Persusaion In The Iliad Essay, Research Paper
Persuasion Tactics: Odysseus vs. Agamemnon
Throughout history is an endless list of great war leaders who have conquered great masses of land. So, it must take a great speaker to convince thousands of men to leave the comforts of their homes to risk their lives in war. In Homer’s, The Iliad, two great nobleman Agamemnon and Odysseus are in the position to push exhausted soldiers back on to the battlefield. Each use different approaches to excite the men, however, it is Odysseus, not King Agamemnon, who succeeds. In order to persuade these drained men, Odysseus realizes what condition the army was in, and by using prophesies as support, status did not become an issue when it came to whom the men listened to.
According to this status structure, Agamemnon outranks Odysseus; therefore, with this power, Agamemnon should be able to get the army moving and ready to fight. However, it is Odysseus who gets the army encouraged. There is even a temporary switch of power when Odysseus takes the scepter from Agamemnon before addressing the nobleman. “He [Odysseus] came face to face with Agamemnon . . . and took from him the scepter of his fathers, immortal forever. With this he went beside the ships of the bronze-armoured Achaians” (1.2.186-187). There is also a significantly long description about the scepter’s history, an obvious history full of powerful men with high statuses. But if the scepter holds so much meaning of power, how come Agamemnon could not communicate with the army even with the scepter? Instead, it is Odysseus who can persuade a mass of home sick warriors, not with his status, but by his intuition of people.
Odysseus understands the fact that these men have been away from their families for too long. Which is why he addresses their sense of honor and duty to their homeland and Zeus. “Zeus of the counsels has shown us this great portent . . . whose glory shall perish never.” (1.2.324-325). Unlike Agamemnon, who’s “reverse psychology” backfires on him, causing the men to go into a frenzy for home. Agamemnon does not realize the hardships these men have gone though; after nine years, of course they will be tired and anxious to go home. “And now nine years of mighty Zeus have gone by, and the timbers of our ships have rotted away . . . and far away our own wives and our young children are sitting within our halls and wait for us . . .” (1.2.134-137). Because he does not understand this, he strikes a nerve in all the men’s hearts, rather than the ego. “So he spoke, and stirred up the passion in the breast of all those who were within that multitude and listened to his counsel.” (1.2.142-143). Odysseus simply knows how to talk to certain people; he realizes that talking to a king is very different than talking to someone below him. “Whenever he encountered some king, or man of influence, he would stand besides him and with soft words try to restrain him . . .” (1.2.188-189). Again, Agamemnon does not comprehend that speaking to one person one way may not work on someone else. Agamemnon obviously knows how to talk down to people, as we saw with his fight with Achilles. Later, he angers Odysseus by his comments when Agamemnon randomly told Odysseus about how all he did was hang back during battles.
Odysseus always makes sure to choose his words wisely, so not to offend anyone. Whereas Agamemnon just lets his mouth fly with whatever comes to his head, disregarding whether or not what he is saying will benefit him. When Agamemnon receives dreams from the gods, instead of using them to encourage, he manages to twist it around to make it work against him. People obviously take messages from the gods very seriously. Odysseus uses that to make the idea of war more appealing. Assuring the people with proof means to re iterate the prophecies, for example, the snake eating the nine birds. Hearing this makes them feel more comfortable knowing the gods are on their side. On the other hand, Agamemnon uses his dream to repel the men from war because he does not realize what the men need to hear for encouragement. “He [Zeus] is hard; who before this time promised me and consented that I might sack strong-walled Ilion . . . Now he has devised a vile deception, and bids me go back to Argos . . .” (1.2.112-115).
All in all, the success of Odysseus proves that status is not a factor when it comes to motivating the army. Instead, it is remembering who the audience is and to always give them a reason to believe. Throughout the story one can also see how this is true, like when Thetis implored the god of gods, Zeus, to help out her son. Zeus is of higher rank, but when she spoke to him softly and chose her words carefully, Thetis gets what she wants. Today, one can see persuasion on TV for infomercials for weight loss, or at stores when the sales lady compliments the customer for looking fantastic in an outfit. It is highly doubtful that the sales rep is going to rave about how fat the customer looks, if she wants to sell the shirt.