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The Iliad

The Iliad


by Homer

The Iliad Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Richmond Lattimore's translation.

Quote #1

Now as he came back the king spun another entangling
treachery; for choosing the bravest men in wide Lykia
he laid a trap, but these men never came home thereafter
since all of them were killed by blameless Bellerophontes.
Then when the king knew him for the powerful stock of the god,
he detained him there, and offered him the hand of his daughter,
and gave him half of all the kingly privilege. (6.188-193)

Okay, so you might argue that this is less a case of compassion or forgiveness than of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." This wouldn't be wrong.

On the other hand, it is true that, oftentimes, forgiveness comes about when you see another side of someone that you hadn't seen before – as, in this case, the king of Lykia sees that Bellerophontes is going to make easy work of any trap he sets for him. Also, you have to think about this from Bellerophontes's perspective. He could have easily said, "Forget you, I'm not marrying your daughter, not after all the times you tried to kill me." (Admittedly, his own family tried to kill him, so he doesn't have that many places to turn.) The fact that he's willing to become a member of the Lykian king's household shows that he, too, is willing to let bygones be bygones.

Quote #2

'[…] a man takes from his brother's slayer
the blood price, or the price for a child who was killed, and the guilty
one, when he has largely repaid, stays still in the country,
and the injured man's heart is curbed, and his pride, and his anger
when he has taken the price; but the gods put in your breast a spirit
not to be placated, bad, for the sake of one single
girl.' ( 9.632-638)

In these lines, Aias reminds Achilleus of the traditional ways in which people put aside their differences and learn to forgive. He cannot understand why Achilleus persists in being so hard-hearted, and encourages him to have a bit more sympathy with the other Achaeans. Unfortunately, things are bound to get worse before they get better.

Quote #3

"Take us alive, son of Atreus, and take appropriate ransom. […]"
Thus these two cried out upon the king, lamenting
and in pitiful phrase, but they heard the voice that was without pity:
"If in truth you are the sons of wise Antimachos,
that man who once among the Trojans assembled advised them
that Menelaos, who came as envoy with godlike Odysseus,
should be murdered on the spot nor let go back to the Achaians,
so now your mutilation shall punish the shame of your father." (11.131, 136-142)

This incident, like so many in the book, shows the breakdown or failure of compassion. Why do you think Agamemnon acts the way he does? What does that make you think of him?

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