Monday Morning PSA: What Does Honor Mean to the Dead?

Iliad 9.315-320

“I don’t think that I would obey Atreus’ son Agamemnon
Nor should the rest of the Danaans, since there is no recompense at all
For them to constantly struggle among hostile men.
The portion is the same for the man who hangs back and the one who fights hard:
The coward and the brave man fall into the same honor;
Both the lazy man and the man who works hard die the same.”

οὔτ’ ἔμεγ’ ᾿Ατρεΐδην ᾿Αγαμέμνονα πεισέμεν οἴω
οὔτ’ ἄλλους Δαναούς, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἄρα τις χάρις ἦεν
μάρνασθαι δηΐοισιν ἐπ’ ἀνδράσι νωλεμὲς αἰεί.
ἴση μοῖρα μένοντι καὶ εἰ μάλα τις πολεμίζοι•
ἐν δὲ ἰῇ τιμῇ ἠμὲν κακὸς ἠδὲ καὶ ἐσθλός•
κάτθαν’ ὁμῶς ὅ τ’ ἀεργὸς ἀνὴρ ὅ τε πολλὰ ἐοργώς.

Achilles, of course, realizes that there are different answers for different questions…Oh, he also compares himself to a mother bird (9.323-325)

2 thoughts on “Monday Morning PSA: What Does Honor Mean to the Dead?

    1. I think the mother bird image is attempt on the part of Achilles to express his feeling of sacrifice and care for the troops with a poignant image; on Homer’s part, I think it is both an attempt to characterize his self-centeredness and creative, even feverish speech with a simile that is not quite as apt as Achilles might have it (and an attempt to show him speaking passionately yet still eloquently on the fly). The secondary effect, is one of irony–caring for the troops is certainly not what he does in wishing for them to be killed by Trojans (in book 1) or sending Patroklos out in his stead in book 16…but that’s without more in depth thought on it…

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