By Aubrie Campbell
The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan War, which lasted 10 years. The Grecians eventually won the war, but the outcome could have very easily shifted due to a quarrel between King Agamemnon and Achilles. Pride and anger is what the two men were fighting about. This story is a very good example of how those two simple emotions can lead to tragedy.
Agamemnon was King of Argos. He was also the chief king among the Grecians. He was angry because his brother, King Menelaus of Sparta, had his wife, Helen, stolen by Paris of Troy. He called all the Kings of Greece and Isles of Greece to come together and make war upon the Trojans and bring Helen back. Among the many was Achilles.
Achilles was the son of Thetis, a sea nymph. He was the man who Troy feared the most because he was called the world’s greatest warrior. It was said that his only weakness was his heel. If he were to be hurt there, he would surely die.
The quarrel began when the Grecian warriors returned from sacking Thebes. Each warrior was dealt out shares of the loot and a woman. The woman King Agamemnon was awarded was the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo. Chryses came to the tents of the Grecians bringing a great ransom and asked for his daughter, Chrysies, back. Agamemnon ignored his pleas and sent him away. Chryses left and went down to the ocean and prayed to Apollo to avenge his tears. Apollo heard his prayer and, furious, came down from Mt. Olympus. He sat upon a hill and started to attack the Grecians with his arrows. This went on for nine days straight.
On the tenth day Achilles called all the Kings and Princes into assembly. He asked if any of them had done anything to offend the god Apollo. The only one that spoke was Calchas, a man who knew of the past, present, and future. He said that King Agamemnon had dishonored Apollo’s priest. He also told them that Apollo would not stop until Agamemnon restored the girl without ransom to her father.
King Agamemnon angrily stated that he did not want to give up his prize, for then he would be the only Grecians without one. Yet, because he would rather his people live, he would return the girl if she was replaced with another.
Achilles told him that all the prizes had been awarded. But if Agamemnon was to return the girl, the gods would be in their favor and they would win the war. When they won they would replace Chrysies three or four times. Agamemnon would not hear of this. His pride would not allow for himself to have less then the next man. He said that he would send the girl back, but she would have to be replaced or he would come after Achilles’ or Ajax’s or Ulysses’.
This angered Achilles, and thus began the quarrel that almost cost the Grecians the war. “You are steeped in insolence and lust of gain,” said Achilles. He also called him a “wine bibber” and “with the face of a dog and heart of a hind.” He spat out that he never receives such a large share or as good a prize of that of Agamemnon, even though he is the one doing most of the fighting. “We have followed you, Sir Insolence, for your pleasure not ours,” he stated, “and now you threaten to take my prize which I have been awarded!” Then he went on to say that he should return home for he would not stay here to be dishonored by an insolent fool.
Agamemnon was furious that Achilles would speak to him in this way. He told Ulysses to take Chrysies back to her father. Then, in retaliation, he told Achilles that he would send someone that night to come and take Achilles’ woman. Achilles shouted that he would not stand for this. He would never again raise a sword to help King Agamemnon.
After the girl was taken from his tent, Achilles went to the ocean and wept. His mother heard his cries and came to sit with him. He told her the entire story. He then asked her to go to Olympus and avenge him. He asked her to let the Grecians lose. “Let the Grecians be hemmed in at the sterns of their ships and perish on the seashore. May they reap what joy they may of their king, and that Agamemnon may rue his blindness in offering insult to me, the foremost of the Grecians,” he said. Thetis told him she would try her best to do what her son had wished.
Achilles and Agamemnon were fighting because of pride. Both thought themselves the better man and considered themselves dishonored by each other. For this, they each sought vengeance. Agamemnon uses his power to take Achilles’ prize from him. Achilles decides to not only stop fighting, but also to turn against the Grecians. He would rather them lose the war than be dishonored.
This is a classic example of how the human being can be so consumed with pride and anger he becomes dangerous. This is demonstrated all the time when we hear of the pointless deaths of many people due to shootings in schools and churches, kidnappings, and murders. By asking his mother to let the Trojans win the war, Achilles was sentencing thousands of soldiers to death. If there is any lesson learned from this story, it is not to let pride and anger cloud your judgment or make you crazy. Many people have made grave mistakes by letting it control them.
P.S. This got an A