Study Guide

The Iliad Friendship

By Homer


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Friendship is an important motivation for many characters in the Iliad; at times, it can make them act in ways that you wouldn't expect, given their other loyalties. For example, when the Trojan Glaukos and the Achaian Diomedes discover that their ancestors were bound by ties of "guest-friendship" or xenia, they decide that they can't kill each other. Instead, they exchange armor.

Similarly, Achilleus's extremely powerful friendship (some would say love) for Patroklos makes him forget his rage at Agamemnon and join the battle on the Achaian side. Depictions of non-romantic friendship between members of the opposite sex (Patroklos and Briseis, and arguably Hektor and Helen) round out the Iliad's nuanced portrayal of this important human emotion.

Questions About Friendship

  1. Which type of friendship does the Iliad portray as more important: ritual friendship (like that between Glaukos and Diomedes) or informal friendship (like that between Achilleus and Patroklos)?
  2. Are there any characters in the Iliad who love each other but aren't friends (i.e., they love each other, but dislike each other)?
  3. In Book 10, we see evidence of the friendship between Athene and Odysseus that is so important in Homer's Odyssey. Does the Iliad depict any other instances of friendship between gods and mortals?

Chew on This

The Iliad portrays friendship as an especially enduring connection.

Friendship is less important in the Iliad than anger and pride.

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