The Iliad "The First In Banquets, But The Last In Fight"
by Simone Weil

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"The First In Banquets, But The Last In Fight"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: By solemn oaths, the opposing kings of the ten-year-war, Priam of Troy and Agamemnon of Greece, agree that the two parties most involved decide the peace in single combat. Paris, whose stealing of Helen precipitated the siege of Troy, and Menelaus, the wronged husband of the beautiful half-goddess, fight with javelin and sword. Paris is wounded and captured; but Aphrodite, the goddess of love who gave him Helen as the prize for judging her queen of immortals in a contest of beauty, steals the warrior away from his captors. Nonetheless, the Greeks claim a victory and demand Helen's return. The gods then sow dissension by having a Trojan make an attempt on the life of Menelaus. The truce broken, Agamemnon comes to his brother's rescue and sends his troops into battle. Odysseus, or Ulysses, his greatest chieftain-warrior does not realize the truce is broken and fails to join battle, for which failure the king unfairly chides him:

"Can Peleus' son forget a warrior's part,And fears Ulysses, skill'd in every art?. . .Say, is it thus those honours you requite?The first in banquets, but the last in fight."