Why does Achilles return Hector’s body to King Priam in The Iliad?

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The return of Hector's body in Book 24 of The Iliad represents the end of Achilles's wrath. Achilles's anger had led him to commit the transgression of mutilating Hector's body and denying him a proper burial. Priam desperately wants his son's body to be returned so that he can give it the proper funeral rites.

When Priam comes to Achilles's tent, he kneels before the Greek hero and kisses his hand in supplication. This is a sacred act and one that cannot easily be ignored. In a way, it mirrors the supplication of Zeus by Thetis in Book I. It is a powerful way to ask for a request and this helps calm Achilles and get him to listen to the Trojan king.

Seeing Priam in tears before him evokes sympathy in Achilles. He knows that his father will feel the same way after his own fated death. With his anger subsided, Achilles feels compassion for the king of his enemies.

What finally wins Achilles over is the delivery of ransom. Priam agrees to pay Achilles a large sum of gold. In fact, the ransom is Zeus's idea, which he communicates to Priam by way of Iris. With this transaction sanctioned by the gods, Achilles agrees to release Hector's body to Priam.

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