The Iliad Warfare Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Richmond Lattimore's translation.
'[…] there man's courage is best decided,
where the man who is a coward and the brave man show themselves clearly:
the skin of the coward changes colour one way and another,
and the heart inside him has no control to make him sit steady,
but he shifts his weight from one foot to another, then settles firmly
on both feet, and the heart inside his chest pounds violent
as he thinks of the death spirits, and his teeth chatter together:
but the brave man's skin will not change colour, nor is he too much
frightened, once he has taken his place in the hidden position,
but his prayer is to close as soon as may be in bitter division […].' (13.276-287)
In these words spoken to Meriones, Idomeneus says that war reveals the true nature of a person's character. Do you think this is true of stressful situations generally? What do you make of Idomeneus's distinction between someone who has courage and someone who lacks it?
'Hektor, you are too intractable to listen to reason.
Because the god has granted you the actions of warfare
therefore you wish in counsel also to be wise beyond others.
But you cannot choose to have all gifts given to you together.
To one man the god has granted the actions of warfare,
to one to be a dancer, to another the lyre and the singing,
and in the breast of another Zeus of the wide brows establishes
wisdom, a lordly thing, and many take profit beside him
and he saves many, but the man's own thought surpasses all others.' (13.726-734)
Poulydamas's advice to Hektor is similar to Nestor's advice to his son Antilochos in Book 23, lines 318-325 (quoted in our discussion of the theme of Competition). Nestor's advice, of course, doesn't have to do with war, but rather with how to win a chariot race. Both figures point out that brawns aren't everything – you've got to have brains too.
'Now I utterly despise your heart for the thing you have spoken;
you who in the very closing of clamorous battle
tell us to haul our strong-benched ships to the sea, so that even
more glory may befall the Trojans, who beat us already,
and headlong destruction swing our way, since the Achaians
will not hold their battle as the ships are being hauled seaward,
but will look about, and let go the exultation of fighting.
There, o leader of the people, your plan will be ruin.' (14.95-102)
Try to think about these lines (spoken to Agamemnon) alongside those by Aias quoted below from Book 15 (lines 733-741). Here, Odysseus is saying that the Achaians will only stay in battle formation if they know they are all in it together. Do you think Aias would agree with him?