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LESSON 2 - Second Part / First Part
ACHILLES' GRIEF - From Homer's Iliad

by George Valsamis




An act of freedom


ANTILOCHUS approaches Achilles with a sigh of sadness () referring to himself (μοι), who has to let Achilles know (πεύσεαι) such a greatly (μάλα) disastrous (λυγρῆς) message (ἀγγελίης).

To Homer and to all those who listened to Homer's poems knowing the course of events, this message prefigured the beginning of the victory of Greeks. But neither Homer, nor his audience, could care for such a secondary consequence: the message was indeed sad and disastrous. Patroclus's death was not a prerequisite to the victory of Greeks, it was not necessary for it to happen. Its cause was Achilles' refusal to fight, an unnecessary refusal.  

Homeric Gods are not as dominating as we sometimes think. If Achilles was to suffer a great grief, how great should be the grief of God, seeing His gift on the ground? And all of this depended on Achilles' free choice - a choice supported and not imposed by God. By choosing Achilles' wrath as the subject of Iliad, Homer recognised on the grounds of history an act (πρᾶξις) of freedom. In Homer and after him the Greek is the free man.

It was an act of freedom, but it was also a sad act, that ended with the loss of the glory of God. From now on the Greeks knew that they could not expect anything real from history. Alexander the Great knew it, and took the expedition of Greece to the end and beyond the end of the world, as Aeschines wrote.

The primary meaning of κεῖμαι is "I am embedded", and Achilles wanted to flow immediately to the same bed, to become like the oar in Elpenor's seashore-grave, that announced the impossibility of life from now on:

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Cf. The Complete Iliad * The Complete Odyssey
Greek Grammar * Basic New Testament Words * Greek - English Interlinear Iliad
Greek accentuation * Greek pronunciation

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