Achilles And Agamemnon Essay, Research Paper
Throughout history, the story of Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad, and its hero, Achilles, has remained a work of literature to be considered by many a true classic. This epic tells the story of the madness of Achilles and how it transforms him from an angry warrior to one who struggles to understand and cope with his grief over losing his best friend Patroklos. The Greek word menis, meaning madness, is used to describe the state of mind that Achilles enters following his feud with Agamemnon, and from this point forward it is possible to see that he is being ruled by this menis throughout much of the epic. Towards the end of the poem, Achilles finally comes to his senses after hearing of the death of Patroklos at the hand of the Trojan warrior Hektor. However, he is unable to recover from the Petroklos’s death until Hektor’s father, Priam, visits him. It is only at this point that Achilles realizes that he is not a complete being, although he is an accomplished and respected warrior. Priam’s visit forces Achilles to realize this, and by doing so Achilles becomes a more complete person. In Book I, the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon is the starting point of the menis of Achilles. The great warrior attempts to give Agamemnon advice, but he dismisses it as an attempt by Achilles to gain power over the Akhaian troops. As punishment, Agamemnon reclaims Achilles’s war prize, the Trojan girl Bris is of whom the great warrior has become very fond. Achilles becomes so infuriated with Agamemnon’s arrogance and refusals to even consider his advice that he issues an oath to Agamemnon.
I swear a day will come when every Akhaian soldier will groan to have Achilles back. That day you shall no more prevail on me than this dry wood shall flourish – driven though you are, and though a thousand men perish before the killer, Hektor. You will eat your heart out, raging with remorse for this dishonor done to you by the bravest of Akhaians.
With this oath issued to Agamemnon and the Akhaians, Achilles withdraws his troops, the Myrmidons, and refuses to fight until his own ships and camp are threatened by the Trojans, or Dan ns. For twelve days Achilles sat apart from the rest of his men, staring out to the ocean, ruled by this menis, having no ability to go on with his life until he is aided by his mother, Thetis, imploring Zeus to help Achilles win back his honor. At length, Zeus agrees to help Thetis and Achilles, and in Book II he initializes his plan by sending a dream to Agamemnon in an attempt to persuade the Akhaians to fight. Instead, his plan backfires as Agamemnon decides to test his men by telling them they are returning home. Eventually, however, the Akhaians are ready to do battle with the Trojans. Noticeably absent in this battle are Achilles and the Myrmidons, as Achilles is still sitting separate from his men, gazing out to sea. As the epic continues, Achilles name is not mentioned with any significance until Book IX, when Nestor advises Agamemnon to make amends with Achilles, as the Akhaians were beginning to lose the war to the Trojans. Agamemnon sends Odysseus, Aias, and Phoinix to try and persuade Achilles and the Myrmidons to rejoin the war with promises of many gifts of appeasement. All three men separately try and persuade Achilles to do battle again, but Achilles continually refuses Agamemnon’s plea and offers of gifts.
Give in to Agamemnon? I think not, neither to him nor to the rest. I had small thanks for fighting, fighting without truce against hard enemies here. The portion’s equal whether a man hangs back or fights his best; the same respect, or lack of it, is given brave man and coward. One who’s active dies like the do-nothing. What least thing have I to show for it, for harsh days of undergone and my life gambled, all these years of war? A bird will give her fledglings every scrap she comes by, and go hungry, foraging. That is the case with me.
Even though Achilles is still being ruled by this menis, he realizes the extraordinary amount of power he holds over Agamemnon and the Akhaians. He is holding every Akhaian soldier’s life in his hands. Should he choose to rejoin this battle and choose his fate of a short but glorious life filled with honor, these soldiers’ lives would be saved. Should he choose instead to remain separate from the battle and choose his fate of a long but obscure life, these soldiers’ lives would be lost and the Trojans would have won the war. Achilles, being a very proud man, will not allow Agamemnon to appease him until Achilles finds a good enough reason to continue fighting. Until that happens, the menis controls Achilles, and he and his men remain withdrawn from the battles. Zeus, having done what was asked of him by Thetis and Achilles, realizes that not even a god could persuade Achilles to go back into the battle, but his great friend Patroklos is the only one who could bring Achilles past the menis that is controlling his actions. Achilles allows Patroklos to lead the Myrmidons into battle and gives Patroklos his own armor for protection. Although Achilles himself remains separate from the battle, he places Patroklos in charge, but warns him not to continue the fight into Ilion. As long as he remains far enough away from the Trojans, they will not recognize him as Patroklos and think his is Achilles, giving him added protection by the fear of the Trojans. Then, as Patroklos enters into battle, Zeus stirs his heart with fury, causing him to disobey Achilles’s orders and enter into Ilion. There, he battles with the great Trojan warrior, Hektor, and is killed. Hektor strips Patroklos of Achilles’s armor and eventually allows the Myrmidons to bear his body back to Achilles, following another battle over the body of Patroklos. Once Achilles learns of Patroklos’s death, his only thoughts are those of revenge for the death of his best friend. Eagerly, he reconciles with Agamemnon and renounces his menis. His mother Thetis gives Achilles new armor and a shield crafted by the god H phaistos to protect him in the upcoming battles. Now that Achilles has rejoined the war to avenge Patroklos’s death, he receives the gives promised him by Agamemnon, although they mean little to him as they can not appease the grief and pain he feels over the death of his best friend. He believes that the only way he can appease his grief is to kill Hektor, and now that his fighting spirit has been restored, he sets out to do so. In one great battle, Achilles and Hektor clash and Achilles, using his skill and anger, is the victor. Before Hektor dies, he lets him know that he feels no remorse and will not give him his final honor in burial.
Hektor, had you thought that you could kill Patroklos and be safe? Nothing to dread from me; I was not there. All childishness. Though distant then, Patroklos’s comrade in arms was greater far than he – and it is I who had been left behind that day beside the deeps sea ships who now have made your knees give way. The dogs and kites will rip your body. His will lie in honor when the Akhaians give him funeral.
He strips Hektor of his old armor and ties him to the back of his chariot to be dragged through the dust back to the Akhaian camps. Even though Achilles had avenged Patroklos’s death by killing Hektor, he is still unable to find peace with himself. He had previously believed that Hektor’s death would be enough to cure his grief, but discovers that it has done nothing except make him more distraught at the death of his best friend. When he is visited by Priam, Hektor’s father, a change in him occurs. Priam puts aside his pride and implores Achilles to return Hektor’s body to the Trojans for burial. As Achilles gazes at him, this man who kissed the hands that killed his son, he sees a person who is able to deal with his grief and move on without being consumed by revenge. Priam is a man wizened by his years and Achilles respects him for his actions and grants him his plea. He returns Hektor’s body to his father and the Trojans for burial. Throughout the entire epic, Achilles refuses to let go of his pride and continues to hold on to his grudge, first towards Agamemnon and later towards Hektor. However, when he finally succeeds in avenging Patroklos’s death, he does not receive any satisfaction from it and is more distraught because he is unable to let go. It takes the image of Priam, shamelessly letting go of his pride in an attempt to have his son’s body returned to him, for Achilles to realize that revenge will not necessarily bring about satisfaction. Achilles sees in Priam the type of person he wants to become should he be able to live a long life. This helps Achilles to grow as a person. His grief over Patroklos’s death changes him and the visit by Priam makes him realize that pride and glory are not necessarily the most important things in life. At the beginning of the epic, all Achilles was striving for was honor. He received honor by killing Hektor, yet he did not receive satisfaction. By seeing Priam, he now understands that there is more to life than honor, and that happiness does not necessarily stem from pride or glory. Homer’s great epic poem, The Iliad, is the story of the menis of Achilles and how this menis transforms him from a warrior full of anger and pride to one who realizes that life is more than honor and glory. From his feud with Agamemnon in Book I to his visit with Priam in Book XXIIII, Achilles grows from a simple warrior to a more complex character that is timeless in his complexity and his strength, physically, and later emotionally. The Iliad is rightfully considered a classic and its hero, Achilles, is a name that will forever be associated with both strength and pride, as well as weakness.