Iliad notes - Greek Epic (special topics course that wasn't in list)

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Classical Studies
Classical Studies 3612F/G
Richard Brown

Iliad Books divisions made by Alexandrian editors (24 letters in Greek alphabet) Potentially broken into 3 oral performances Book I Proem (prelude): first several lines of the poem Thought that the poems should bring us in medias res (into the middle of the matter) Invocation to Muses to start First word (Greek) is wrath theme of poem; also treatment of bodies/mutilation of corpses; conflict (especially between Agamemnon & Achilles); banquet perversion; divine apparatus; objectivity of women; time; fathers and sons First word of Odyssey is man Muse connected to memory Poems are largely massive feats of memory Symbol of the knowledge of past famous deeds & people Agamemnon is king of Argos Attack on Troy is one of Greek kings Agamemnon considered most important because of the power of Mycenae at the time Anax (Wanax) is a lord or reader; used to refer to Apollo & other gods Thetis (Achilles mother) tried to hide him from the war by dressing him as a daughter of King Lykemedes Poem is extremely objective (little emotion expressed) Mention of wrath sets the stage for a longer description later (feature of Homeric epic) Wrath of Achilles changes throughout poem First directed against Agamemnon, but later against Hector Treatment of bodies after death also a common theme Banquet perversion also appears several times (Odyssey uses very different connotations of hospitality & feasting) Divine apparatus Gods very involved Consequences of gods actions not as serious because theyre immortal More anthropomorphic than cults would have us believe Aphrodite named as daughter of Zeus (makes her subordinate to him) rather than being born from the castrated genitals of Ouranos (Theogony) Apollo Sympathetic to Trojans has a temple on Acropolis of Troy, as does Athena Time is an important aspect of the poem Measurement of worth; acknowledgement of worth Often involves war spoils Looting communities in the area & dividing the spoils between Greeks Division based on prestige of each individual Priests, like Chryses, demand a certain amount of honour Agamemnon dishonours Chryses Chryses brings goods to exchange to buy his daughter back from Agamemnon Chryseis represents a portion of Agamemnons worth, so he feels he should be compensated for giving her up Word for ransom is literally exchange, suggesting an appropriate price; objects are commodities Homeric society Iliad Someone was valued based on the opinions of others Shame culture Ones honour is ratified by some sort of public judgment Agamemnon takes advantage of his power as king of kings to avoid judgment of others Relationships (including those with the gods) involve reciprocity Apollo sends a plague (arrow plague) into the Achaean army because Agamemnon does not supplicate Chryses (prophet of Apollo) Disease seen as external forces in Greek society Kalchas (best of bird-seers) explains why the plague has struck the army After the Prometheus story in Theogony, gods communicate with men through other means, most commonly through birds Plague like a flock of birds (both sent from the gods) Divine knowledge = knowledge of what is, was, & will be Knowledge still finite (idea of infinite didnt appear until Classical Period) Says that Kalchas was the one that guided the ships to Ilion Wrath of Artemis had to be appeased by sacrifice Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia, so that the Achaeans could leave (explains Agamemnons hostility toward Kalchas) Kalchas expresses fear over revealing his prophecy because he knows he will anger Agamemnon Achilles says that he will protect Kalchas, even if he means Agamemnon Reminds Agamemnon that his position is open to challenge Kalchas reveals that Apollo punishes the Achaeans for dishonouring Chryses Agamemnon is angered by Kalchas statement May indicate underlying anger resulting from the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis . . .never yet have you told me a good [can be translated as true] thing. Belief in Greece that fate can occur in a number of different ways Thus, seers may be giving us a pessimistic realization of what is fated Conflict between Agamemnon & Achilles Agamemnon Recognizes the necessity in listening to Kalchas; wants his people to be safe; but he wants to be repaid with a prize (1.118); this public allocation of prizes reflects his status, such that his being deprived would undermine his status Rank in the Achaean army is mediated by possessions (e.g. women) Ignores the fact that his decision to reject the ransom was a bad one Achilles Sees Agamemnons decision as greedy; thinks it unseemly for prizes that were given to be called back; instead, promises to repay Agamemnon 3-4 times over once they conquer Troy Agamemnon rejects this idea because he needs to address his status now Achilles becomes a threat at this point because he challenges Agamemnons status Agamemnon tries to delegate his tasks to his men; turns Achilles idea on its head Achilles responds to this piece with anger because he has not been given the authority/recognition that he believes he deserves Feels that charis has broken down (feelings of positive reciprocity); means of regulating society the absence of kinship ties between non-related members of Greek society; people very strongly identified with their families Iliad Characterizes all of society (e.g. prayer, supplication, friendships, etc.); binds society together; Agamemnon threatens to short-circuit it by taking away gifts given to others; breaks down the alliances Achilles feels that his prize symbolizes what he has done in war Agamemnon makes it seem like Achilles is a coward Anger = anger & pain (1.188) Achilles has 2 choices 1. Kill Agamemnon 2. Check his anger Athena comes down to calm Achilles because Hera tells her to Both Athena & Hera are sympathetic towards the Greeks; Athena is protector of heroes Athena exercises her power by grabbing Achilles by the hair; she appears only to him What we see here is a decision being made by him without any divine help; perhaps an attempt to lessen the impact of the gods She appears as herself (i.e. not in disguise) Makes checking his anger seem more compelling; Achilles needs this forceful divine intervention because naturally he would have killed Agamemnon She allows him to abuse Agamemnon you wine sack, with a dogs eye, with a deers heart (1.225); accusation about cowardice & gluttony king who feed on your people (1.231); exploitation of his people & gluttony again Nestor tries to intervene when Achilles says he will no longer fight; voice of wisdom; symbol of continuity (aged); long-winded; misunderstands both sides Speech to Thetis Tells Achilles side of the story She intervenes with Zeus & convinces him to do what she wishes (that is to make the Greeks suffer); Hera will be upset Hera objects; Zeus threatens violence; Hephaestus defuses situation by limping around palace & making all the gods laugh Zeus has caused Greeks to lose, so by the end of Book 1, we expect that to happen Book II Tells us about the lead-up to the war while keeping the narrative intact Exploration of Agamemnon Zeus sends a [false] Dream to Agamemnon that gives him the hope that his army can now take Troy Decides to test the morale of the troops before he sends them into battle Harsh light set on him; flawed leader; his relationship with other warriors creates problems for his leadership; despite structural obligations, he makes poor judgment Fissures that open up in the host mirror problems with Agamemnons leadership Thersites Homer refers to laos (host; rank/file of soldiers) often Thersites seems to emerge from the laos Good speaker; disputatious; very ugly; not a member of the basileis (captains) supports Achilles in this case, though Achilles is often the target of his arguments Take away the ugliness & he might be Achilles, but because he is not Achilles, he is not as important & is intrinsically less valuable t
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