Greek Literature Weekly Journal Update Three

Reflections for September 6 , 2016— September 8, 2016

September 6, 2016 Class Refelction 11:10 a.m. — 12:30 p.m. :

What makes someone a hero? Are there commonalities among the characteristics they possess? How are heroes viewed by others? These were some of the questions that guided today’s discussion. The class consensus was that while the term is subjective, heroes are generally viewed as the idolized elite of a society. They typically show moral superiority, possess a sense of social justice, practice self-sacrifice, and are endowed with some exemplary power or skill. Heroes also tend to exist in close proximity to dieties within their culture. Establishment of these heroic traits lead to the conclusion that every character in the Iliad can be classified as a hero. Although I find the actions of some figures like Paris and Agamemnon to be less than worthy of admiration, in Ancient Greek culture the skills and charactersitics they displayed during the Trojan War qualify them to be revered as heroes.

The latter part of class discussions were centered around the topic of xenia. Xenia was presented in the readings when Diomedes and Glaukos agreed not to fight due to the existing xenia between their families. While the practice has ancient origins, it still holds importance today. My experiences with xenia have resulted from friendships forged by my maternal grandparents. Being raised in a small town, the reputation of local townspeople was common knowledge. Consequentially, the relationships people built within the small community were predicated in large part on how you were preceived. My grandparents were notorius for being kind, family-oriented, and extremely generous. They also passed on these traits to their children. My grandparents gave of themselves to their family, friends, and the children of their associates; thereby establishing xenia with these people. The bonds of those relationships were so strong in fact that their children and grandchildren are accepted among these people even today. The same holds true for friendships that my mother and her siblings have created within the town. If ever I find myself in need when I visit, I simply announce that I am a Diggs and I recieve instant hospitality.

Assignment for September 6, 2016

September 6, 2016

  • Read Book 9 of The Iliad in my room (10:01 p.m. — 11:18 p.m.)

September 7, 2016

  • Answered the questions for Book 9 in my room (3:00 p.m. — 5:15 p.m.)

In an attempt to persuade Achilles to rejoin the battle, Odysseus provides three reasons as to why his help is desperately needed. The first being that a Trojan victory would inflict massive widespread suffering on Achilles and all of Greece. Odysseus makes Achilles personalize the conflict saying “ It will be an affliction to you” and “there will be no remedy found to heal the evil thing” thus encouraging him to “beat the evil day aside from the Danaans” (Book 9 Lines 249–251). Such an arguement appeals to Achilles’ reputation of protecting others (which was established in Book 1), thereby encouraging him to resume fighting. Odysseus also uses Peleus’ influence over Achilles to persuade him. He claims “surely thus your father Peleus advised you…to hold fast in your bosom the anger of the proud heart: and to “keep from the bad complication of quarrel” (Book 9 Lines 255–257). In this supposed conversation Odysseus employs ethos and prosopopoeia to appeal to the respect Achilles holds for elders and insinuates that rejoining the war is synonymous to honoring them. His last attempt at convincing Achilles to resume fighting was relaying Agamemnon’s promise of materialistic gain. Book 1 informed us that material things are of little importance to Achilles, which explains why Odysseus’ desperate attempts at persuasion failed.

Achilles’ rebuttal for these arguements are that he has no tolerance for people that speak and act in ways to accomplish hidden agendas. He also feels no devotion to the Danaans because they failed him in his time of need. He faithfully fought on behalf of the Achaians for years and by allowing Agamemnon to wrong him, they failed to reciprocate the loyalty . With respect to Agamemnon’s offerings, Achilles did not want them because 1)Agamemnon retracted his agreement with Achilles regarding the distribution of war prizes and 2) the wealth he is offering would be easily obtained if he returned to his father’s kingdom in Phthia. I think the reasons Achilles provides for Odysseus reflect his true motives and I agree with each of them. I also think he is finding pleasure in watching the best warriors/council members among the Danaans beg for his return.

Phoenix uses the paternal relationship he has forged with Achilles to convince him to rejoin the battle. He also shares the story of Meleagar to persuade the hero. Phoenix reminds Achilles of the bond they formed as a result of him teaching and raising Achilles in Phthia. He also reminds Achilles that he is only in Troy because Peleus sent him to guide Achilles while he is away at battle. Doing so insinuates that since they were sent to help fight the war, that should be their primary focus — not personal vendettas. Furthermore the support that Phoenix has shown Achilles over the years should make the hero feel obligated to support Phoenox in his endeavors. If Phoenix is still involved in the war, Achilles should be too.In addition, by recounting the story of Meleagar, Phoenix suggests that if Achilles does not want to be remembered in the same way, it is best for hims to rejoin the Danaan forces immediately.

Achilles invalidates these arguments by stating that he has retained honor in the eyes of Zeus by responding to the conflict in the way he did. He even admonishes Phoenix for using their relationship to provoke his return to battle. In Achilles’ opinion their close relationship should prompt Phoenix to assume his opinions and mimic his reactions to the adversity he is facing. I highly doubt that the rebuttals regarding honor reflect his true motives. I think Achilles felt emasculated by Agamemnon’s actions and by refusing to fight , he was exerting the small amount of power he was able to retain. Phoenix of all people should have recognized and respected this.

Ajax takes a more antagonistic approach to convincing Achilles to return. He argues that Achilles is being “ proud-hearted” (Book 9 Line 629) and “pitiless” (Book 9 Line 632) towards the Danaans in his decision to abstain from battle. He also claims that Achilles’ behavior is essentially a colosal overreaction to losing Briseis; especially when Agamemnon is offering to give Briseis back, allow Achilles to marry his daughter, and riches of significantly higher value.

Achilles’ rebuttle for Ajax’s arguments are that the level of disgrace shown him were so tremendous that he would not dare return to the Acahian forces until Hector slaughtered his way through the Danaan lines of defense and reached their ships. Achilles’ response is spirited and blatant in every sense of the word. Packing that level of emotion in a rebuttle makes the claim that his response mirrors his true feelings irrefutable.

Ultimately I agreee with each of Achilles’ arguements. Significant transgressions call for significant acts of opposition. If abstaining from battle is the best method for him to protest, and the Danaans have to endure heavy losses, so be it.

September 8, 2016 Class Reflection:

The class did not gather today so I used the time to prepare for and take the online quiz.

September 8, 2016

  • Studied for the quiz in my room (11:15 a.m. — 11: 50 a.m.)
  • Took the online quiz in my room (11: 52 a.m. — 11:56 a.m.)
  • Read The Iliad Book 10 in my room (2:22 p.m. — 3:11 p.m.)

September 10, 2016

  • Read The Illiad Book 11 at home in my living room (9:27 a.m. — 10: 44 a.m.)
  • Read The Iliad Book 12 in my dorm room(10:09 p.m. — 11:02 p.m.)

September 11, 2016

  • Answered the questions for Books 10–12 in my dorm room 
    (7:19 a.m. — 9:07 a.m.)

Assignment for September 8, 2016

  1. Acts commited by Agamemnon
  • 1: Took Briseis from Achilles. This was the worst possible decision Agamemnon could have made. His actions prompted Achilles to abstain from battle, triggered his menis, and has resulted in heavy losses for the Danaans.
  • 3: Tested his troops morale after receiving the dream from Zeus. Giving the soldiers false hope of finally returing home is cruel and could have inspired emotions of animosity or insubordination among the troops.
  • 5: Arranged the Achaean forces according to cities and clan. This action boosted the morale of the soldiers which improved their performance in battle.
  • 4: Urged the Achaeans to fight after Menelaus gets shot. Avenging the wrongs commited against his brother is honorable, but the effort results in massive casualties.
  • 6: Convinced Menelaus not to show Adrestus mercy in battle. Agamemnon gained nothing by killing this particular warrior. Refusing to show mercy could worsen the scale of retaliation he or his troops may be subjected to if the Trojans acquire and maintain an advantage in battle.
  • 9: Persuaded Menelaus not to duel with Hector. His efforts spared his brother’s life which lessens the backlash Agamemnon is likely to face as the result of his failures during the war.
  • 8: Proposed that the Achaeans make a disgraceful return to Greece. The desicion to retreat would spare the lives of countless soldiers. It would also bring an end to this miserable and unnecessary war.
  • 7: Offered a bribe to be presented to Achilles to encourage his return. While attempting to bribe Achilles was wrong, Agamemnon’s actions shows acknowledgement of his misconduct and his desire to atone for the mistake.
  • 10: Sent Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax to present the bribe to Achilles. By sending people who have amicable relationships with the hero, Agamemnon decreases his chances of outright rejection as a direct result of the malice Achilles has for him.
  • 2: Continued to fight after being wounded in battle by Koon. Fighting while injured makes him more vulnerable in battle thus increasing his chances of being seriously hurt or killed. As a commander of the Achaean forces, his incapacitation could hinder the progress made by his Danaan troops and increase the liklihood of their defeat.

2. Although both heroes exhibit physical strength and resilence, Agamemnon seems less heroic than Diomedes did in Book 5. The valor , resilence, and physical strength both charaters demonstrate are equivalent. This is evident by their aptitude for battle. The difference in the degrees of heroism lies in the sense of justice each man portrays. Diomedes shows restraint in his fighting. While he feels very strongly about the Danaan cause, he does not allow present emotions that could generate later conflicts consume him. His rationale for not fighting Glaukos is a prime example. Abiding by Athena’s initial instructions not to harm any dieties other than Aphrodite is another example. Essentially Diomedes’ conduct in battle indicates his higher sense of social justice. Agamemnon’s motives and conduct in battle seems to centered around seeking revenge against Troy for wronging his brother. His actions are emotional and vengful. The substantial catalogue of soldiers he savagely kills supports this. His actions show not indication that he values life, thus showcasing his diminished sense of justice.

Total Hours Devoted to Studying: 10 hours and 49 minutes