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The Iliad | Quotes

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1.

O my son, my sorrow, why did I ever bear you?/... doomed twice over.


Thetis, Book 1

It is a terrible thing for a parent to foresee the death of a child, even a brawny, grown one. Thetis, the sea goddess who is Achilles's mother, knows he is fated to die at Troy. (At least that is one of his fates.) And now he must suffer dishonor for much of his remaining time as well, compounding both their sufferings.

2.

Now be men, my friends! .../Dread what comrades say of you here in bloody combat!


Agamemnon, Book 5

In the first battle in The Iliad, the leader of the Achaeans sums up the significance of honor: it's basically what others say about you based on your performance in battle. Fighters seen cutting and running will be dishonored. He goes on to say fear of dishonor makes fighters stand their ground together, helping keep more of them alive.

3.

Zeus ... Grant this boy, my son,/may be like me, first in glory among the Trojans.


Hector, Book 6

Hector prays over his baby son before he returns to battle. Although he recognizes that the destruction of Troy, the death of his family, and the capture and enslavement of his wife are possible outcomes of continuing to fight, honor demands that he continue to seek glory. Despite the costs, glory is also what he most wishes for his son.

4.

First they fought with heart-devouring hatred,/then they parted, bound by pacts of friendship.


Hector, Book 6

According to Hector, this is what will be said of him and Great Ajax after their duel and exchange of gifts. This statement emphasizes the conflicted relationship between the honorable values of glorious combat and friendly respect. This pact of friendship will not prevent them trying to kill each other the next day, but the exchange of gifts is recognition that they faced an honorable opponent.

5.

The same honor waits/for the coward and the brave. They both go down to Death.


Achilles, Book 9

Although he has been very mindful of his honor in the past, when Agamemnon offers Achilles extravagant prizes in Book 9 to replace the one he took, Achilles makes a couple of statements, like this one, seeming to reject honor. Some think Achilles realizes he doesn't need these honors because he is going to die soon. Others believe he is rejecting the concept of honor altogether.

6.

Even the gods themselves can bend and change.


Phoenix, Book 9

Phoenix asks Achilles to give up his anger and return to the fighting. If the immortal gods can do it, so can Achilles. Of course, not all the gods are capable of forgiveness—Hera, Athena, and Poseidon all hold grudges against Troy—and Achilles is not about to forgive either.

7.

Bird signs!/Fight for your country—that is the best, the only omen!


Hector, Book 12

This is the first time that Hector disdains Polydamas's advice, and he continues to attack the Achaeans despite the bad omen of an eagle dropping a snake it has caught after being bitten by it. Polydamas rightly interprets that this bodes badly for the Trojans. The second time Hector ignores his advice is even more fateful.

8.

If only strife could die .../and anger that drives the sanest man to flare in outrage.


Achilles, Book 18

When he learns of Patroclus's death, Achilles briefly curses the anger that kept him from protecting his greatest friend. He wishes anger and strife could die from the world altogether. Of course this is an impossible wish, and Achilles soon loses himself in rage again, only redirected from Agamemnon to Hector. However, it represents a brief moment of self-awareness for this hero not otherwise given to self-reflection.

9.

So grief gives way to grief, my life one endless sorrow!


Briseis, Book 19

Briseis is a hostage of war, seized when Achilles defeated one of the towns around Troy. Other parts of the poem indicate that these women were expected to help mourn along with their captors. However, Briseis's sorrow over the death of Patroclus seems genuine. She says he was kind and helped her work toward regaining status by becoming Achilles's wife rather than a slave. She has already lost her family, and now she has lost her best support among the Achaeans as well.

10.

Here was a man not sweet at heart, not kind, no,/he was raging, wild.


Narrator, Book 20

This is how the narrator describes Achilles when he kills the Trojan fighter Tros as he begs for his life. Achilles's rage is the focus of the epic, and there is no room in his heart for mercy, especially after his greatest friend in the world, Patroclus, has been killed by the Trojans.

11.

Come, friend, you too must die. .../Even Patroclus died, a far, far better man than you.


Achilles, Book 21

As another Trojan begs for his life, Achilles displays the fatalistic view that now governs his actions. His greatest friend has died, and he will die soon as well. Death comes to everyone, so what point is there to mercy?

12.

You ... were their greatest glory while you lived—/now death and fate have seized you.


Andromache, Book 22

Hector's wife, Andromache, speaks these words after learning of his death. Not only has fate seized Hector, it is about to seize Troy. He was the city's protector, and without him it is destined to fall.

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