Essential Quotes by Theme: Wrath
Essential Passage 1: Book I
SING, O GODDESS, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.
Homer begins his tale with an invocation to the gods, specifically the Muse. He points to the fact that it is the anger of Achilles that has brought so much grief on the Achaeans, rather than the war with the Trojans over the abducted Helen. At this point, the ninth year of the Trojan War, tragedy breaks out. A quarrel erupts between Achilles, the leading hero of the Achaean army, and Agamemnon, whose brother Menelaus brought all of them together to reclaim his wife Helen from Paris, prince of Troy. Agamemnon has lost his war prize, the daughter of the priest, Chryses, whom he captured during the battle of Thebes. Hearing the grief of Chryses over his daughter, and seeing the rich ransom that he is willing to pay, the Achaeans agree that Agamemnon should indeed return Chryseis to her father. In humiliation at this loss, Agamemnon takes Briseis, Achilles war prize to replace his own. Because of this, Achilles’ wrath breaks out and the two camps of the Achaeans are split, even as they fight together against the Trojans.
My good friend, when your father Peleus sent you from Phthia to Agamemnon, did he not charge you saying, "Son, Minerva and Juno will make you strong if they choose, but check your high temper, for the better part is in goodwill. Eschew vain quarrelling, and the Achaeans old and young will respect you more for doing so." These were his words, but you have forgotten them. Even now, however, be appeased, and put away your anger from you.
As the war continues, the Achaeans are losing the battle. In a conference of the leaders, it is finally confessed that they need Achilles, who left the fighting early due to his quarrel with Agamemnon. Accepting the situation reluctantly, Agamemnon agrees to return to Achilles the girl Briseis, along with a humble request that Achilles return to fight alongside of his countrymen. The envoy sent to Achilles to make this appeal is led by Odysseus. However, Achilles is adamant that he will not return. Faced with Achilles’ pride, Odysseus reminds him of the words his father told him when he went off to join Agamemnon. His father, Peleus, warned him of giving way to his wrath, because maintaining the goodwill of those with whom one fights is of greater worth than whatever conflict might arise. Odysseus appeals further to Achilles’ pride, stating that the Achaeans will regain their respect for him if he puts away his wrath and return to the conflict. Odysseus accuses Achilles of purposefully forgetting his father’s warning and has clung to his pride instead.
Essential Passage 3: Book XIX
When the Achaeans were got together Achilles rose and said, “Son of Atreus, surely it would have been better alike for both you and me, when we two were in such high anger about Briseis, surely it would have been better had Diana's arrow slain her at the ships on the day when I took her after having sacked Lyrnessus. For so, many an Achaean the less would have bitten dust before the foe in the days of my anger. It has been well for Hector and the Trojans, but the Achaeans will long indeed remember our quarrel. Now, however, let it be, for it is over. If we have been angry, necessity has schooled our anger. I put it from me: I dare not nurse it forever; therefore, bid the Achaeans arm forthwith that I may go out against the Trojans, and learn whether they will be in a mind to sleep by the ships or no. Glad, I ween, will he be to rest his knees who may fly my spear when I wield it.”
Thus did he speak, and the Achaeans rejoiced in that he had put away his anger.
(The entire section is 1,428 words.)