The Shelf of Achilles
Published 26 Dec 2016
The epic Iliad is a story of different gods and goddesses as they go through their journey of life in land, ocean, and air. The Iliad has twenty-three (23) parts/chapters/books that distinguished the different kinds of gods and goddesses as it shows their miseries, joys, angers, and pains. The main themes of this epic are war and death but some other themes emerge within the succeeding chapters of the whole story.
Along with all other parts/books/chapters of Iliad, book eighteen (18) gave different kinds of themes such as fear, anger, happiness, sadness, and hope as it shows the life of the main character/s through their journey in land and ocean. However, my theme focus is love as it emerged in line four hundred-ninety (490) up to the end of the book/chapter. To discuss the theme of love in this chapter, passages will be shown and elaborated to understand fully the images that show love as one of the themes of Iliad.
One of the passages is from book 1 that shows different kind of love towards a friend or neighbor. Achilles obeyed her goddess because he trusted her. In the passage, we can see how humble Achilles was after what had Athene have told her about the war that Achilles would lead.
“The in answer the goddess grey-eyed Athene spoke to him: “I have came down to stay your anger-but will you obey me?- from the sky; and the goddess of the white arms Hera sent me, who loves both of you equally in her heart and cares for you. Come then, do not take your sword in your hand, keep clear of fighting, though indeed, with words, you may abuse him, and it will be that way. And this also will I tell you and it will be a thing accomplished. Some day three times over such shining gifts shall be given you by reason of his outrage. Hold your hand then, and obey us.” Then in answer again spoke Achilleus of the swift feet: Goddess, it is necessary that I obey the word of you two, angry though I am in my heart. So it will be better.” (Book 1.206)
Respect and obedience emerged in this passage where Achilles obeyed Athens no matter how hard it is but as accordance to her will, Achilles respect her decision. This situation is a form of love, not an intimate form of love but love with respect and obedience. When you love someone, you should respect her decision despite all the circumstances and failure that it may cause.
In the book eighteen (18) of Iliad, aside from all the themes, the theme love also emerged in different levels such as love for neighbor, love for friend, love for mother, and love for son. One of the examples of love for friend is the lame god’s love for Thetis because he helped Thetis to have armor for her son Achilles.
The love for mother can be seen in the action and words of Achilles when he talked to Iris because Iris wanted Achilles go to the battle even it has not armoured. Achilles obeyed her mother’s message before it went to get armor for him. Respect is one of the main aspects of loving. Achilles trusted her mother and respected her too. That is why I can say that this passage shows the meaning of love for mother.
Though Hector and Agamemnon do something to make Achilles become helpless and will not be able to fight, Achilles and her mother remained humble and much loving because of their situation. Their love for one another became stronger and Thetis love for her son gave her the strength to find way and give him back his armor so he could fight once again for their people. The battle between Achaean and Trojan in land were suspended because of what happened to Achilles but her mother want him to have his armor so she went on and find way to give back Achilles’ armor.
Another passage that shows the theme of love is in book nineteen (19). It brings different perception of love. It implies that action speaks louder than word.
“And now, in the likeness of golden aphrodites, briseis when she saw patroklos lying torn with sharp bronze, folding him in her arms cried shrilly above him and with her hands tore at her breasts and her soft throat and her beautiful forehead.” (Book 19.399)
This passage shows love and pity. As she saw Patroklos’ situation, he tears started to shed like rain in the sunshine. Love emerged right through this place when she carried him in to her arms with strength and love even if she is a woman. Her love for him is endless without any question in mind – just a simple glance with hope and comfort that he will live no matter what happen. Love emerges through war and death as we can see in this passage. The epic Iliad shows how war, death, and love are connected and at the same time being an opposition or irony to one another.
Another passage came from book twenty-two (22). This passage shows sadness but hope because love conquers all. Despite of the different tragic situations in their life they remained strong and contented in life because of their foundation- their love for one another. “There is a dead man who lies by the ships, unwept, unburied: Patroklos: and I will not forget him, never so long as I remain among the living and my knees have their spring beneath me. And though the dead forget the dead in the house of Hades, even there I shall still remember my beloved companion.” (Book 22.386)
Those three passages are examples of the themes war, death, and love. The first passage implies love, the second passages is about death, while the third passage is about war. Because those three themes are connected with one another and brings one whole theme as one, which was established from the beginning of the epic up to its end were amalgamated and created an enchanting story. Therefore, it can be stated that these passages were associated to one another as a basis of the story’s point of attack that brings inclusion to its readers.
As a whole, the focus of all the situations in this book is for Achilles. All the actions of the characteristics are for Achilles – to give him strength, to nurture him, and to love him. The kind of love that was established in this part is not a relationship of partners but a relationship in different levels of knowing and friendship. In this case, despite of all the fears, pains, sufferings, and deaths, love will still the roots of all goodness and respect. Love conquers all as its logic – to give strength and courage in facing all the troubles in the wild.
- Butcher, Samuel Henry. Aritotle’s Poetics. 1998. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/classics/resources/poetics/poettran.htm#QX123
- Claudon, David. Background on Homer’s The Iliad. 2001.
- Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Samuel Butler. 2000.
- Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Richmond Lattimore. University of Chicago Press. 1961.
- Umphrey, Stewart. Complexity Analysis. Lexington Books. 2002.