The Iliad Friendship Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Richmond Lattimore's translation.
These two terrified and in awe of the king stood waiting
quietly, and did not speak a word at all nor question him.
But he knew the whole matter in his own heart, and spoke first:
'Welcome, heralds, messengers of Zeus and of mortals.
Draw near. You are not to blame in my sight, but Agamemnon
who sent the two of you here for the sake of the girl Briseis.' (1.331-336)
He spoke, and Diomedes of the great war cry was gladdened.
He drove his spear deep into the prospering earth, and in winning
words of friendliness he spoke to the shepherd of the people:
'See now, you are my guest friend from far in the time of our fathers. […]
Let us avoid each other's spears, even in the close fighting.
There are plenty of Trojans and famed companions in battle for me
to kill, whom the god sends me, or those I run down with my swift feet,
many Achaians for you to slaughter, if you can do it.
But let us exchange our armour, so that these others may know
how we claim to be guests and friends from the days of our fathers.' (6.212-215, 226-231)
For a full discussion of the Ancient Greek cultural institution of "guest friendship" or xenia (that's the term in Greek), turn to the relevant passage in our summary of Book 6. For the moment, though, isn't it amazing how this ritualized friendship, started generations ago, can make these two warriors put down their spears instead of killing each other?
Come then, let us give each other glorious presents,
so that any of the Achaians or Trojans may say of us:
"These two fought each other in heart-consuming hate, then
joined with each other in close friendship, before they were parted."' (7.299-302)
These words spoken by Hektor to Aias are another example of the fine line between friends and enemies. Can you think of any other examples – either elsewhere in the Iliad or in your own life – of opponents gaining grudging respect for each other?