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In Book IX of the The Iliad, what are the offers of Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax to...

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mermaid985 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 19, 2009 at 8:51 AM via web

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In Book IX of the The Iliad, what are the offers of Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax to Achilles, and what are his replies to the three offers?

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sfwriter | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted June 19, 2009 at 1:30 PM (Answer #1)

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Agamemnon, probably purely out of a desire not to have to end the war because of the non-participation of Achilles, relents and admits that he was wrong to take Briseis, who was already in Achilles' tent, away from him as spoils of war.  He returns the maiden, and sends three of his most trusted (and, in the case of Odysseus, wiliest) councillors to try to conciliate Achilles and get him back into the fight.

And King Agamemnon answered, “Sir, you have reprovedmy folly justly. I was wrong. I own it. One whom heaven befriends is in himself a host, and Jove has shown that he befriends this man by destroying much people of the Achaeans. I was blinded with passion and yielded to my worser mind; therefore I will make amends, and will give him great gifts by way of atonement. I will tell them in the presence of you all. I will give him seven tripods that have never yet been on the fire, and ten talents of gold. I will give him twenty iron cauldrons and twelve strong horses that have won races and carried off prizes. Rich, indeed, both in land and gold is he that has as many prizes as my horses have won me. I will give him seven excellent workwomen, Lesbians, whom I chose for myself when he took Lesbos—all of surpassing beauty. I will give him these, and with them her whom I erewhile took from him, the daughter of Briseus; and I swear a great oath that I never went up into her couch, nor have been with her after the manner of men and women. (Book IX)

Achilles welcomes Odysseus, for he has no quarrel with him.  After they feast in Achilles' tent, Odysseus enumerates the gifts that Agamemnon has offered, if Achilles will come back to the army.  He also describes the kind of war-booty Achilles will have the right to if the Achaeans sack the city of Troy.

... if hereafter the gods vouchsafe him to sack the city of Priam, you can come when we Achaeans are dividing the spoil, and load your ship with gold and bronze to your liking. You can take twenty Trojan women, the loveliest after Helen herself. Then, when we reach Achaean Argos, wealthiest of all lands, you shall be his son-in-law, and he will show you like honour with his own dear son Orestes, who is being nurtured in all abundance. Agamemnon has three daughters, Chrysothemis, Laodice, and Iphianassa; you may take the one of your choice, freely and without gifts of wooing, to the house of Peleus; he will add such dower to boot as no man ever yet gave his daughter, and will give you seven well-established cities, Cardamyle, Enope, and Hire where there is grass; holy Pheras and the rich meadows of Anthea; Aepea also, and the vine-clad slopes of Pedasus, all near the sea, and on the borders of sandy Pylos.

Achilles, who hates Agamemnon, refuses all these gifts.  Then Phoenix, who taught Achilles the art of war in that hero's youth, speaks and begs him to be pious, take Agamemnon's gifts, and forget his anger.  Again Achilles refuses, and then Ajax speaks to Odysseus saying that Achilles is cruel and unforgiving.  Achilles says Ajax speaks fairly, but Achilles cannot get over the wrong Agamemnon has done to him.  Phoenix spends the night in Achilles' tent, and Odysseus and Ajax go back and tell the council that Achilles will not be won over.  Diomed says that Achilles will fight again, when he has changed his mind, and the men all go to sleep.

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 19, 2009 at 1:29 PM (Answer #2)

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Agamemnon had seriously insulted Achilles so Achilles pulled his men out of the battle and Agamemnon realized he was wrong. He realizes without the aid of Achilles the cause is lost.   He decides to make an offer of apology to Achilles.  He sends Odysseus, Ajax, and Phoenix to plead his case and ask for Achilles forgiveness and help.  Odysseus speaks to Achilles first and relates the following offering to Achilles:

“All gifts are in his huts—seven tripods
which fire has not yet touched, ten gold talents,
twenty shining cauldrons, twelve strong horses
seven women of Lesbos, skilled in crafts,

Briseis, daughter of Briseus. A virgin.
All these things you will receive immediately.
gold, with bronze, twenty Trojan women for yourself,
the loveliest after Argive Helen. three daughters—Chrysothemis, Iphianessa, and Laodice. You can take whichever one you choose
back home as your wife to Peleus’ house
and pay no bridal gift. He’ll give much more to bring about your reconciliation,
a dowry bigger than any man so far has ever handed over with his daughter.
He’ll give you seven populous cities, Cardamyle, Enope, grassy Hire,
holy Pherae, fertile Antheia, lovely Aepea, and vine-rich Pedasus.”

Achilles answered, no to all the gifts and 100 times that many gifts.  He said his anger and insult could not be bought so cheaply.  He tells them to go back and tell Agamemnon that he has no intention of forgiving him or helping him.  It is at this point that Phoenix speaks of how much he has personally done for Achilles and appeals to Achilles love for him.  He pleads:

“So accept the gifts.                                                        760
Achaeans are honouring you like a god.
If you return to man-killing battle
without the gifts, you’ll never get such honour,
even though you may push the conflict back.”

Achilles says that he really loves Phoenix as a father and feels badly because he respects him.  However, Achilles will still not forgive the insult or accept the gifts.  This refusal leads Ajax to speak”

“Now we are offering
seven of the best we have and much more.
You should turn your passion into kindness,
the hospitality of your own house.”

Achilles again refuses and tells them to go back to Agamemnon.  Achilles requests that Phoenix remain behind.

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