The Iliad Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Richmond Lattimore's translation.
'Still, we will let all this be a thing of the past, though it hurts us,
and beat down by constraint the anger that rises inside us.
Now I am making an end of my anger. It does not become me
unrelentingly to rage on.' (19.65-68)
With these words, Achilleus makes his peace with Agamemnon. But do you think he really forgives him, or is it just that now an even bigger hatred (against Hektor) has distracted him?
'Poor fool, no longer speak to me of ransom, nor argue it.
In the time before Patroklos came to the day of his destiny
then it was the way of my heart's choice to be sparing
of the Trojans, and many I took alive and disposed of them.
Now there is not one who can escape death, if the gods send
him against my hands in front of Ilion, not one
of all the Trojans and beyond others the children of Priam.
So, friend, you die also. Why all this clamour about it?
Patroklos also is dead, who was better by far than you are.
Do you not see what a man I am, how huge, how splendid
and born of a great father, and the mother who bore me immortal?
Yet even I have also my death and my strong destiny,
and there shall be a dawn or an afternoon or a noontime
when some man in the fighting will take the life from me also
either with a spearcast or an arrow flown from the bowstring.' (21.99-113)
This famous passage throws a wrench in the machinery of the theme of compassion. On the one hand, it seems to be a classic example of the failure of compassion: after all, Achilleus is saying that nobody can offer him anything that will make him stop killing as many Trojans as he can. On the other hand, he does put himself in Lykaon's shoes, so to speak, when he imagines that one day he, too, will be violently killed. What do you make of this ambiguity?
'Hektor, argue me no agreements. I cannot forgive you.
As there are no trustworthy oaths between men and lions,
nor wolves and lambs have spirit that can be brought to agreement
but forever these hold feelings of hate for each other,
so there can be no love between you and me, nor shall there be
oaths between us, but one or the other must fall before then
to glut with his blood Ares the god who fights under the shield's guard.' (22.261-267)
Throughout history, nothing has prevented compassion so often as the belief that one's enemy isn't even a member of the same species. This is what Achilleus is getting at when he compares their situation to a fight between a man and a lion, or a lamb and a wolf – except that he, of course, wants to keep it that way. What do you think Homer wants us to think about Achilleus at this moment?