and Apollo didn’t have to happen if he had just left the women alone and focused on the war at hand. There’s always time to get prizes and loot later when they progress further in the war. Another way his leadership could be criticized would be him picking a fight with his comrade concerning women. I feel like if he had just given Chryseis back with no hassle and left Briseis with Achilles, Achilles would still be fighting the war right now and maybe they wouldn’t have lost as many soldiers as they did when Achilles left. Overall, I feel as though Agamemnon is a bit childish, petty, and picks unnecessary fights which aren’t great characteristics as a leader.
Saturday, September 11, 12:00–3:30 p.m.
In books 9–11, Agamemnon puts aside his pride and asks for Achilles to get back on the battlefield. This shows his army that he is willing to put his petty beef aside and get back one of their best warriors for the sake of their cause. Although it doesn’t work, at least he tried, which is more than enough to show the Greeks that all hope is not lost under Agamemnon’s leadership. Agamemnon also leads his men into battle and fights with his all, even after being wounded, and continues to fight until he can’t anymore. I feel like his actions speak more than his speeches ever did. If we go back to when he almost made his men retreat as a test of their courage and then when he said they should just go back home in shame since they were losing greatly, we can see how bad Agamemnon is in inspiring his people through his words.
But going back to what I said about Agamemnon being better at expressing himself through actions, I think he needs to have a better resolve. He so easily throws in the towel sometimes which makes him look wishy-washy in my eyes. Although he wants to win the war and does fight with great strength, sometimes his resolve weakens and it doesn’t take much for that to happen. In book 9 when he declared the war a failure after the Trojans had driven the Greeks back to their camps, he could’ve come up with a new plan, yet instead, he admitted defeat. I know it has been a long 10-year battle but after all that time it only takes the war tipping in the Trojan’s favor a bit for him to say, now’s the time we turn back. I just feel like his resolve needs to be stronger as a leader because there’s nothing worse than seeing your leader down in the dumps in the middle of a war and admitting defeat.
Tuesday, September 14, 11:10–12:30 p.m.
Class on Tuesday was more of a recap on what happened with the embassy to Achilles and just digging into what each speech meant and what persuasion strategies were used. We got into why Achilles doesn’t feel the emotions that the three soldiers try to incite in him and how petty Achilles is in general. I remember in class I was wondering if the reason why Achilles won’t accept the blood price that Agamemnon offered is because of his pride. If I’m looking at this through Achilles’ eyes, I think the main reason he can’t get over this is out of principle. The mere fact that Agamemnon felt like he could just do that to him and then later just say “Get over it, here’s your prize back and some more gifts, we need you” is crazy to him and just disrespectful. It’s like how that Nicki Minaj verse goes “Imma forgive, I won’t forget..’’ Although Achilles is skipping the step in forgiveness, he sure doesn’t forget about this even when Agamemnon is quite literally begging him to come back to the battlefield. Agamemnon is essentially saying this war is bigger than their petty fight, but Achilles just can’t get over the fact that Agamemnon did him in that way.