The Iliad Competition Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Richmond Lattimore's translation.
'Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, and wars and battles;
and if you are very strong indeed, that is a god's gift.' (1.177-178)
Even though Agamemnon is talking about Achilleus as a warrior, what he has to say could be applied to any sort of competition. Basically, he's saying that Achilleus isn't any better than he is, because whatever advantage he has is because some god has helped him. The modern-day controversy about doping in sports comes out of similar feelings as Agamemnon's. What do you think about the role of doping in sports? Is it fair when someone has access to an advantage that no one else does?
'Yes, old sir, all this you have said is fair and orderly.
Yet here is a man who wishes to be above all others,
who wishes to hold power over all, and to be lord of
all, and give them their orders, yet I think one will not obey him.'(1.286-289)
When Agamemnon makes this complaint during his big argument with Achilleus, he reveals an underlying factor in their contest: the competition for political authority. Did you ever wonder why, when someone seeks political office, we say that he or she is "running" for it? Or, for that matter, why we call it a race?
'But when the other drove to his feet, resourceful Odysseus,
he would just stand and stare down, eyes fixed on the ground beneath him,
nor would he gesture with the staff backward and forward, but hold it
clutched hard in front of him, like any man who knows nothing.
Yes, you would call him a sullen man, and a fool likewise.
But when he let the great voice go from his chest, and the words came
drifting down like the winter snows, then no other mortal
man beside could stand up against Odysseus.' (3.216-223)
Can you think of any activity in the Iliad that doesn't lend itself to some form of competition? Here, Antenor is praising Odysseus for his incredible speaking ability, which he contrasts with that of Menelaos (immediately before these lines). Although Menelaos and Odysseus are not going head-to-head with each other in a formal contest, it still makes sense to think of them as competing in some underlying way. At least Antenor seems to think so.