Supplication in the Iliad

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Jose DiazCLAS 250W
There are many instances of ‘begging’ in the Iliad. A formal supplication can involve gestures such as grasping someone's knees or touching their chin. There is usually an offer of gifts or favors, or a reminder of past gifts or favors, as well as arguments for granting the present request. Scenes of supplication are frequent in Homer, both in battle structures and in non-military interactions. Examples of this type scene of supplication are early in the poem, when Chryses, the priest of Apollo, begs for Agamemnon to return his daughter; the scene between Andromache and Hector in book six, the scene between the Achain leaders and Achilles in book nineteen and late in the story, when Priam begs for his son's body. In the Iliad, all of the supplications fail with the exception of one.

The first scene occurs at the very beginning of Book One, and in effect gets the whole thing underway. Agamemnon has captured a girl, Chryseis, the daughter of the priest Chryses, and he intends to keep her. He says in fact that "I rank her higher / than Clytemnestra, my wedded wife" (1.132-133). Despite the fact that he is married, and he is taking the girl to make a slave of her, he is clearly besotted with her and refuses to give her up. Her father, who is a priest of Apollo, begs Agamemnon to release her, and even offers him gifts as ransom, but Agamemnon still refuses to let her go. The two characters involved here, Chryses and Agamemnon are very different in stature. Chryses is a priest and Agamemnon is a king, so they are unequal in rank. But in The Iliad, the gods are a real, tangible presence and we would think that Agamemnon would know better than to anger them. Agamemnon says that he will give her up if it's absolutely necessary, but then he wants something in return, because if he does lose her it's a matter of honor. Achilles tries to reason with him and they quarrel, and Agamemnon says he'll take...
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