Study Guide

The Iliad Hate

By Homer


Book 1

You wine sack, with a dog's eyes, with a deer's heart. Never
once have you taken courage in your heart to arm with your people
for battle, or go into ambuscade with the best of the Achaians.
No, for in such things you see death. Far better to your mind
is it, all along the widespread host of the Achaians
to take away the gifts of any man who speaks up against you.
King who feed on your people, since you rule nonentities;
otherwise, son of Atreus, this were your last outrage. (1.225-232)

Achilleus sure knows how to throw out the disses. These lines suggest a number of reasons why he might hate Agamemnon. Which (if any) of them do you think is the main motivation for Achilleus's hate?

Book 3

Yet could none of the Trojans nor any renowned companion
show Alexandros then to warlike Menelaos.
These would not have hidden him for love, if any had seen him,
since he was hated among them all as dark death is hated. (3.451-454)

These lines come after Aphrodite wraps Paris (a.k.a. Alexandros) in a cloud of mist and saves him from being killed in his duel against Menelaos. Specifically, they refer to when Menelaos is looking around the field to see where his enemy went. Why do you think the Trojans hate Paris so much? Here's a hint: first think about why Homer specifically chooses to compare Paris to "dark death" in the way that he is hated.

Book 9

Go back and proclaim to him all that I tell you,
openly, so other Achaians may turn against him in anger […].
He cheated me and he did me hurt. Let him not beguile me
with words again. This is enough for him. Let him of his own will
be damned, since Zeus of the counsels has taken his wits away from him.
I hate his gifts. I hold him light as the strip of a splinter.
Not if he gave me ten times as much, and twenty times over
as he possesses now, not if more should come to him from elsewhere, […]
not if he gave me gifts as many as the sand or the dust is,
not even so would Agamemnon have his way with my spirit
until he had made good to me all this heartrending insolence.
Nor will I marry a daughter of Atreus' son, Agamemnon,
not if she challenged Aphrodite the golden for loveliness,
not if she matched the work of her hands with grey-eyed Athene;
not even so will I marry her; let him pick some other Achaian […]. (9.369-370, 375-380, 385-391)

This is pretty self-explanatory. We just thought these were some serious disses, and deserved to be given a fair hearing. Actually, this is only a taste of the full passage. If you really want to hear Agamemnon get owned, you'll have to take a look at the original.

Book 11

Zeus sent down
in speed to the fast ships of the Achaians the wearisome goddess
of Hate, holding in her hands the portent of battle.
She took her place on the huge-hollowed black ship of Odysseus
which lay in the middle, so that she could cry out to both flanks […].
There the goddess took her place, and cried out a great cry
and terrible and loud, and put strength in all the Achaians'
hearts, to go on tirelessly with their fighting of battles.
And now battle became sweeter to them than to go back
in their hollow ships to the beloved land of their fathers. (11.2-6, 10-14)

For starters, you might be interested to know that this goddess of Hate—her name in Greek is Eris—is the same goddess who crashed the marriage of Peleus and Thetis in the Backstory's Backstory. (If you don't know what we're talking about, check out our discussion of the deep, deep causes of the Trojan War in the summary of Book 2.)

Even more shocking than the appearance of Hate, however, is her effect, which can be seen in the last two lines of this passage. Compare these lines with Achilleus's words from Book 18 (quoted below) which also suggest that "hate" can be sweet to those in its grip.

Book 18

Now, since I am not going back to the beloved land of my fathers,
since I was no light of safety to Patroklos, nor to my other
companions, who in their numbers went down before glorious Hektor,
but sit here beside my ships, a useless weight on the good land, […]
why, I wish that strife would vanish away from among gods and mortals,
and gall, which makes a man grow angry for all his great mind,
that gall of anger that swarms like smoke inside of a man's heart
and becomes a thing sweeter to him by far than the dripping of honey. (18.101-104, 107-110)

Like so many passages in the Iliad, this one looks simple on the surface, but can provide more than enough food for thought. First of all, we think it is worth considering that part of Achilleus's hate is directed towards himself, as these lines show. (Also remember that, earlier in this book, at lines 33-34, Antilochos had to hold Achilleus's hands to make sure he didn't kill himself.)

Second, what do you think about his closing words, which suggest that there is something about anger or hate that makes it taste sweet to those who experience it?

Book 21

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. (21.99-105)

For a fuller version of this quote, look at our discussion of it under the theme of "Compassion and Forgiveness." Right now, though, it stands as a pretty clear statement of how Achilleus has a turned a page. Instead of hating his friends and praying for the Trojans to beat them, now he is completely consumed with hatred for the Trojans.

Book 22

And the other sons of the Achaians came running about him,
and gazed upon the stature and on the imposing beauty
of Hektor; and none stood beside him who did not stab him;
and thus they would speak one to another, each looking at his neighbour:
"See now, Hektor is much softer to handle than he was
when he set the ships ablaze with the burning firebrand."
So as they stood beside him they would speak, and stab him. (22.369-375)

This outrage committed by the Achaians begs comparison with the actions of Achilleus that follow, when he disgraces Hektor's body in various gruesome ways. Do you think that the fact that the Achaians do this makes it okay (because it suddenly seems normal) for Achilleus to do what he did? Or do you think that Homer means us to blame Achilleus and the Achaians?


No more entreating of me, you dog, by knees or parents.
I wish only that my spirit and fury would drive me
to hack your meat away and eat it raw for the things that
you have done to me. So there is no one who can hold the dogs off
from your head, not if they bring here and set before me ten times
and twenty times the ransom, and promise more in addition,
not if Priam son of Dardanos should offer to weigh out
your bulk in gold; not even so shall the lady your mother
who herself bore you lay you on the death-bed and mourn you:
no, but the dogs and the birds will have you all for their feasting. (22.345-354)

This is probably the most extreme expression of hatred in the entire Iliad. (The only other lines that come close, and possibly equal these, are those of Hektor's mother, in Book 24, lines 212-214.) How do these lines contribute to our understanding of Achilleus's character?

Book 24

Then, when he had yoked running horses under the chariot
he would fasten Hektor behind the chariot, so as to drag him,
and draw him three times around the tomb of Menoitios' fallen
son, then rest again in his shelter, and throw down the dead man
and leave him to lie sprawled on his face in the dust. (24.14-18)

Achilleus's hate for Hektor is so extreme that it continues even after his death. Why do you think that this behavior is the final straw that makes the gods step in and put a stop to his anger?

"I wish I could set teeth
in the middle of his liver and eat it. That would be vengeance
for what he did to my son." (24.212-214)

This quotation, which we also talk about under the theme of "Compassion and Forgiveness," is an expression of a mother's hatred for the man who killed her son. Of course, it most immediately recalls Achilleus's similar lines from Book 22 (see above). Do you think one character's reaction is more understandable than the other, or are they both equally horrifying?

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