In the first book of the Iliad, Agamemnon dishonors Chryses, Apollo's priest. He had come to
pay ransom for his daughter. (Book I Lines 10-21) So Apollo kills Agamemnon's men. (Book I
Lines 56-66) Calchas, the priest for Apol o, simply states that Agamemnon dishonored
Apollo's priest and would not al ow Chryses to pay ransom to get his daughter. (Book I Lines
98-106) Since he must return Chryseis to end the plague on his men, Agamemnon says he
wants a prize and may take Achil es' and he has Chryseis board a ship. (Book I Lines 145-
157) This is when Achilles decides to desert because he does all the dirty work. (Book I Lines
174-181) Much later, Hector pushes to the Greek huts. But nightfall ensues so they have to
wait until morning and he makes camp. (Book VIII Lines 502-515) Later on in the night,
Agamemnon sends Odysseus, Phoenix and Ajax to apologize for him. (Book IX Lines 1-185)
Odysseus makes a pity appeal to Achilles. He says,
"We fear the worst. It is doubtful
that we can save the ships without your strength
The Trojans and their allies are encamped
Close to the wall that surrounds our black ships
Zeus has been encouraging them with signs,
Lightning on the right. Hector trusts this-
And his own strength-and has been raging
Recklessly, like a man possessed." (Book IX Lines 233-242)
So Odysseus is really frightened for the ships and for the Greeks. He's afraid that Hector will
burst through the wall and destroy the ships. He's afraid that Zeus going to bring Hector
victory. Odysseus makes an appeal to Achil es' feelings. He says "Think of yourself, of the
regret you will feel/For harm that will prove irreparable/This is the last chance to save your
countrymen." (Book IX Lines 252-254) Odysseus is saying that if Achil es does not act now,
this is the end. Achilles will feel remorse and regret, and the Greeks will die. He tries to bribe
him as well. He states,
"Agamemnon is offering you worthy gifts
If you will give up your grudge. Hear me
While I list the gifts he proposed in his hut:
Seven unfired tripods, ten gold bars,
Twenty burnished cauldrons, a dozen horses-
Solid, prizewinning racehorses
Who have won him a smal fortune-
And seven women who do impeccable work,
Surpassingly beautiful women from Lesbo
Briseus' daughter, and he will solemnly swear
He never went to her bed and lay with her." (Book IX Lines 264-276)
He continues to list to include land and cattlemen who live there. Odysseus is saying if
Achilles goes and saves the Greeks now, he will gain so much wealth and even the prize he
lost. So he should go now. Odysseus implores,
"Think of all the others
Suffering down the line, and of the glory
You wil win from them. They will honor you
Like a god.
And don't forget Hector.
You might just get him now." (Book IX Lines 303-308)
Odysseus emphasizes the suffering of the Greek people who are fighting and dying, and of
the honor and glory he will gain. He also reminds him of Hector, who he wanted to fight in the
past. In essence, Odysseus tries to persuade him to fight for the Greeks, for glory, and for
wealth. Of course, Achil es does not buy what Odysseus is saying. He laments,
"I cannot imagine Agamemnon,
Or any other Greek, persuading me,
Not after the thanks I got for fighting this war
Going up against the enemy day after day.
Coward and hero get the same reward:
You die whether you slack off or work.
And what do I have for all my suffering
Constantly putting my life on the line
I've raided twelve cities with our ships
And eleven on foot in the fertile Troad,
Looted them all, brought back heirlooms
By the ton, and handed it al over
To Atreus' son, who hung back in camp
Raking it in and distributing damn little.
What the others did get they at least got to keep." (Book IX Lines 320-341)
We see the Rage of Achilles in these lines. No one can persuade him. He fought and toiled
day after day after day. He even sacked and looted twelve cities, but he barely got the tip of
the iceberg. Agamemnon took most of the spoils and gave little back. But at least the other
men who fought got to keep what they got. Achilles fought so hard, and what did he get?
Agamemnon took his prize. He proclaimed,
"Why do the Greeks have to fight the Trojans?
Why did Agamemnon lead the army to Troy
If not for the sake of fair-haired Helen?
Do you have to be descended from Atreus
To love your mate? Every decent, sane man
Loves his woman and cares for her, as I did,
Loved her from my heart. It doesn't matter
That I won her with my spear. He took her,
Took her right out of my hands, cheated me,
And now he thinks he's going to win me back?
He can forget it. I know how things stand.
It's up to you, Odysseus, and the other kings
To find a way to keep the fire from the ships." (Book IX Lines 345-357)
Achilles argues that we don't need to fight the Greeks and Agamemnon is just doing this for
his brother Menelaus. He argues that every single man loves his woman and he loved Briseis
very much. However, Agamemnon did not care about what Achilles' felt and just took his prize
and now expects him to come back. Achilles' pride was hurt so he does not want to lend
Agamemnon a hand. So he tells Odysseus to try to find another way. He explained,
"Now that I don't want to fight him anymore
I will sacrifice to Zeus and all gods tomorrow,
Load my ships, and launch them on the sea
I left a lot when I hauled myself here,
And I'll bring back more, gold and bronze,
Silken-waisted women, grey iron-
Everything except the prize of honor
The warlord Agamemnon gave me
And in his insulting arrogance took back
He cheated me, wronged me. Never again.
He's had it. He can go to hell in peace,
The half-wit that Zeus has made him.
His gifts mean nothing to me.
Would he persuade me or touch my heart-
Not until he's paid in full for all my grief." (Book IX Lines 366-400)
Achilles replies to what Odysseus about facing Hector with the fact that he does not want to
fight Hector anymore. He's going to go back home. He left a lot behind in order to come here.
So he will get trophies. But Agamemnon stole his one trophy, his one prize. He will not let that
happen again so he is not going to help Agamemnon. Agamemnon needs to pay for al the
suffering he has given to Achilles to get him to fight. Achil es also explained,
"You can always get tripods and chestnut horses.
But a man's life cannot be won back.
Once his breath has passed beyond his clenched teeth.
My mother Thetis, a moving silver grace,
Tells me two fates sweep me on to my death.
If I stay here and fight, I'll never return home,
But my glory wil be undying forever.
If I return home to my dear fatherland
My glory is lost but my life will be long,
And death that ends all will not catch me soon." (Book IX Lines 420-429)
Achilles' final reply is that a man is mortal. He can die very easily and does not live forever. In
fact, he knows he will die at some point if he stays here. So in order to live longer, he will
Phoenix makes analogies to persuade Achil es. He responded to what Achil es said,
"It's not right for you to have a pitiless heart.
Even the gods can bend. Superior as they are
In honor power, and every excel ence,
They can be turned aside from wrath
When humans who have transgressed
Supplicate them with incense and prayers,
With libations and savor of sacrifice." (Book IX Lines 510-516)
Phoenix is comparing Achilles to the gods. However, even the gods in their immortal anger
can be persuaded with gifts. So Achilles should do the same. Phoenix also tells a story. He
"The Curetes were fighting the Aetolians
In a bloody war around Calydon town.
The Aetolians were defending their city
They went to war. While Meleager still fought
The Curetes had the worst of it
And could not remain outside Calydon's wal .
But when wrath swelled Meleager's heart,
As it swells even the hearts of the wise,
And his anger rose against his Althaea his mother,
He lay in bed with his wife, Cleopatra
Meleager nursed his anger at Cleopatra's side,
Furious because his mother had cursed him,
Cursed him to the gods for murdering his uncle
He refused them all, and refused his friends,
His very best friends and boon companions.
No one could move his heart or persuade him
Until the Curetes, having scaled the walls
Were burning the city and beating down
His bedroom door. Then his wife wailed
And listed for him all the woes that befal
A captured people-the men killed
The town itself burnt, the women and children
Led into slavery. This roused his spirit.
He clapped on armor and went out to fight.
And so he saved the Aetolians from doom
Of his own accord, and they paid him none
Of those lovely gifts, savior or not.
Don't be like that. Don't think that way,
And don't let your spirit turn that way.
The ships will be harder to save when they're burning.
Come while there are gifts, while the Achaeans
Will still honor you as if you were a god.
But if you go into battle without any gifts,
Your honor will be less, save us or not." (Book IX Lines 544-622)
Phoenix compares Achil es to Meleager. Meleager was angry just like Achilles and would not
come out until the city was burned and he did save them, but he reaped no rewards. He is
pleading with Achilles to not be like that and to save them now, as it will not be as easy when
the ships burn. Right now the Greeks will still honor him and give him gifts. If he goes later,
there will not be any gifts. Achil es simply responded,
"I don't need that kind of honor, Phoenix.
My honor comes from Zeus, and I will have it
Among these beaked ships as long as my breath
Still remains and my knees still move.
Now listen to this. You're listening? Good.
Don't try to confuse me with your pleading
On Agamemnon's behalf. If you're his friend
You're no longer mine, although I love you.
Hate him because I hate him. It's as simple as that.
You're like a second father to me. Stay here,
Be king with me and share half the honor." (Lines 624-634)
Achilles has his honor from Zeus and that honor is all the honor that he needs. He hates
Agamemnon and so Phoenix should feel the same way as him and stay with him. So Achilles
does not need to fight for the honor of the Greeks or for Agamemnon's gifts.
Ajax uses criticism in his method of persuasion. He harshly criticizes Achilles,
"They will be waiting to hear. Achil es
Has made his great heart savage.
He is a cruel man, and has no regard
For the love that his friends honored him with,
Beyond anyone else who camps with the ships.
Pitiless. A man accepts compensation
For a murdered brother, a dead son.
The kil er goes on living in the same town
After paying blood money, and the bereaved
Restrains his proud spirit and broken heart
Because he has received payment. But you,
The gods have replaced your heart
With flint and malice, because of one girl,
One single girl, while we are offering you
Seven of the finest women to be found
And many other gifts." (Book IX Lines 647-662)
Ajax is insisting that Achilles is being unreasonable and cruel. He's disregarding the love his
friends give him. Ajax makes the argument that a man accepts some sort of payment for the
killing of a loved one and the murderer continues to live on because he has made payment.
And Achilles is just getting upset over one single girl when they're offering him so much more.
So Achilles should just forget the girl and accept the gifts and fight. Achil es simply responds,
"Everything you say is after my own heart.
But I swell with rage when I think of how
The Son of Atreus treated me like dirt
In public, as if I were some worthless tramp.
Now go, and take back this message:
I won't lift a finger in this bloody war
Until Priam's illustrious son Hector
Comes to the Myrmidons' ships and huts
Killing Greeks as he goes and torching the fleet.
But when he comes to my hut and my black ship
I think Hector will stop, for al his battle lust." (Book IX Lines 667-678)
Achilles acknowledges what Ajax is saying, that he is right. But he can't get out of his mind
how he was treated like nothing by Agamemnon and wronged. So he won't fight until Hector
comes to the ships killing Greeks and sets the ships on fire. However, Achilles thinks he'll stop
at Achil es' hut so there will be no problem.
To summarize, Odysseus used sympathy and pity to try to persuade Achilles. Phoenix used
comparison to others like Achil es himself. Ajax used criticism. What's interesting is that none
of this works. Achilles is not persuaded. He won't fight until he's paid for his grief and suffering
or until the Greek ships are on fire.