Myth of Niobe

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Kelvin Tang

Humanity Restored

In the final book of the Iliad, Achilles tells a story that is not as simple as the words suggest. On the surface, the tale about Niobe and her phase of mourning of her 12 children seems to be about how a concerned mother who stays "sane" and remembers to eat in order to not ultimately collapse into depression. As a result, she is able to "stand above" her past and mourn naturally. Whereas in plain text, that is what the myths suggests, the underlying meaning that Achilles is trying to convey is that he is able to regain his composure and humanity and that while it is important to grieve for the death of your love ones, its most important to stay sane and live life.

The story that Achilles tells is after a small conflict that emerges between King Priam and himself once the king arrives in his tent. Once the king had made it safely to Achilles's tent with the guidance of Hermes, he is instantly angered and flustered by Achilles's tone and "beating around the bush". He believes that since the great warrior had "taken [the] first step and allowed [him]/To live and see the light of day" (The Iliad, Book XXIV, 602-603), he was going to just hand over the body of Hector and let him leave. Achilles then replies with a rageful comment implying that he is doing this not because he wants to but because "A messenger came to [him]/ From Zeus - my own natural mother," (The Iliad, Book XXIV, 606-607).The real first step in Achilles's mind is not letting Priam live but instead opening his ears to the gods and following through with their will. This shows that he is once again living in fear of the gods and regaining his humanity and right state of mind like all other mortals do on a daily basis. The burning of offerings and construction of temples are not because mortals enjoy praising the gods, but because of their fear for them. Achilles, while born with godlike attributes, is still a mortal and as a result should be living in fear, and...
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