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Essential Quotes by Character: Achilles

Essential Passage 1: Book IX

Why, pray, must the Argives needs fight the Trojans? What made the son of Atreus gather the host and bring them? Was it not for the sake of Helen? Are the sons of Atreus the only men in the world who love their wives? Any man of common right feeling will love and cherish her who is his own, as I this woman, with my whole heart, though she was but a fruitling of my spear. Agamemnon has taken her from me; he has played me false; I know him; let him tempt me no further, for he shall not move me. Let him look to you, Ulysses, and to the other princes to save his ships from burning. He has done much without me already. He has built a wall; he has dug a trench deep and wide all round it, and he has planted it within with stakes; but even so he stays not the murderous might of Hector. So long as I fought among the Achaeans Hector suffered not the battle to range far from the city walls; he would come to the Scaean gates and to the oak tree, but no further. Once he stayed to meet me and hardly did he escape my onset; now, however, since I am in no mood to fight him, I will to-morrow offer sacrifice to Jove and to all the gods; I will draw my ships into the water and then victual them duly; to-morrow morning, if you care to look, you will see my ships on the Hellespont, and my men rowing out to sea with might and main. If great Neptune vouchsafes me a fair passage, in three days I shall be in Phthia.


The war is not going well for the Achaians. In a panic, Agamemnon suggests that they retreat to their ships and give up the fight. Nestor, the wise old counselor, disagrees and comes up with a different plan. He bravely points out that this stage of the war has been brought about by the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles, with the former being the biggest offender. Nestor suggests that an envoy go to Achilles and beg him to rejoin the fight, while returning Briseis to Achilles. Agamemnon agrees and the envoy led by Odysseus goes to Achilles. Achilles, however, is still adamant about his refusal to fight. He sees the entire war as ridiculous, simply the result of Agamemnon’s wounded pride. Despite the fact that Achilles himself is now acting out of his own wounded pride, he will not return to fight Hector. He rejects Agamemnon’s apology and remains in his own camp. The envoy thus returns to the Achaian encampment and breaks the news to Agamemnon.

Essential Passage 2: Book IX

“My mother Thetis tells me that there are two ways in which I may meet my end. If I stay here and fight, I shall not return alive but my name will live forever: whereas if I go home my name will die, but it will be long ere death shall take me. To the rest of you, then, I say, ‘Go home, for you will not take Ilius.’ Jove has held his hand over her to protect her, and her people have taken heart. Go, therefore, as in duty bound, and tell the princes of the Achaeans the message that I have sent them; tell them to find some other plan for the...

(The entire section is 1,929 words.)