Greek Literature: A Class of Epic Proportions Week 3

Tuesday, 9/8 2:10–3:30pm- In our In Class Lecture we discussed The Supplication of Menelaus, the relationship between Hector and Andromache, and the Duel between Hector and Ajax.

I didn’t really understand why the supplication of Menelaus was so important but it showed Menelaus’ mercy and compassion when he agrees to take Adrestor for ransom instead of killing him. It also shows Agamemnon’s ruthlessness and cruelty when he tells Menelaus that all Trojans must pay for Paris’ disrespect when he kills Adrestor and basically says that even the unborn children of the Trojans will pay for the disrespect and dishonor Paris showed Menelaus and Greece. We also discussed the idea of xenia, which is hospitality, which was very important in ancient times. This idea of xenia is so important that Zeus ruled over xenia as well as other domains, so this break in oath of xenia was extremely disrespectful not only to the mortals but to the gods as well. Paris violated the most basic ideals of xenia when he came to visit Menelaus and his kingdom and stole Helen from Greece.

The Duel between Hector and Ajax is also important because it foreshadows Hector’s demise in a later book in his duel with Achilles. Hector is seen as the greatest warrior on the Trojan side so he is boastful and confident about the one-on-one duel with the Greek Ajax, who chooses to fight him. His fight with Ajax is called to a draw but Ajax clearly had the upper-hand. The duel foreshadows Hector’s fight with Achilles because Hector barely “won” the fight against Ajax (Ajax is second greatest warrior…only after Achilles). So if he barely won against Ajax, how did Hector think he would win against Achilles?!

Hector’s reasoning for thinking he’d win against Achilles is known as atê, which means divine folly or divine madness. This is equivalent to a modern term known as “victory disease”, or this idea that if someone is doing well they will start to act irrationally and that person will think s/he will win every battle, every time. This “victory disease” leads to the downfall of that person and more specifically Hector and the Trojans.

Book 9

Wednesday, 9/9 3:15–4:30pm- When Professor Sandridge gave a short preamble into what Book 9 was going to be about in class on Tuesday, 9/8, I wanted to make sure I was extremely attentive to the persuasion techniques and hints used by Odysseus, Ajax and Phoenix when they meet with Achilles. The idea of persuasion also made me think of the persuasive techniques I learned in English class: logos, ethos, and pathos and if they would possibly be used by some characters to persuade Achilles back into battle. As I was reading Book 9 I kept thinking that the persuasive techniques logos (persuasion using logic), ethos (persuasion using credibility/reputation) and pathos (persuasion using emotion) are more and more apparent when Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax try to supplicate Achilles. I mean just by choosing these 3 men to talk with Achilles emphasizes the 3 persuasion techniques. Odysseus is often seen as the reasonable, clever Greek warrior so it makes sense that he would symbolize logos or logic when he speaks with Achilles. Phoenix is like a second father/father figure to Achilles so he would have an emotion appeal (pathos) to try and persuade Achilles. Ajax is the Greeks’ second best warrior (after Achilles himself) so his argument would focus on the reputation or viewpoint as another great warrior, ethos. After finishing Book 9 I realized my observation about the 3 characters (Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax) were for the most part correct on how they each tried to persuade Achilles to rejoin the battle.

9/9 4:30–5pm- Question 1: What arguments do Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax make to try to persuade Achilles to return to battle?

Each character sticks to his strengths (in relation to Achilles or how he is perceived) when it came to Odysseus, Phoenix and Ajax trying to persuade Achilles. Odysseus used a logical appeal when he gave an update of how the war was going and when he tried to rationalize with Achilles why Achilles should take Agamemnon’s peace offering and rejoin the battle. Odysseus also appeals to Achilles’ ethos, or reputation as a great warrior, by telling Achilles that by being back in the battle it will help the Greeks and grant them victory over Troy. Phoenix uses pathos, or the emotional appeal to try and win Achilles when he cries that Achilles is like a son to him and if Achilles leaves to go back to Greece he would be heart-broken and couldn’t bare to stay if Achilles left. Phoenix also tries to use the technique of story-telling to try and placate Achilles with the story of Prayers and Ruin and the story of the supplication of Meleagros. Ajax uses ethos to try and appease Achilles when he says that Achilles is forgetting all the honor and glory he gets from his comrades for being a great warrior. He also uses logos when he states that Achilles is willing to throw away all that glory and honor he gets as warrior because his angry over one girl (Briseis) which doesn’t seem very rational, according to Ajax.

What objections does Achilles have? Do you think these are his real objections or do you think he has other motives as well? Do you agree with his reasons for refusing to accept the offer of Agamemnon and to return to battle?

Achilles’ objections for not going back to battle and not taking Agamemnon’s peace offering mostly use the same or a similar persuasive appeals that were used on him for each argument. He states that glory is not the only thing that is important to him and Agamemnon disrespected him by taking Briseis. Also Achilles states by Agamemnon thinking he can be bought into fighting again with gifts is extremely rude and slap to his dignity and respect.

I personally don’t think Achilles is in the wrong by refusing to rejoin the battle. I think at this point he is fighting for the principle of the “thing”, not just the “thing” itself. He is fighting for his respect as a Greek and a warrior, not just for a girl he cares for. I do think he should stay at the battle grounds; leaving for home as his comrades fight and die seems a little extreme and just as disrespectful as what Agamemnon did to him.

Thursday, 9/10 2:10–3:30- In class lecture, we discussed the rhetoric and persuasion techniques used in Book 9. One of the main studies and goals in rhetoric is how do you get someone to change their mind, which, according to Professor Sandridge, is the struggle between stubbornness and persuasion.

In Book 9, Agamemnon picks the best 3 Greeks to try and persuade Achilles to rejoin the battle: Odysseus, Ajax, and Phoenix. These 3 people are the best because they all align with the 3 persuasive appeals; logos, ethos, and pathos. Agamemnon also uses the notion of a “gift bomb” in order to win Achilles over. The idea of a “gift bomb” is used to try and keep the person being persuaded (Achilles) as a subordinate or under control.

The first person to try and persuade Achilles is Odysseus and he inflicts the emotions of pride, guilt/shame, sympathy/fear, and anger only within the first 15–20 lines of his speech. Odysseus also inflicts the idea of captatio benevolentiae, Latin for capturing the good will of the audience (Achilles). He does this to try and win Achilles’ compassion and sympathy so Achilles will listen to the rest of his speech. In line 252 specifically, Odysseus uses the rhetoric term prosopopoeia, or “fashioning a face” which assumes the ethos of another person not present to emphasize the persuasion. Odysseus does this by using the ethos of Achilles’ father, Peleus, to try and persuade Achilles to let go of his anger and rejoin the battle.

Books 10–12

Friday, 9/11 5:00–6:00pm/ 6:20-7pm- I read Book 10 and this book felt very modern to me in respect to it being sort of like a spy short story. Book 10 felt more relatable to me because it gave readers and me insight into the tactical sides of both armies. I am a very logical/analytical so I love spy and mystery movies and books where I get to see the rationality and strategic planning that goes on with the characters. I also liked Book 10 because it shows the idea of spies being used even in ancient times; I love the whole idea of being a spy or spy work.

From Book 10 I didn’t like how the Trojan Dolon sold out information to the Greek enemies Diomedes and Odysseus to try and gain favor and have his life spared. I’m not a wishy-washy person and I think that going back and forth on sides or helping the enemy is immoral. I guess Dolon thought Diomedes and Odysseus would spare him if he gave them information, but either way he would have been killed so I think Dolon should have just kept his mouth shut, making it a little more difficult for the Greeks to obtain information.

I also noticed in Book 10 Homer took time to describe the armor and clothing the spies (Dolon, Diomedes, and Odysseus) wore and I didn’t understand why. Maybe because the clothing of a spy is worth mentioning? I’m not sure. Overall I liked how Book 10 gave somewhat of a different vibe on the ancient story of the Trojan War.

Saturday, 9/12 1:30–3:45- I read Book 11 and I liked the first half of the book but I got sidetracked when Nestor returned to the Greek ships. The book was very lengthy, especially at the part where Patroklos talks with Nestor. I understand that Nestor’s speech was to shame and dishonor Achilles for pretending to care about the hurt Greeks since he does not come back and fight with them. His speech is also used to encourage Patroklos to talk with Achilles and further the events and fate of Patroklos and Achilles.

I liked the action of the first half of Book 11. I thought the tides were turning in favor of the Greeks, despite the audience already knowing the outcome and fate of the all parties within the events. Agamemnon I think stepped up as a warrior, which validates his status as a powerful leader within the Greek hierarchy. Reading Book 11 also validated my reasoning for Paris being a coward. When he attacks Diomedes and other Greeks he does a sneak attack by hiding in the bushes and not having the honor to fight an enemy face to face. I knew Paris was a coward/punk when Hector had to find and almost force him to go back to the battle but Paris using sneak attacks is just downright dishonorable.

Sunday, 9/13 2:15–3:15- Book 12 was full of so much action more or less from the Trojans’s view. The tides are turning in favor of the Trojans as they broke through the Greeks’ wall protecting their ships. This doesn’t look too good for the Greeks since Hector wants to burn their ships.

I thought Sarpedon’s speech to his brother Glaukos was interesting and moving to have within Book 12 which is mostly action-packed. The speech provided a change in pace that I enjoyed. Also the speech provided a varying perspective on why they (any lord of that time) fought and chose to enter wars and battles. The speech provided new insights to the class system of the time which was great.

Monday, 9/14 3:00pm-3:45- Question 1: List and rank all of Agamemnon’s decisions so far in The Iliad. Explain your reasoning.

  • Agamemnon taking Briseis from Achilles: Rank-1, I rank this a “1” or worst decision made because this decision is wht caused all the issues and problems in The Iliad. If Agamemnon just returned Chryseis and never disrespected Achilles by taking Briseis from him, all the death and suffering on both sides might not have happened, or possibly there would be less death and suffering. Although I understand that Agamemnon has to assert his status and power as king he didn’t have to take Achilles’ prize.
  • Agamemnon killing Adrestor: Rank-3, Although this decision didn’t cause any major issues between any characters, it presents a immoral choice. Agamemnon could have let Menelaus keep Adrestor for ransom and it wouldn’t hurt any of the parties involved. In fact, Adrestor supplicated to Menelaus with can be taken as giving away his honor and dignity to the enemy. However, when Agamemnon killed him it demonstrated Agamemnon’s ruthlessness and war hunger.
  • Agamemnon convincing Menelaus not to fight Hector one-on-one: Rank-8, This was one of Agamemnon’s better ideas because if Menelaus fought Hector, Menelaus would have been killed for sure. From an objective perspective Menelaus is the reason why the Greeks are fighting Troy in the first place, due to his wife Helen being kidnapped. It would be very unfortunate if the person partially responsible for the war was killed. From a subjective perspective Menelaus is Agamemnon’s younger brother and he wants to protect his brother from any avoidable harm.
  • Agamemnon deciding that the Greeks stay and fight in Troy for Helen: Rank-5, When Agamemnon decides that the Greeks stay and fight despite fighting the Trojans for 9 years I think this is a noble but somewhat bad idea. Since Agamemnon is the lord of lords among the Greeks he wants them to be perceived as a nation of courage and bravery but the war is not going in the favor (so far). Even though many people know the outcome of the Trojan War, so far the Greeks have suffered a lot at the expense of staying at Troy and continuing to fight.
  • Agamemnon trying to appease Achilles: Rank-9, This (so far) has been the best decision that Agamemnon has made. Whether he decided this out of true guilt or because he understands that he has to be the “bigger person” so the Greeks’ greatest warrior (Achilles) will fight with them again doesn’t dissuade that this is his “best” decision. Agamemnon’s choice in who he sends to appease Achilles are the people that can persuade Achilles the most into rejoining battle so we can see that Agamemnon put thought into how to win Achilles over.

Question 2: Does Agamemnon seem more or less “heroic” than Diomedes from Book 5?

I think Agamemnon seems just as “heroic” than Diomedes because both men aren’t what I consider a “hero” to be. My definition of hero included being willing to sacrifice something of importance in order to achieve the common goal or doing the uncomfortable or unpopular thing in order to achieve the big end goal. I also don’t think someone is “heroic” when they do what they are supposed to do. You don’t get a gold star for doing what is expected of you which is what Diomedes and Agamemnon did in Books 5 and 11, respectively. In Book 5 Diomedes just became a crazy warrior because he wanted vengeance from Pandaros shooting him with an arrow. He became more of a model of a great warrior and motivator for the Greeks but I wouldn’t deem him as a “hero”. The closest thing Agamemnon has done as “heroic” (in my opinion) is trying to appease Achilles. In general people value their pride and power as most important so the fact that Agamemnon tried to be the bigger person and win Achilles over shows a small idea of what a hero is since Agamemnon did this in order for the bigger end goal (winning the Trojan War).

Monday, 9/14- 3:45–5- I proofread and revised my weekly journal.