The conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon is one of the major plotlines in the Iliad. One aspect of it concerns Achilles’ woman, Briseis. Agamemnon took her as his prize instead of the daughter of Chryses, the priest of Apollo. Chryses tried to release the daughter. He suggested a ransom, but Agamemnon only agreed to exchange his daughter for another prize. Thus, he selected Briseis as his reward.
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Achilles was furious with this fact but could not decide what to do, “whether to draw his sword, push the others aside, and kill the son of Atreus, or to restrain himself and check his anger” (Homer 9). That is when Minerva came and told him that “you shall hereafter receive gifts three times as splendid by reason of this present insult. Hold, therefore, and obey” (Homer 10). However, Achilles was blinded by the revenge and refused to fight for the Achaeans. Moreover, he asks his mother, Thetis, to help Trojans win the war. When the Achaeans were almost defeated, Agamemnon decided to send Achilles gifts and persuade him to join the army.
Odysseus was the first to speak. He greeted Achilles, described the disastrous situation, and asked him to rise:
“So rouse yourself, late though it may be,
if you have a mind to save Achaeans
from their suffering at this Trojan onslaught.
If not, you’ll suffer future agonies.
You won’t find any cure for such despair.
Before that happens, you should think about
how to help Argives at this evil hour.
My friend, that day your father, Peleus,
sent you off, away from Phthia,
to join Agamemnon, didn’t he say this” (Homer 259)
Achilles was promised the following presents:
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which fire has not yet touched, ten gold talents,
twenty shining cauldrons, twelve strong horses
whose speed has triumphed, earned them prizes-
a man who’s won as much as Agamemnon
from racing these sure-footed animals
would not be poor or lack possessions
or precious gold. Then he will add to this
seven women of Lesbos, skilled in crafts” (Homer 261).
However, Achilles refused to take the gifts and claimed he did not believe Agamemnon. The second man to persuade Achilles was Phoenix. He promised all the possible honors to Achilles if he returns and saves the Achaeans. Nevertheless, Achilles responded that he did not need any honors. The third speaker, Ajax, did not address Achilles directly but spoke to his friends. He claimed that Achilles had no pity and advised Achilles to turn the evil in his heart into good. However, Achilles refused to return and help still feeling insulted by Agamemnon.
I believe that the choice of Achilles was not correct. He was one of the prominent warriors of the Achaeans. Since he was a son of a goddess, he was gifted with particular power. Definitely, as a man, he had a right to be offended. Nevertheless, then the lives of his people were in danger, he had to forget his offenses and help. His behavior was selfish. Thus, the criticism provided by Diomedes can be treated as fair. As for Ajax’s argument that even someone who has lost a relative must accept some form of compensation and reconcile, it is ambiguous. On the one hand, no gift can replace a close person. On the other hand, if the fate of many people depends on a person’s behavior in grief, that person should not consider just his or her feelings.
Homer. The Iliad. Penguin Classics, 1991.