Comparing Achilles and Odysseus
Due on Thursday, September
will be your first formal essay. Your task is to describe the new hero
that Homer has created out of the aftermath of the Trojan War.
Essay Topic: Compare
and contrast the way that Homer characterizes his great epic heroes
Achilles and Odysseus. Draw conclusions about Homer's appraisal of the
changing values of Greek culture which these two men embody.
Can you come up with a thesis statement that explains Homer's purpose
in putting these two heroes back to back in The Iliad
and The Odyssey? What strengths and weaknesses of
character do both men exhibit? Who has the best chance at success? Why?
How do we discover
Homer's artistic intention?
1) First, describe the action of Book One: "The Quarrel by the Ships"
What happens? See if you can describe the action of the whole episode
in one simple sentence.
2) Next, do a close reading. Remember the key moments in the action and
re-read those passages:
rebuke of Chryses, the Trojan priest of Apollo who had come to the
Greek camp to ransom the return of his daughter, a prize of war (l.
- The horror
of Apollo's plague
- Achilles consults Calchas,
the seer, who at first refuses to say what he knows because he fears Agamemenon's wrath. Achilles
assures him that he will be protected if he speaks the truth.
- Agamemnon refuses to free Chryses,
his prize, unless his soldiers pay him recompense! (l.120-140)
Argument between Achilles and Agamemnon (l.140ff) What
is it that really rankles Agamemnon? How about Achilles? Is it the girl?
taunts Achilles and
urges him to dishonor himself by deserting. (l. 205) Then he declares
that in recompense for the loss of his prize, he will take Achilles'
What prevents Achilles from attacking Agamemnon right then and there?
(l.222) How did the
Greeks understand the relationship between gods and men? What does
Achilles do instead? (l.265ff.)
- Achilles' Rage (l.262-289)
Despite Nestor's intercession (l. 302-332), Agamemnon and Achilles
refuse to be reconciled.
Why is he so
upset? Is it because he has lost his concubine, Briseis?
What should we think of his prayer to his mother? What does she agree to do?
- Zeus and Hera's Argument, and Hephaestus'
3) After doing a close reading of the text, take a step
back and think about what Homer is up to.
- What values are most prized by the Mycenaean
- How do Achilles and Agamemnon define 'honor'?
- What is really going on in this conflict? Why do
they hate each other so much?
- What is Homer's attitude towards these men?
- What is Homer's comment upon Achilles' warrior
- What does Homer imply is the true meaning of honor?
4) Write your paragraph on Achilles.