Chapter 3. One-on-one Conversations (Iliad)

The Odyssey, as we have seen, uses conversation to dramatize the conflict between honesty and concealment that underlies Odysseus’ various reunions on Ithaca and indeed, much of the social interaction in the poem as a whole. The Iliad, too, uses one-on-one conversations to depict significant themes and types of social interactions. However, both the areas toward which conversation in the Iliad directs our emphasis and the manner in which conversation is used to focus our attention differ noticeably from what we find in the Odyssey. Conversation in the Iliad is both less prevalent and less widely used than it is in the Odyssey. As we will see in this chapter, the Iliad has very few one-on-one conversations outside of battle contexts. In addition, the average length of a conversation in the Iliad is three speeches; in the Odyssey it is four speeches. [1] It appears that the basically cooperative nature of conversational exchange between two people in some sense is at odds with the competitive and hostile ethos that pervades the poem.
Indeed, hostility and competition consistently characterize one-on-one conversations: the two speakers in the few extended conversations in the Iliad are either spouses who are at odds (Zeus and Hera) or enemies who have temporarily laid aside their hostility (Achilles and Priam). Conversely, characters who appear to have a harmonious relationship to one another in fact do not engage in the exchange sequences that typify one-on-one conversation (Hector and Andromache). Thus, although conversation in the Odyssey is an exchange system that to some extent presupposes a relation of equality between the participants, in the Iliad, the presence of a conversation tends to emphasize some kind of conflict or hostility rather than similarity or parity between the speakers. This chapter will focus on variations and elaborations in the typical one-on-one conversational structure that occur in the Iliad.

Hector and Andromache: Book 6

Let us begin with a one-on-one conversation in the Iliad that does not follow the normal alternating sequence of such conversations. In a famous scene between Hector and Andromache in Book 6, Andromache and Hector meet for the last time before Hector is killed by Achilles. Andromache asks her husband not to leave the city and he refuses. In this sequence, which appears to be a conversation, Andromache only makes the first speech in the series (6.407-439). She reminds Hector of her past history and all that he means to her, and begs him to remain with her in the city rather than go out of the walls to meet Achilles. Hector makes all the rest of the speeches in this scene. First he refuses Andromache’s request (441-465), alluding to his concern for his reputation among the Trojans as well as his concern for her fate after his death and the fall of Troy. Then, after the famous incident in which the young Astyanax draws back screaming in fear from Hector’s helmet, Hector prays to Zeus on behalf of his son (476-481); finally, he addresses Andromache once again, telling her not to feel so sorry about that which is fated (486-493). The scene ends when Andromache leaves Hector to return to her quarters.
Mackie has argued that Hector, unlike the Greek leaders, consistently refuses to engage in give-and-take with his men in the public context of the assembly about how to conduct the war against the Greeks. [2] By looking at the structure of his “conversation” with Andromache, we can see that the same lack of engagement appears here too. Hector is, in fact, “confined to a world of his own for much of this encounter.” [3] Although critics have long admired this episode for its vivid, moving character, [4] it is striking that in fact, the husband and wife never exchange ideas or feelings. After Andromache has reproached Hector for leaving her, she next speaks to him when she laments over his corpse in the final book of the poem. In comparison to the extensively developed conversations between Odysseus and Penelope that chronicle and ultimately effect the reunion between the two, these spouses are not engaged in any kind of substantive exchange. Indeed, the Iliad does not offer us any picture of two spouses who converse in cooperative harmony with each other. This is one of the ways in which the overall sense of conflict in the poem emerges.

Hera and the Seduction of Zeus: Book 14

A different husband and wife portrait emerges from the trickery of Hera in Book 14. Here, too, we see two spouses who are failing to engage in the kind of cooperative exchange that conversation implies in the Odyssey, but these two spouses are actively at odds rather than simply failing to connect. Here, Hera duplicitously acquires a magical girdle of sexual allure from Aphrodite, which she uses to seduce Zeus into post-coital exhaustion and insensibility while Poseidon helps the Greeks on the battlefield. Hera is repeatedly characterized in her conversations with both Aphrodite and Zeus as “tricky,” an unusual epithet for her that is restricted almost exclusively to this episode and to specific remarks in which Hera is actively misleading someone. [5] Similarly, the conversation overall dramatizes the conflict between the two divine spouses over the fate of Troy and the lengths to which Hera is willing to go in order to prevail over Zeus. Depicting conflict through conversation between spouses indirectly shows the audience how pervasive conflict is in the world of the Iliad.
The mostly commonly found single-verse reply formula for speeches by Hera is
τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη [6]

Then the goddess the ox-eyed Hera answered him
The existence of a metrical doublet for βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη, namely θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη (the goddess Hera of the white arms) has given rise to much scholarly debate. [7] Both of these noun-epithet formulas are the same length metrically, and both begin with a single consonant, so they are metrically equivalent. Inquiries into the overall pattern of distribution of the two expressions have been inconclusive. However, in the context “single-verse reply formulas,” we find that βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη dominates almost exclusively over θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη, which appears in a single-verse reply formula equivalent to τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη only once in the Iliad:
τὴν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη [8]

In turn the goddess Hera of the white arms answered her
Where θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη does appear in a speech introductory context, with the single exception of the verse just quoted, the speech introduction usually does not precede a reply. Moreover, introductions containing θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη are usually two verses long and the verb of speaking generally does not appear in the same verse as the noun-epithet formula, for example:
ἔνθ’ ἵππους στήσασα θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη
Ζῆν’ ὕπατον Κρονίδην ἐξείρετο καὶ προσέειπε

There the goddess of the white arms, Hera, stopping her horses,
spoke to Zeus, high son of Kronos, and asked him a question:
Iliad 5.755-756 [9]
This couplet precedes an initial speech, not a reply. Other couplets similar to this one also contain information beyond the idea “Hera answered him/her” in the same verse as the formula θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη, e.g. ἵππους στήσασα (stopping her horses, 5.755) or τοὺς δὲ ἰδοῦσ’ ἐλέησε (seeing them she took pity, 8.350). In addition, they often appear with initial speeches rather than replies. So, in speech introductory contexts, the formula βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη appears in single-verse reply formulas, while θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη appears in multi-verse introductions. [10]
In Iliad 14, on the other hand, the epithets in single-verse reply formulas for Hera change to fit the narrative context. During Hera’s deception, we find several instances of the unusual reply formula
τὴν/τὸν δὲ δολοφρονέουσα προσηύδα πότνια Ἥρη [11]

Then, with false lying purpose the lady Hera answered him/her
The underlined participle, which literally means “being tricky-minded,” is manifestly appropriate to this episode. The point that this word makes is not that Hera is δολοφρονέουσα by nature, [12] but that she is so in this particular context. Not only that, but the speeches introduced by the δολοφρονέουσα verse have a common thread: they are all actively deceptive utterances. As we will see, when Hera tells the truth during this episode, the “tricky” verse does not appear. In speaking to Aphrodite, for instance, when Hera begins the conversation by telling the goddess that she wants to talk to her, basically straightforward language introduces her request.
βῆ ῥ’ ἴμεν ἐκ θαλάμοιο, καλεσσαμένη δ’ Ἀφροδίτην
τῶν ἄλλων ἀπάνευθε θεῶν πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπε·

She went out from the chamber, and called aside Aphrodite
to come away from the rest of the gods, and spoke a word to her:
Iliad 14.188-189
Hera asks Aphrodite if she would entertain a request from her, even though they are on opposite sides in the Trojan War (190-192). After a formulaic reply introduction (τὴν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα Διὸς θυγάτηρ Ἀφροδίτη [then the daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite, answered her], 193), Aphrodite invites Hera to tell her what she has in mind (194-196). Now Hera tells an untruth. The reply introduction τὴν δὲ δολοφρονέουσα προσηύδα πότνια Ἥρη (then, with false lying purpose the lady Hera answered her, 14.197) highlights her wily intentions. The most common reply formula, τὴν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη (then the goddess the ox-eyed Hera answered her), would do just as well here, but this unusual expression draws the audience in to Hera’s tricky plot and so heightens their enjoyment of it. She disingenuously asks Aphrodite for φιλότητα καὶ ἵμερον (loveliness and desirability, 198) in order—as she claims—to patch up a matrimonial dispute between Oceanus and Tethys (198-210). Aphrodite once again has a formulaic reply introduction (τὴν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπε φιλομμειδὴς Ἀφροδίτη [then in turn Aphrodite the laughing answered her], 211). [13] She agrees to help Hera, giving her a mysterious object of female attire from her bosom and promising her that it will allow her to accomplish her purposes (212-221).
Hera next visits Hypnus, to whom she does not tell any lies (232-293). Hera never misrepresents her intentions to Hypnus during this encounter, nor does the word δολοφρονέουσα (with tricky intention) appear in it. However, the “tricky” formula reappears in the conversation between Hera and Zeus, where her duplicity is at its most prominent. In this conversation, all of Hera’s speeches are deceptive, and they are all introduced by the reply formula that describes her as deceptive. These deceptions include a false reason for her supposed journey (301-311) and a factitious reluctance to make love when Zeus propositions her (330-340). Zeus, in contrast, whose thoughts and intentions are all too clear, has his replies introduced by the most common reply formula for him (τὴν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς [then in turn Zeus who gathers the clouds answered her], 312 = 341).
In this scene, the unusual reply formula for Hera accurately reflects not only the general context of this episode (the seduction of Zeus) but the content of the particular speech in question. The sole occurrence of the verse τὸν/τὴν δὲ δολοφρονέουσα προσηύδα πότνια Ἥρη outside of this episode in Book 14 reinforces this idea: Agamemnon uses it when he is relating a different occasion on which Zeus was deceived at the hands of his wife (Iliad 19.106). Agamemnon tells this story in the assembly in Book 19 as a sort of explanation or apology for his own misconduct toward Achilles. His basic point is that if Zeus can be deceived, what hope is there for mere mortals? In the story Agamemnon tells (19.85-133), Hera induces Zeus to swear an oath that the baby born on the day when Alcmene’s labor with Zeus’ son Hercules began would be a great ruler over his fellow men. Zeus thinks this will mean Hercules, naturally enough, but in fact Hera stays the labor of Alcmene and brings Eurystheus prematurely into the world.
τὸν δὲ δολοφρονέουσα προσηύδα πότνια Ἥρη·
“ψευστήσεις, οὐδ’ αὖτε τέλος μύθῳ ἐπιθήσεις.
εἰ δ’ ἄγε μοι ὄμοσσον, Ὀλύμπιε, καρτερὸν ὅρκον,
ἦ μὲν τὸν πάντεσσι περικτιόνεσσιν ἀνάξειν,
ὅς κεν ἐπ’ ἤματι τῷδε πέσῃ μετὰ ποσσὶ γυναικὸς
τῶν ἀνδρῶν οἳ σῆς ἐξ αἵματός εἰσι γενέθλης.”
ὣς ἐφατο· Ζεὺς δ’ οὔ τι δολοφροσύνην ἐνόησεν…

Then in guileful intention the lady Hera said to him:
“You will be a liar, not put fulfillment on what you have spoken.
Come, then, lord of Olympos, and swear before me a strong oath
that he shall be lord over all those dwelling about him
who this day shall fall between the feet of a woman,
that man who is born of the blood of your generation.” So Hera
spoke. And Zeus was entirely unaware of her falsehood . . .
Iliad 19.106-112
Here, Agamemnon’s concluding sentence emphasizes that Zeus did not understand her crafty intentions (112). His statement contains a noun repeating the idea of the participle δολοφρονέουσα, [14] which highlights the trickiness of Hera’s action. In addition, it reminds the audience that it was Zeus, the powerful head of the Olympic pantheon, whom Hera tricked, just as she did in Book 14. Indeed, all the speeches preceded by τὴν/τὸν δὲ δολοφρονέουσα προσηύδα πότνια Ἥρη (then in guileful intention the lady Hera said to him/her) deal with tricking Zeus; in all but one, Hera speaks to Zeus himself in terms manifestly at variance with her intentions. [15] Her trickery, in both episodes, deludes the generally all-powerful Zeus and produces the desired result. [16]
In sum, this alternative formula for Hera not only emphasizes her tricky behavior at moments when she is, in fact, being tricky. In a larger sense, the conflict between these two spouses dramatizes larger issues for the story of the Iliad: the poem is characterized by a pervasive sense of hostility and competition not only on the battlefield (as we will see in the next chapter), but in kinds of interactions which in another world—such as the Odyssey—would be harmonoius. Spouses in the Iliad, unlike spouses in the Odyssey, are in important ways not on the same wavelength. This point comes home more dramatically and effectively because it is represented through conversation, a basic kind of cooperative social interaction.
In some ways the formulas that appear for Hera in this conversation resembles the context-specific participles that are found instead of ἀπαμειβόμενος (taking an answering turn) in the reply formula τὸν δ’ [participle, ⏑⏑–⏑⏑–] προσέφη [name/epithet, ⏑⏑–⏑⏑––], and we can imagine a scenario in which a poet, wishing to create a reply formula with a participle that was not shaped ⏑⏑–⏑⏑–, came up with the verse form τὸν δὲ [participle, ⏑–⏑⏑–⏑] προσηύδα [name/epithet, –⏑⏑––]. [17] However, metrical problems with the particular participle δολοφρονέουσα seem to me insufficient to explain the use of this verse in comparison to other context-specific participles.
The word δολοφρονέουσα appears in patterns that more closely resemble those for meaningful epithets [18] than for meaningful participles. By way of comparison, the context-specific participles listed in Appendix II almost never modify the same character more than once in the same scene. Their function appears to be to emphasize the speaker’s demeanor at a peak of some kind, not to bring out a consistent or ongoing aspect of the scene or the character. Of the seven participles in Appendix II that appear more than once, only ὑπόδρα ἰδών (looking darkly) appears more than once in the same episode to modify the same character. In both scenes where this is the case, the character in question has reached a fever pitch of battlefield rage, and so the repetition of a formula that normally conveys a peak of anger is appropriate (Achilles in Iliad 22 [260 and 344] and Odysseus in Odyssey 22 [34 and 60, which have different addressees]). Moreover, in neither of these scenes does the context-specific participle occur in two successive turns for the same speaker during a one-on-one conversation. If we want to find a distributional pattern like that which we have observed for δολοφρονέουσα, which appears repeatedly in a single conversation between two individuals to bring out a pertinent aspect of the speaker’s character when she makes certain speeches, we must look to the distribution of epithets for Telemachus and for Odysseus in the Odyssey.

Priam and Achilles: Book 24

This chapter closes with part of the conclusion of the Iliad, namely the meeting between Priam and Achilles in Book 24, where one-on-one conversation once again plays a significant role. The elaborations in this conversation are constructed much like those we have seen in the important reunions in the Odyssey. As in the Odyssey, these elaborations and the conversation overall draw out a key aspect of the conversation that also has a significant role in the story of the Iliad overall. However, the particular idea that this conversation emphasizes differs substantially from the issues of concealment that underlie the Odyssey. This conversation, after which we bid farewell to Achilles, depicts simultaneously the emotional spectacle of two implacable enemies meeting on the common ground of filial relations, and the depth of the underlying hatred between them, which is overcome only temporarily and incompletely by this fleeting moment of mutual understanding and emotional release. This shows the essential similarity of the conversational type and its aesthetic possibilities in the Iliad and the Odyssey, but the very different thematic interests of the two poems.
Some critics of the poem have called its final book a later composition, often by a supposed younger poet who also composed the Odyssey (or some sections of it). [19] Other readers, in contrast, have asserted that it must be an integral part of the design of the poem as a whole, since it provides a resolution that is both effective and necessary to many of the main elements of the Iliad. [20] This argument about the status of Book 24 of the poem has not affected anyone’s appreciation for the meeting between Priam and Achilles in the Greek camp, which for most readers is one of the high points of the poem. That being the case, the aim of this analysis is to discuss the effects of this well-loved and thoroughly studied scene as one example of the overall system of type scenes and aesthetics that are the subject of this study. As Edwards says in his brief remarks on Book 24,
It may be thought . . . that no commentary is required to explain its emotional impact. But the effect is produced by art, and the techniques of that art are not simple; and a careful study of the choices the poet has made, the allusions that lie in the background, and the appropriateness of the treatment of traditional motifs will probably, for most readers, further enrich their appreciation of this superb episode. [21]
Iliad 24 contains several conversations that have unusual features of various kinds. [22] Priam and Hermes have a particularly long conversation when Hermes meets Priam on his way to Achilles’ camp (24.352-441). This conversation lengthens the dangerous journey that Priam is making against the advice and entreaties of his family; by doing so, it focuses the audience’s attention on the aged Priam’s simultaneous fear, grief, and determination to brave whatever dangers are in store for him. It also provides a way to stretch out the journey in the poem. Most journeys, in contrast, pass very quickly in the narrative, with little attempt to represent the passage of story time in the text. [23] Thus, the conversation here draws the audience in during Priam’s experiences on this frightening and important journey. The narrator uses conversation between Priam and Hermes to present this journey from Priam’s point of view and to create sympathy for him before the encounter with Achilles begins.
Once Priam arrives, however, the simile that precedes his supplication to Achilles encompasses the perspectives of both Achilles and Priam. At the same time, it inverts key aspects of the scene in which it appears. [24] Often, Homeric similes emphasize a particular theme of an important episode through a comparison of what is happening in the story to an image which somehow inverts a central aspect of the scene. The last extended simile of the Iliad uses such a reversal to describe the amazement of Achilles when Priam suddenly appears in his camp to ransom the body of Hector: [25]
τοὺς δ’ ἔλαθ’ εἰσελθὼν Πρίαμος μέγας, ἄγχι δ’ ἄρα στὰς
χερσὶν Ἀχιλλῆος λάβε γούνατα καὶ κύσε χεῖρας
δεινὰς ἀνδροφόνους, αἵ οἱ πολέας κτάνον υἷας.
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἄνδρ’ ἄτη πυκινὴ λάβῃ, ὅς τ’ ἐνὶ πάτρῃ
φῶτα κατακτείνας ἄλλων ἐξίκετο δῆμον,
ἀνδρὸς ἐς ἀφνειοῦ, θάμβος δ’ ἔχει εἰσορόωντας,
ὣς Ἀχιλεὺς θάμβησεν ἰδὼν Πρίαμον θεοειδέα·
θάμβησαν δὲ καὶ ἄλλοι, ἐς ἀλλήλους δὲ ἴδοντο.
τὸν καὶ λισσόμενος Πρίαμος πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπε·
“μνῆσαι πατρὸς σοῖο…”

Tall Priam
came in unseen by the other men and stood close beside him
and caught the knees of Achilleus in his arms, and kissed the hands
that were dangerous and manslaughtering and had killed so many
of his sons. As when dense disaster closes on one who has murdered
a man in his own land, and he comes to the country of others,
to a man of substance, and wonder seizes on those who behold him,
so Achilleus wondered as he looked on Priam, a godlike
man, and the rest of them wondered also, and looked at each other.
But now Priam spoke to him in the words of a suppliant:
“Remember your father . . . ”
The simile (480-483) compares Achilles’ surprise to that which people feel when someone stained by bloodguilt appears at their house. However, the subject of the verses immediately preceding the simile is not Achilles, but Priam (477), and his behavior as he supplicates Achilles by touching his knees and kissing his hands. These hands receive particular emphasis as both the first and the last word of verse 478. They are modified by an adjectival relative clause in adding enjambment [26] that emphasizes the terrible suffering Priam has endured because of the hands he is now kissing: χεῖρας / δεινὰς ἀνδροφόνους, αἵ οἱ πολέας κτάνον υἷας (hands / that were dangerous and manslaughtering and had killed so many of his sons, 478-479). [27] Verse 479 directs attention even more strongly to Achilles’ hands. In addition, the syntactical construction here allows us to imagine an alternative version of the passage that omits verse 479 and its affecting details about just what these hands of Achilles have done that Priam is now kissing. Without this verse, Priam’s arrival at Achilles’ tent would be more expeditious but less poignant.
Both Priam and Achilles in their different ways resemble the man in the simile who has killed another man and flees his homeland to seek asylum elsewhere. However, the language at the beginning of the simile discourages an audience from identifying this man too closely with either Priam or Achilles. ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἄνδρ’ ἄτη πυκινὴ λάβῃ (as when dense disaster closes on one, 480) has an abstraction rather than a person as the subject and the direct object is a generalized ἄνδρ’ (man) rather than a more identifiable individual. This means that while the vignette in the simile has points of similarity with both characters, the language prevents too strong an identification with either. This simile, in fact, resembles those used in Odysseus’ reunions with his son and his wife: [28] it both draws the two speakers together and indirectly emphasizes some kind of difference or gulf between them. The supplication described in the simile also points forward to the supplication that Priam is about to make to Achilles (486-506), drawing out the importance of the idea of suppliancy for the scene as a whole.
Both the prelude to Priam’s speech and the passage immediately following it contain many different elaborations that highlight the themes of supplication, parenthood, grief, memory, and bereavement that underlie not only this scene but the entire Iliad. Before and while Priam speaks, it is he alone who feels these emotions; the success of his appeal to Achilles, depicted in the speech frame immediately following his speech, comes from its appeal to Achilles’ similar feelings and memories about his own family. For a more concise but less affecting prelude to the speech, the speech introduction which immediately precedes Priam’s supplicatory speech to Achilles could follow directly after verse 479, or even verse 478, omitting the simile altogether.
Moreover, the speech introduction itself rewards further scrutiny, insofar as it displays a noteworthy variation on common initial formula patterns. The pattern τὸν καὶ [name/modifier] πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπε (and [name, with modifier] addressed a speech to him) occurs five times in the Homeric epics for characters whose names have unusual metrical shapes. All the examples with the exception of this one have the form τὸν καὶ –⏑⏑– [name] πρότερος πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπε (and [speaker] first spoke a word to [him]). [29] Only here does the expression τὸν καὶ λισσόμενος (to him . . . as a suppliant) appear. This is particularly striking in light of the fact that Priam is the first to speak, and so the formulaic πρότερος modifier could have been used. Instead, we find a participial form of λίσσομαι (supplicate). This verb provides yet another reference to the idea of suppliancy in the scene, giving Priam’s words a kind of ritual status they would lack without it.
In one of the most moving speeches in the Iliad, Priam begs Achilles to accept ransom for the dead Hector. His speech focuses on many of the same ideas as the surrounding speech frames, and in some cases even use the same language as the speech frames. The very first words, μνῆσαι πατρὸς σοῖο (remember your father, 486), set the tone of the speech as a whole: Priam appeals to Achilles based on his memory for and emotional attachment to his own father, a feeling through which Priam links himself to his enemy. This idea appears again toward the end of the speech, after Priam has depicted his own greater paternal misery in contrast to Peleus’ and mentioned the goods with which he hopes to ransom Hector’s body: αὐτόν τ’ ἐλέησον / μνησάμενος σοῦ πατρός (take pity upon me / remembering your father, 503-504). The essential idea with which Priam tries to appeal to his enemy is Achilles’ memory of and feeling for his father.
A lengthy passage between this speech and Achilles’ reply rivets the attention of the audience on the cathartic and unifying grief of the two men (506-518). This passage, like Priam’s speech, focuses on the ideas of memory, grief, and filial relationships which Priam has succeeded in evoking in his previously implacable enemy.
ἀνδρὸς παιδοφόνοιο ποτὶ στόμα χεῖρ’ ὀρέγεσθαι.
ὣς φάτο, τῷ δ’ ἄρα πατρὸς ὑφ’ ἵμερον ὦρσε γόοιο·
ἁψάμενος δ’ ἄρα χειρὸς ἀπώσατο ἦκα γέροντα.
τὼ δὲ μνησαμένω ὃ μὲν Ἕκτορος ἀνδροφόνοιο
κλαῖ’ ἁδινὰ προπάροιθε ποδῶν Ἀχιλῆος ἐλυσθείς,
αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς κλαῖεν ἑὸν πατέρ’, ἄλλοτε δ’ αὖτε
Πάτροκλον· τῶν δὲ στοναχὴ κατὰ δώματ’ ὀρώρει.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥα γόοιο τετάρπετο δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς,
καί οἱ ἀπὸ πραπίδων ἦλθ’ ἵμερος ἠδ’ ἀπὸ γυίων,
αὐτίκ’ ἀπὸ θρόνου ὦρτο, γέροντα δὲ χειρὸς ἀνίστη
οἰκτίρων πολιόν τε κάρη πολιόν τε γένειον,
καί μιν φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·
“ἆ δείλ’, ἦ δὴ πολλὰ κάκ’ ἄνσχεο σὸν κατὰ θυμόν… ”

“…I put my lips to the hands of the man who has killed my children.
So he spoke, and stirred in the other a passion of grieving
for his own father. He took the old man’s hand and pushed him
gently away, and the two remembered, as Priam sat huddled
at the feet of Achilleus and wept close for manslaughtering Hektor
and Achilleus wept now for his own father, now again
for Patroklos. The sound of their mourning moved in the house. Then
when great Achilleus had taken full satisfaction in sorrow
and the passion for it had gone from his mind and body, thereafter
he rose from his chair, and took the old man by the hand, and set him
on his feet again, in pity for the grey head and the grey beard,
and spoke to him and addressed him in winged words: “Ah, unlucky,
surely you have had much evil to endure in your spirit … ”
This passage, whose narrative function is simply to effect a transition from Priam’s plea to Achilles’ response, is structurally equivalent to the single formulaic verse τὸν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς (then in answer again spoke Achilleus of the swift feet). That reply formula would admit various participles to describe the emotion of Achilles if that were the sole purpose of this extended passage of narration. [30] Instead, the passage uses a number of different elaborations to prolong this moment and draw out the grief that unites these two enemies. This grief, we are told once again, arises from the fact that Achilles is a son, Priam is a father, and both feel common emotions when remembering the father or son from whom they are separated. Some of the elaborations here are themselves longer or unusual versions of formulas that occur in different forms elsewhere in the Homeric epics, which increases the emphasis here even further.
The passage begins with a formulaic speech conclusion, something that rarely appears between two speeches in an ongoing one-on-one conversation (507). This particular formula has the basic structure ὣς φάτο, [dative object, sometimes also genitive of person for whom dative object is grieving] ὑφ’ ἵμερον ὦρσε γόοιο (thus he spoke, and aroused in [object(s)] a passion for grieving). [31] One object found with this formula is τοῖσι δὲ πᾶσιν (in all of them), which would fit the context here, but is not used. [32] The speech conclusion that we have in our passage, ὣς φάτο, τῷ δ’ ἄρα πατρὸς ὑφ’ ἵμερον ὦρσε γόοιο, appears once in the Odyssey. [33] In our passage, it highlights the grief of Achilles for his aged father far away in Phthia rather than focusing attention on the two men together, as the expression τοῖσι δὲ πᾶσιν would do. In other words, the narrator begins this elaboration by saying that Priam’s speech, which began and ended with the exhortation “remember your father,” has succeeded in its effort to unite him and Achilles by appealing to their common involvement in father-son relationships.
Following the speech conclusion, the grief of both men as they remember a son and father respectively is described in vivid detail. Verse 508, which is in adding enjambment with 507, in a few words shows Achilles gently (ἦκα) taking the old man (γέροντα) by the hand. This image contrasts vividly with the last verse of the speech, in which Priam kisses the same hand and calls the man whose hand it is παιδοφόνοιο (child-killing, 506). This emphasizes the transformative effect of Priam’s speech on Achilles, who instead of being a figure who causes violence and sorrow for Priam’s family is now united with Priam in healing grief for family members dead or far away. The picture of the two mourning men in 509-512 has points in common with a simile, including the repetition in verses 509-512 of vocabulary found in the speech immediately preceding the description: γόοιο (grieving, 507), μνησαμένω (remembering, 509), forms of κλαίειν (to weep) either with or without ἁδινά (close, 510 and 511), and στοναχή (sound, 512). These form a connected group of words evoking the themes of memory and loss in a manner analogous to what would occur in a simile. [34] Like a simile, these verses form a self-contained group that could be omitted to create a shorter and less effective version of the same passage. In addition, this set of vocabulary strongly evokes the language of formal lament for a loved one. We have already seen each man lament over the body of a beloved friend or child; [35] now we see them share this grief with one another, bridging the gulf between the two enemies. This description of the memory, grief and bereavement of both men together and not simply Priam alone marks the emotional peak of the scene.
After this, Achilles begins to calm down. At the same time, the description in the speech frames shows the perspective of Achilles alone rather than describing the feelings of both Achilles and Priam. 513 tells us that Achilles had his fill of weeping, beginning with the transitional expression αὐτὰρ ἐπεί (then when), which often marks a shift from narrative to speech. This particular verse calls to mind a similar verse from the Odyssey, ἡ δ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν τάρφθη πολυδακρύτοιο γόοιο (but when she had taken her pleasure of tearful lamentation, 19.251), which directly precedes a speech introduction at Odyssey 19.252. In our passage, however, the “when grief was satisfied” verse effects a transition not to speech but to further details of Achilles’ thoughts and feelings. This elongates the emotional decrescendo here, helping the audience to experience the gradual ebbing of terrible sorrow along with the characters. 24.514, in adding enjambment with the preceding verse, amplifies the end of Achilles’ grief, casting it as a physical departure of ἵμερος (passion) from his body.
Pity for the old man follows Achilles’ cathartic emotion for Peleus, pity which is repeatedly evoked by focusing on Priam as an old man and not as a king: γέροντα (old man, 515), πολιόν τε κάρη πολιόν τε γένειον (the grey head and the grey beard, 516). 516, in adding enjambment with the preceding verse, shows that Achilles raised Priam from his suppliant position out of pity for his age, strongly emphasized by the syntactic parallelism and anaphora of πολιόν τε κάρη πολιόν τε γένειον. This detail makes the scene vivid to an audience and gives Priam life as an old man rather than (e.g.) as the king of Troy. [36] The pity described at such evocative length in 513-516 may, in fact, be considered an extra-long version of the more usual single verse of emotional reaction with name/epithet that often precedes καί μιν φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα. It is, in fact, an extended version of a pattern of speech introductory language which is itself an extended version of single-verse speech introductions.
Let us now review the overall structure of this impressive passage. It contains a sequence of speech conclusion (507-508), passage amplifying the conclusion (509-512), and speech introduction (513-517). For each of these three components, a common formula that elsewhere occupies one verse (conclusion, although generally found at the end of a conversation rather than in the middle), two verses (ἔπεα πτερόεντα reply introduction), or no verses at all (description of the grief of Achilles and of Priam), expands to include a wider, richer variety of detail than would be possible in a shorter space. Not only that, but a single verse of the form τὸν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς (then in answer again spoke Achilleus of the swift feet) would perform the basic narrative function of the whole passage (“conclude speech A, introduce speech B”) equally well. A complex interrelated series of elaborations transforms this moment from an ordinary transition between speeches to a finely wrought vignette of two lonely and bereaved enemies who briefly find common ground in their shared grief. This conversation depicts Priam’s achievement in successfully supplicating Achilles (in contrast to the many unfortunate Trojan warriors whom Achilles kills on the battlefield) and in creating an emotional appeal to him that breaks through his grief and anger. At the same time, the enmity of the two heroes and of their respective peoples is never forgotten. Even at the height of their emotion, these two men remain enemies. Their moment of mutual harmony and understanding derives some of its force from the constant awareness that it is temporary, and that the hostilities that will destroy both Achilles and Priam will resume all too soon.


Overall, the Iliad contains few one-on-one conversations that are particularly elaborate, further emphasizing the meeting between Priam and Achilles. The Odyssey, on the other hand, contains many elaborate conversations. These conversations make use of the same kinds of techniques for elaboration that we have observed in the Iliad: unusually long turn sequences; variations of language within single-verse speech framing formulas, as in the deception that Hera carries out in Iliad 14; and lengthy and complex elaborations, as in the meeting between Priam and Achilles in Iliad 24. The two poems share the same typical patterns for one-on-one conversations, and the poetic techniques they use in order to draw out a conversation for aesthetic effect are also similar. Through extended conversations, each poem emphasizes a fairly consistent set of themes that relates to the poem’s depiction of interpersonal relations. The Odyssey, as we have seen, views personal relationships as complicated for Odysseus and his family by the conflicting claims of concealment and honesty. Relationships in the Odyssey are far from simple, but they are not essentially hostile in spite of the tensions they may engender in the poem’s characters. When Odysseus deceives Penelope, he does so in aid of their common goal of his return home.
The Iliad, on the other hand, depicts personal relationships as much more fleeting and problematic. People who should have harmonious and cooperative relationships do not, in fact, engage in conversational exchange, or else they use conversation to win a conflict; the only people in the poem depicted in an extended conversation that does not take place on the battlefield are enemies who put aside their hatred for each other only long enough to allow one of them to supplicate the other. The Iliad uses conversation, or the lack of it, to show the isolation of its characters and the primacy of conflict in human interaction. Indeed, the genres of conversation that the Iliad uses most extensively tend to involve a power differential between the speakers and/or groups rather than individuals as the defining participants in the conversation, or both. These genres are the subject of Part II.


[ back ] 1. This rough and ready figure was derived by finding the ratio of initial speeches to non-solo speeches (that is, to all speeches that are part of a conversation in some way). This ratio is 1:3.1 in the Iliad and 1:4.1 in the Odyssey.
[ back ] 2. E.g. Mackie 1996:27, 31-32. Odysseus follows a similar pattern in Odyssey 9-12.
[ back ] 3. Ibid. 120.
[ back ] 4. See e.g. Schadewaldt 1959:207-232 (“Hektor und Andromache”, translated in Wright and Jones 1997) for a famous appreciation of this scene and its role in the Iliad. Schadewaldt refers to the speeches in this meeting as “das Urbild eines ‘Redekampfes’” (the prototype of a dispute, 217), but I think this overstates the amount of engagement between the two via speaking (as opposed to gesture or other non-verbal means, on which Schadewaldt is extremely effective in the later part of his piece).
[ back ] 5. This is similar to the epithets for Telemachus in the last third of the Odyssey, as we saw in Chapter 1.
[ back ] 6. Iliad 1.551, 4.50, 14.263 (verb of speaking is δ’ αὖτε προσέειπε; various MSS give several different readings), 16.439, 18.360, 20.309. It is striking, given the preponderance of τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη (then the goddess the ox-eyed Hera answered) in speech introductions, that there are manuscript variants for only one such verse. Conversely, several MSS give τὴν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη instead of τὴν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη at 15.92.
[ back ] 7. E.g. Parry 1987:182; Beck 1986.
[ back ] 8. According to Janko 1981:259, this unusual verse appears under the influence of the appearance of θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη at 15.78. Another verse, τὸν δὲ χολωσαμένη προσέφη λευκώλενος Ἥρη (then bitterly Hera of the white arms answered him, saying; Iliad 24.55), uses the less common noun-epithet phrase in order to accommodate the participle χολωσαμένη. This verse is particularly interesting, moreover, because it allows us to reconstruct an acceptable single-verse reply formula that does not appear in the Homeric poems: *τὸν/τὴν δ’ ἀπαμειβομένη προσέφη λευκώλενος Ἥρη (white-armed Hera, taking an answering turn, addressed him/her).
[ back ] 9. See also Iliad 5.784-786, 8.350-351, 21.377-378, 21.418-419.
[ back ] 10. Hainsworth 1978:45 suggests that θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη “has gained considerable ground” versus βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη because of “the obscurity, or the embarrassment, of the sense of βοῶπις” (45). It is important to note that while this is true in the aggregate, it is almost entirely untrue in the context of traditional reply formulas. This reinforces the idea that reply introductions are an old and traditional part of the poetic vocabulary of Homeric epic.
[ back ] 11. Iliad 14.197, 14.300, 14.329; none of these verses have variants in the apparatus criticus. See also 19.106. Note that the verb προσηύδα (answered) is not found in its usual verse-final position.
[ back ] 12. See Parry 1987:21 on particularized vs. generalizing epithets. This concept goes back to a scholion of Aristarchus on Iliad 8.555, where he says οὕτως οὐ τὴν τότε οὖσαν φαεινήν (sc. σελένην), ἀλλὰ τὴν καθόλου φαεινήν [not that the moon is bright at that time, but because it is bright in general, emphasis mine].
[ back ] 13. For a discussion of the significance of these two metrically equivalent name-epithet formulas for Aphrodite, see Boedeker 1974:31-42.
[ back ] 14. Though not a ἅπαξ, δολοφροσύνη appears only in this passage; besides 19.112 above, we find Ἥρη θῆλυς ἐοῦσα δολοφροσύνῃς ἀπάτησεν (Hera who is female deluded even Zeus) at the beginning of Agamemnon’s account of the story (19.97).
[ back ] 15. The exception is her request for assistance from Aphrodite, 14.198-210.
[ back ] 16. The only other Homeric character described in this way is Odysseus (Odyssey 18.51, 21.274).
[ back ] 17. There is one other verse with a similar structure at Odyssey 1.252: τὸν δ’ ἐπαλαστήσασα προσηύδα Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη (Pallas Athene answered him in great indignation).
[ back ] 18. On which see in particular remarks about Odysseus and Telemachus in Chapter 1.
[ back ] 19. E.g. Reinhardt 1961:64n11, where he discusses the similarities between Books 1 and Book 24 in the context of asserting a later poet for Book 24 than for Book 1; and 469-506, which provides a list of similarities between Iliad 24 and the Odyssey (divided into older and younger Odyssey).
[ back ] 20. A position argued with passion and persuasiveness by Bowra 1930:105-106. Here he discusses a different possible ending in which Achilles dies and suggests why the ending found in the Iliad appears instead.
[ back ] 21. Edwards 1987:308.
[ back ] 22. The series of laments for Hector that closes the book will be discussed in Chapter 6.
[ back ] 23. See Rimmon-Kenan 1983, Chapter 4 on time in the text (the particular version of the story) vs. the story (the series of events that the text is relating).
[ back ] 24. See Edwards 1980:6 on this scene as an elaboration of the supplication type.
[ back ] 25. The reversal in this passage has struck many modern readers. Heiden’s recent article on this simile (1998b) is a fine analysis of the complex web of associations it contains.
[ back ] 26. Higbie 1990 is the definitive work on enjambment in Homer. See 29 for a definition of adding enjambment, a common method of linking a verse to the previous one in which the syntax of the two verses is independent.
[ back ] 27. This motif of “slaughtering hands” is repeated in the following speech (ἀνδρὸς παιδοφόνοιο ποτὶ στόμα χεῖρ’ ὀρέγεσθαι [put my lips to the hands of the man who has killed my children], 506).
[ back ] 28. Odyssey 16.213-221 and 23.231-247, respectively.
[ back ] 29. Iliad 5.632 (Tlepolemus), 13.306 (Meriones); Odyssey 16.460 (Telemachus), 17.74 (Peraeus).
[ back ] 30. Indeed, this verse (with the participial formula ὑπόδρα ἰδών [looking darkly]) introduces Achilles’ next speech (24.559).
[ back ] 31. Twice Iliad (23.108, 24.507), four times Odyssey (4.113, 4.183, 19.249, 23.231). Compare also the closely related expression at Odyssey 16.215, ἀμφοτέροισι δὲ τοῖσιν ὑφ’ ἵμερος ὦρτο γόοιο# (in both of them passion for grieving was stirred) and the speech concluding couplet at Iliad 23.152-153 that contains the half-verse ὑφ’ ἵμερον ὦρσε γόοιο# in 153.
[ back ] 32. At Iliad 23.108 and Odyssey 4.183. An expansion of this full-verse concluding formula that includes context-specific detail occurs at Iliad 23.152-153.
[ back ] 33. At Odyssey 4.113; see Reinhardt 1961:493-494 on different tones in these two passages.
[ back ] 34. In contrast, similarly constructed passages in the Odyssey (discussed in Chapters 1 and 2) regularly have similes following speech concluding verses ending with the half-verse ὑφ’ ἵμερον ὦρσε γόοιο#.
[ back ] 35. A detailed discussion of typical patterns for lament will appear in Chapter 6.
[ back ] 36. It is noteworthy that although Priam is the king of Troy, the most common noun-epithet for him refers not to his high position but to his old age: γέρων Πρίαμος θεοειδής (aged Priam the godlike). It is also noteworthy that although this expression appears seven times, and may therefore be considered “formulaic” from a purely numerical standpoint, it is found only in speech introductions in Book 24, where the idea of Priam’s age is most prominent in and important to the story.