The Bacchi Essay, Research Paper
Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle
Would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal,
So neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost
Nor would I urge you into fighting where men win glory.
But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us
In their thousands, no man an turn aside nor escape them,
Let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield to others
Sarpedon speaks this passage to Glaukos, why Sarpedon was chosen to speak these words might be because he was the result of one of Zeus? many affairs. Sarpedon?s courage is also mentioned in line 104 of book twelve, which helps to support his words in this passage. The passage itself deals with the build up of the Trojans breaking through the defense that the Achians had constructed to defend their ships and men. It is at the end of book twelve that Hektor with the aide of Zeus breaks through the Achian wall by throwing a massive rock, which appears to be Herculean in nature. What makes this even more remarkable is that the Trojan forces had bombarded the wall with all their might and had been unable to break through. Then, when it appeared that they would not be able to do it, Hektor stepped up and in true Heroic fashion solved the problem.
A common question which comes up, is why in many Greek stories do you see people fighting a battle in which they now they are going to loose. The attack on the Trojans was of very little consequence to many of the men who were at this battle. If they one or lost would not overly affect their cities, except for the fact that either way there would be far fewer men when they returned. So why then did the fight these battles? The answer is really quite simple. In ancient Greek civilization, there existed a Heroic code that had to be followed. The Consequences for not following this code was disgrace, which was worse then death. No man would want his name disgraced, for not only would it affect him, but also his family and possible his city. Just as Sarpedon says ?Let us go on and wind glory for ourselves?? By fighting, in death or life both Glaukos and Sarpedon will now always be remembered as heroes. The reason why the Heroic code existed can be attributed to the Greeks concept of death. To them there was no afterlife. Therefore, it was necessary to have a celebrated life since upon death there was nothing else. If you did not have success and honor in life, there was nothing left for you afterwards. Another perfect example and explanation of the Heroic code occurs in Book One of Herodotus? The Histories. It is at line 35 that Solon tells the story of Cleobis and Biton. The story in its basic nature is about two sons who respect their mother so much that they carry her to the festival of Hera so that she would not be late. Upon arriving at the festival, the two sons passed away. While the story is about the death of two sons, it is not meant to be sad. For as Solon says in the passage ?they had a most-enviable death-a heaven- sent proof of how much better it is to be dead than alive.? So not only in Homer?s text is this Heroic code observed, but in texts which occur much later.
It is true that the Greeks felt that it is better to die well then to live long and have a poor death, the same cannot be said about their gods. In the minds of the Greeks, the gods were immortal and such trivial things as life and death did not concern them. While they prayed to the gods for favors, and prosperity they knew that if they did grant their requests it was done out of either kindness or pity for the lesser humans. This is illustrated throughout the Iliad by looking at the actions of Zeus, Hera and the other gods. While they do take sides, who wins to them is more like a bet. The way in which the do take sides, is a result of who they feel has worshipped them more at that time. The fact that the Trojans lost the war could be interpreted that they had fallen out of favor with one god or many.
In Homer?s world, as stated above everything revolved around glory. In his world, the wealthiest men, would more than likely have been the ones who had achieved the greatest glory in battle. While it is quite possible that many wealthy men did not have success in battle, they would not be seen as being as happy or fulfilled as the other. To Homer life was about the here and now, and what happened after was inconsequential, death was something that was supposed to happen on the field of battle.