The Iliad of Homer

Page: 353


This flight of the Greeks, according to Buttmann, Lexil. p. 358, was not a supernatural flight caused by the gods, but "a great and general one, caused by Hector and the Trojans, but with the approval of Jove."


Grote, vol. ii. p. 91, after noticing the modest calmness and respect with which Nestor addresses Agamemnon, observes, "The Homeric Council is a purely consultative body, assembled not with any power of peremptorily arresting mischievous resolves of the king, but solely for his information and guidance."


In the heroic times, it is not unfrequent for the king to receive presents to purchase freedom from his wrath, or immunity from his exactions. Such gifts gradually became regular, and formed the income of the German, (Tacit. Germ. Section 15) Persian, (Herodot. iii.89), and other kings. So, too, in the middle ages, 'The feudal aids are the beginning of taxation, of which they for a long time answered the purpose.' (Hallam, Middle Ages, ch. x. pt. 1, p. 189) This fact frees Achilles from the apparent charge of sordidness. Plato, however, (De Rep. vi. 4), says, "We cannot commend Phoenix, the tutor of Achilles, as if he spoke correctly, when counselling him to accept of presents and assist the Greeks, but, without presents, not to desist from his wrath, nor again, should we commend Achilles himself, or approve of his being so covetous as to receive presents from Agamemnon," &c.


It may be observed, that, brief as is the mention of Briseis in the Iliad, and small the part she plays—what little is said is pre-eminently calculated to enhance her fitness to be the bride of Achilles. Purity, and retiring delicacy, are features well contrasted with the rough, but tender disposition of the hero.


Laodice. Iphianassa, or Iphigenia, is not mentioned by Homer, among the daughters of Agamemnon.


"Agamemnon, when he offers to transfer to Achilles seven towns inhabited by wealthy husbandmen, who would enrich their lord by presents and tribute, seems likewise to assume rather a property in them, than an authority over them. And the same thing may be intimated when it is said that Peleus bestowed a great people, the Dolopes of Phthia, on Phoenix."—Thirlwall's Greece, vol. i Section 6, p. 162, note.


Pray in deep silence. Rather: "use well-omened words;" or, as Kennedy has explained it, "Abstain from expressions unsuitable to the solemnity of the occasion, which, by offending the god, might defeat the object of their supplications."


Purest hands. This is one of the most ancient superstitions respecting prayer, and one founded as much in nature as in tradition.


It must be recollected, that the war at Troy was not a settled siege, and that many of the chieftains busied themselves in piratical expeditions about its neighborhood. Such a one was that of which Achilles now speaks. From the following verses, it is evident that fruits of these maraudings went to the common support of the expedition, and not to the successful plunderer.


Pthia, the capital of Achilles' Thessalian domains.


Orchomenian town. The topography of Orchomenus, in Boeotia, "situated," as it was, "on the northern bank of the lake Æpais, which receives not only the river Cephisus from the valleys of Phocis, but also other rivers from Parnassus and Helicon" (Grote, vol. p. 181), was a sufficient reason for its prosperity and decay. "As long as the channels of these waters were diligently watched and kept clear, a large portion of the lake was in the condition of alluvial land, pre-eminently rich and fertile. But when the channels came to be either neglected, or designedly choked up by an enemy, the water accumulated in such a degree as to occupy the soil of more than one ancient islet, and to occasion the change of the site of Orchomenus itself from the plain to the declivity of Mount Hyphanteion." (Ibid.)


The phrase "hundred gates," &c., seems to be merely expressive of a great number. See notes to my prose translation, p. 162.


Compare the following pretty lines of Quintus Calaber (Dyce's Select Translations, p 88).—