HOMER: The Iliad [Books 1-12]

HOMER: The Iliad [Books 1-12]

760-710 BC

The most concise summary of the Iliad according to Coleridge:

“A hero, injured by his general, and animated with a noble resentment, retires to his tent; and for a season withdraws himself and his troops from the war. During this interval, victory abandons the army, which for nine years has been occupied in a great enterprise, upon the successful termination of which the honour of their country depends. The general, at length opening his eyes to the fault which he had committed, deputes the principal officers of his army to the incensed hero, with commission to make compensation for the injury, and to tender magnificent presents. The hero, according to the proud obstinacy of his character, persists in his animosity; the army is again defeated, and is on the verge of entire destruction. This inexorable man has a friend; this friend weeps before him, and asks for the hero’s arms, and for permission to go to the war in his stead. The eloquence of friendship prevails more than the intercession of the ambassadors or the gifts of the general. He lends his armour to his friend, but commands him not to engage with the chief of the enemy’s army, because he reserves to himself the honour of that combat, and because he also fears for his friend’s life. The prohibition is forgotten; the friend listens to nothing but his courage; his corpse is brought back to the hero, and the hero’s arms become the prize of the conqueror. Then the hero, given up to the most lively despair, prepares to fight; he receives from a divinity new armour, is reconciled with his general and, thirsting for glory and revenge, enacts prodigies of valour, recovers the victory, slays the enemy’s chief, honours his friend with superb funeral rites, and exercises a cruel vengeance on the body of his destroyer; but finally appeased by the tears and prayers of the father of the slain warrior, restores to the old man the corpse of his son, which he buries with due solemnities.”

Book 1 – The Contention of Achilles and Agamemnon

  • “In the war of Troy, the Greeks having sacked some of the neighbouring towns, and taken from thence two beautiful captives, Chryseis and Briseis, allotted the first to Agamemnon, and the last to Achilles. Chryses, the father of Chryseis, and priest of Apollo, comes to the Grecian camp to ransom her; with which the action of the poem opens, in the tenth year of the siege. The priest being refused, and insolently dismissed by Agamemnon, entreats for vengeance from his god; who inflicts a pestilence on the Greeks. Achilles calls a council, and encourages Chalcas to declare the cause of it; who attributes it to the refusal of Chryseis. The king, being obliged to send back his captive, enters into a furious contest with Achilles, which Nestor pacifies; however, as he had the absolute command of the army, he seizes on Briseis in revenge. Achilles in discontent withdraws himself and his forces from the rest of the Greeks; and complaining to Thetis, she supplicates Jupiter to render them sensible of the wrong done to her son, by giving victory to the Trojans. Jupiter, granting her suit, incenses Juno: between whom the debate runs high, till they are reconciled by the address of Vulcan.
  • The time of two-and-twenty days is taken up in this book: nine during the plague, one in the council and quarrel of the princes, and twelve for Jupiter’s stay with the Æthiopians, at whose return Thetis prefers her petition. The scene lies in the Grecian camp, then changes to Chrysa, and lastly to Olympus.”

“Achilles’ wrath, to Greece the direful spring /Of woes unnumber’d, heavenly goddess, sing! /That wrath which hurl’d to Pluto’s gloomy reign /The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain; /Whose limbs unburied on the naked shore, /Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore.”

Pride is a major theme in the Iliad. In book one, the pride of Agamemnon and Achilles causes strife between them. In their dispute, Agamemnon asserts that the gods have bestowed valor and strength upon Achilles; and therefore Achilles should not be proud of these qualities because they were given to him, not earned. Although Achilles agrees that the gods have blessed him with these virtues, he still is proud of them. Why are some characters, like Achilles, proud of their attributes and deeds in war even if they receive divine aid? Some believe that they have earned the gods favor from past actions, or from offering many sacrifices to them. Thus, in a sense they have earned the gods’ favor. Others conclude that fate is ultimately responsible for the good and bad which men receive in their life. In this case, it is difficult to explain how a person could feel responsible or proud of their attributes and actions. Responsibility seems like a necessary condition for pride.

When Agamemnon takes Briseis from Achilles, Achilles becomes very upset. I do not believe that Achilles loved her, but merely thought of her as a prize won in war – a prize that cannot be taken from him without a corresponding dishonor and shame. This wound to his pride is the true reason for Achilles’ rage and bitterness, not love.

Book 2 – The Trial of the Army and Catalogue of the Forces

  • “Jupiter, in pursuance of the request of Thetis, sends a deceitful vision to Agamemnon, persuading him to lead the army to battle, in order to make the Greeks sensible of their want of Achilles. The general, who is deluded with the hopes of taking Troy without his assistance, but fears the army was discouraged by his absence, and the late plague, as well as by the length of time, contrives to make trial of their disposition by a stratagem. He first communicates his design to the princes in council, that he would propose a return to the soldiers, and that they should put a stop to them if the proposal was embraced. Then he assembles the whole host, and upon moving for a return to Greece, they unanimously agree to it, and run to prepare the ships. They are detained by the management of Ulysses, who chastises the insolence of Thersites. The assembly is recalled, several speeches made on the occasion, and at length the advice of Nestor followed, which was to make a general muster of the troops, and to divide them into their several nations, before they proceeded to battle. This gives occasion to the poet to enumerate all the forces of the Greeks and Trojans, and in a large catalogue.
  • The time employed in this book consists not entirely of one day. The scene lies in the Grecian camp, and upon the sea-shore; towards the end it removes to Troy.”

“We cannot all be kings.”

“We do not yet know how things are going to be.”

“Its fame shall last forever.”

The Greek Gods are remarkably dissimilar to the god of the three ubiquitous monotheistic religions which dominate the world today. In Book 2 of the Iliad, Jove, the king of the gods, employs a stratagem to deceive Agamemnon. The lying dream persuades Agamemnon that the Achaeans will defeat the Trojans that very day. Jove desires Agamemnon to attack the Trojans and suffer many defeats because it will convince Agamemnon that he needs Achilles to win the war. Agamemnon will be constrained to apologize to Achilles and seek his assistance.

Through this story, Homer represents the gods as beings who behave like mankind. The gods quarrel among each other, lust after each other and even mortals, and delight in feasts and entertainment. The gods are vindictive, prone to anger, and ambitious. This representation of gods makes them more accessible and understandable to mankind. The monotheistic representation of an almost inscrutable entity incapable of being described is very difficult for many people to grasp.

Book 3 – The Duel of Menelaus and Paris

  • “The armies being ready to engage, a single combat is agreed upon between Menelaus and Paris (by the intervention of Hector) for the determination of the war. Iris is sent to call Helen to behold the fight. She leads her to the walls of Troy, where Priam sat with his counselors observing the Grecian leaders on the plain below, to whom Helen gives an account of the chiefs of them. The kings on either part take the solemn oath for the conditions of the combat. The duel ensues; wherein Paris being overcome, he is snatched away in a cloud by Venus, and transported to his apartment. She then calls Helen from the walls, and brings the lovers together. Agamemnon, on the part of the Grecians, demands the restoration of Helen, and the performance of the articles.
  • The three-and-twentieth day still continues throughout this book. The scene is sometimes in the fields before Troy, and sometimes in Troy itself”

“Taunt me not with the gifts that golden Venus has given me; they are precious; let not a man disdain them, for the gods give them where they are minded, and none can have them for the asking.”

“Small wonder that Trojans and Achaeans should endure so much and so long for the sake of a woman so marvelously and divinely lovely.”

“I lay no blame upon you; it is the gods, not you who are to blame.”

“Never yet was I so passionately enamored of you as at this moment; never yet was I so enthralled by desire of you as now.”

Love is a major theme in the Iliad. The passion is often the cause of violence and hatred in the poem. Paris’ love for Helen causes him to steal her, and bring her to Troy. This act is the catalyst of the Trojan War. In book 3 of the Iliad, Helen confides in Priam that she wishes she had never forsaken her husband, family, and friends in Sparta to travel to Troy because of the violent and destructive consequences. Priam assures her that the war is not her fault, but the gods’ fault. Thus, Priam directly accuses Love, in the form of Venus, as being responsible for the strife. Finally, Venus conveys Paris away from the battlefield when he is in danger of being killed by Menelaus. The reader can interpret Venus as Love itself. Thus, one can read this scene in the following manner: Love caused Paris to flee the duel, and thus violate the articles of the duel. If love had not caused Paris to violate this compact, then thousands of lives would have been preserved. However, Paris cannot overcome the powerful effect of love, stating that he was never yet so enthralled by desire of Helen until then.

Book 4 – The Breach of the Truce and the First Battle

  • The gods deliberate in council concerning the Trojan War; they agree upon the continuation of it, and Jupiter sends down Minerva to break the truce. She persuades Pandarus to aim an arrow at Menelaus, who is wounded, but cured by Machaon. In the meantime some of the Trojan troops attack the Greeks. Agamemnon is distinguished in all the parts of a good general; he reviews the troops, and exhorts the leaders, some by praises and others by reproof. Nestor is particularly celebrated for his military discipline. The battle joins, and great numbers are slain on both sides.
  • The same day continues through this as through the last book (as it does also through the two following and almost to the end of the seventh book). The scene is wholly in the field before Troy.

“Age, the common enemy of mankind, has laid his hand upon you.”

“The earth ran red with blood.”

“Darkness veiled his eyes.”

“No man would have made light of the fighting; for many Trojans and Achaeans on that day lay stretched side by side face downwards upon the earth.”

Competition is a major theme in the Iliad. The ancient Trojan and Greek societies compete against one another and amongst themselves over everything. They compete in contests of strength, speed, oratory skill, and, most importantly, war. War is the stage on which men can attain the most valuable things – fame and glory. The opposing forces do not only compete against each other for glory, but also against the memory of their ancestors. In book 4, Agamemnon reproves Diomed for being absent from the battle. He recounts the heroic deeds of Diomed’s father in order to shame Diomed into fighting. Diomed does feel ashamed, and eagerly enters into the fray in order to gain greater glory than his father.

In book 4 there is a moving scene between Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus. Menelaus had been struck by an arrow, and his leg was drenched in blood from his thigh to his ankle. Agamemnon feared that his brother was dying, and cursed the faithless Trojans. The immutable love Agamemnon possesses towards his brother is similar to the love shown by Chryses for his daughter. Contrary to the fickle love which Zeus and men and women possess for their own spouses or objects of affection, the love for one’s family members is constant.

Book 5 – The Acts of Diomed

  • Diomed, assisted by Pallas, performs wonders in this day’s battle. Pandarus wounds him with an arrow, but the goddess cures him, enables him to discern gods from mortals, and prohibits him from contending with any of the former, excepting Venus. Æneas joins Pandarus to oppose him; Pandarus is killed, and Æneas in great danger but for the assistance of Venus; who, as she is removing her son from the fight, is wounded on the hand by Diomed. Apollo seconds her in his rescue, and at length carries off Æneas to Troy, where he is healed in the temple of Pergamus. Mars rallies the Trojans, and assists Hector to make a stand. In the meantime Æneas is restored to the field, and they overthrow several of the Greeks; among the rest Tlepolemus is slain by Sarpedon. Juno and Minerva descend to resist Mars; the latter incites Diomed to go against that god; he wounds him, and sends him groaning to heaven.
  • The first battle continues through this book. The scene is the same as in the former

“I shall not see the light of the sun much longer.”

“There must be a god who is angry with me.”

“I am of a race that knows neither flight nor fear.”

“The Danaans have now taken to fighting with the immortals.”

“No man who fights with gods will live long.”

Warfare is a major theme in the Iliad. Homer depicts the duels which arise among individuals during the mass chaos of the battles. One hero kills another in an often brutal fashion, and then attempts to take the armor from the body of his dead enemy. The enemy forces often thwart the victorious man’s attempt by standing over the corpse and defending it until it can be safely dragged to safety.

Before two men engage in combat, they taunt each other. For example, Tlepolemus denies Sarpedon’s divine parentage and ridicules his supposed courage. Despite these taunts, the men desire that their enemy is one who possesses much glory because they attain all the honor of men whom they kill in war. An ancient Greek is more satisfied when he kills a brave and renowned enemy than a coward.

Book 6 – The Episodes of Glaucus and Diomed and of Hector and Andromache

  • The gods having left the field, the Grecians prevail. Helenus, the chief augur of Troy, commands Hector to return to the city, in order to appoint a solemn procession of the queen and the Trojan matrons to the temple of Minerva, to entreat her to remove Diomed from the fight. The battle relaxing during the absence of Hector, Glaucus and Diomed have an interview between the two armies; where, coming to the knowledge, of the friendship and hospitality passed between their ancestors, they make exchange of their arms. Hector, having performed the orders of Helenus, prevails upon Paris to return to the battle, and, taking a tender leave of his wife Andromache, hastens again to the field.
  • The scene is first in the field of battle, between the rivers Simois and Scamander, and then changes to Troy.

“Men come and go as leaves year by year upon the trees. Those of autumn the wind sheds upon the ground, but when spring returns the forest buds forth with fresh vines. Even so is it with the generations of mankind, the new spring up as the old are passing away.”

“Your valor will bring you to destruction.”

“No one can hurry me down to Hades before my time, but if a man’s hour is come, be he brave or be he coward, there is no escape for him when he has once been born.”

Fate and free will is a major them of the Iliad. Hector, unlike Achilles, does not know his fate. However, he does know that he will perish when fate has ordained it to happen whether he is valiant or a coward. Thus, he chooses to bravely battle the Achaeans, risking death in exchange for glory and fame. He wishes to be revered as a noble and brave man rather than a coward.

The knowledge of one’s own fate does not affect the path a person will take. Achilles and Hector are both brave and ambitious men. Achilles knows that he will die young and be revered after his death. Hector does not know whether he will die, but both decide that a life of glory and bravery is preferable to a life of cowardice.

Book 7 – The Single Combat of Hector and Ajax

  • The battle renewing with double ardour upon the return of Hector, Minerva is under apprehensions for the Greeks. Apollo, seeing her descend from Olympus, joins her near the Scaean gate. They agree to put off the general engagement for that day, and incite Hector to challenge the Greeks to a single combat. Nine of the princes accepting the challenge, the lot is cast and falls upon Ajax. These heroes, after several attacks, are parted by the night. The Trojans calling a council, Antenor purposes the delivery of Helen to the Greeks, to which Paris will not consent, but offers to restore them her riches. Priam sends a herald to make this offer, and to demand a truce for burning the dead, the last of which only is agreed to by Agamemnon. When the funerals are performed, the Greeks, pursuant to the advice of Nestor, erect a fortification to protect their fleet and camp, flanked with towers, and defended by a ditch and palisades. Neptune testifies his jealousy at this work, but is pacified by a promise from Jupiter. Both armies pass the night in feasting but Jupiter disheartens the Trojans with thunder, and other signs of his wrath.
  • The three and twentieth day ends with the duel of Hector and Ajax, the next day the truce is agreed; another is taken up in the funeral rites of the slain and one more in building the fortification before the ships. So that somewhat about three days is employed in this book. The scene lies wholly in the field.

Mortality is a major theme of the Iliad. Not only does Homer luridly depict the deaths of numerous combatants, but the idea of Death itself animates the actions of every character. The knowledge that Death will come to all at some time in the future induces some men, such as Achilles and Hector, to seek glory and reverence by performing heroic deeds in war.

The gods also seek glory despite their own immortality. Neptune envies the Achaean wall because it is greater than the wall he built in another land. He wishes to destroy it so that humanity will revere him more than the Greeks. Why is a god jealous of mortals? Homer implies that immortality is not a sufficient condition for happiness. One must be remembered and revered by posterity; otherwise, an eternal existence means nothing.

Book 8 – The Second Battle and the Distress of the Greeks

  • Jupiter assembles a council of the deities, and threatens them with the pains of Tartarus if they assist either side: Minerva only obtains of him that she may direct the Greeks by her counsels. Jove balances the fates of both, and affrights the Greeks with his thunders and lightning. Nestor alone continues in the field in great danger: Diomed relieves him; whose exploits, and those of Hector, are excellently described. Juno endeavours to animate Neptune to the assistance of the Greeks, but in vain. The acts of Teucer, who is at length wounded by Hector, and carried off. Juno and Minerva prepare to aid the Grecians, but are restrained by Iris, sent from Jupiter. The night puts an end to the battle. Hector continues in the field, (the Greeks being driven to their fortifications before the ships,) and gives orders to keep the watch all night in the camp, to prevent the enemy from re-embarking and escaping by flight. They kindle fires through all the fields, and pass the night under arms.
  • The time of seven and twenty days is employed from the opening of the poem to the end of this book. The scene here (except of the celestial machines) lies in the field towards the seashore.

“Would that I were as sure of being immortal and never growing old, and of being worshipped like Minerva and Apollo, as I am that this day will bring evil to the Argives.”

Jove provides comic relief in this book. He flaunts his power to such an extent that it becomes laughable. Jove is surprised that his beloved daughter, Minerva, intends to disobey him, but expresses his utter lack of surprise at his wife, Juno’s, intended disobedience; stating that she always contradicts him. They are the quintessential “old couple” of modern sitcoms, who are constantly bickering with one another.

Minerva and Juno, after being reprimanded by Jove, pout in a corner while Jove calls a council of the Gods on Mt. Olympus. Homer clearly does not portray the gods in a favorable light. The gods are inclined to envy, jealousy, resentment, anger, lust, and innumerable other vices.

Book 9 – The Embassy to Achilles

  • Agamemnon, after the last day’s defeat, proposes to the Greeks to quit the siege, and return to their country. Diomed opposes this, and Nestor seconds him, praising his wisdom and resolution. He orders the guard to be strengthened, and a council summoned to deliberate what measures are to be followed in this emergency. Agamemnon pursues this advice, and Nestor further prevails upon him to send ambassadors to Achilles, in order to move him to a reconciliation. Ulysses and Ajax are made choice of, who are accompanied by old Phoenix. They make, each of them, very moving and pressing speeches, but are rejected with roughness by Achilles, who notwithstanding retains Phoenix in his tent. The ambassadors return unsuccessfully to the camp, and the troops betake themselves to sleep.
  • This book, and the next following, take up the space of one night, which is the twenty-seventh from the beginning of the poem. The scene lies on the sea-shore, the station of the Grecian ships.

“He that fights fares no better than he that does not; coward and hero are held in equal honour, and death deals like measure to him who works and him who is idle.”

“If a man has pity upon these daughters of Jove when they draw near him, they will bless him and hear him too when he is praying; but if he deny them and will not listen to them, they go to Jove the son of Saturn and pray that he may presently fall into sin- to his ruing bitterly hereafter.”

Compassion and forgiveness are two of the most important themes in the Iliad. In the beginning of this epic, Agamemnon cannot forgive Achilles for insulting him, and decides to take Achilles prize from him, thus dishonoring Achilles and causing Achilles to withdraw from the war to spite Agamemnon. In this book, Agamemnon seeks forgiveness from Achilles with supplications and promises of gifts, but Achilles sternly denies Agamemnon’s petition. This incapacity to forgive causes great calamity and affliction, which is hinted at during Phoenix’s speech to Achilles, in which the old man warns Achilles that men who do not show mercy and forgiveness will bitterly rue their cruelty in the future; for prayers of forgiveness are the daughters of Joe who halt in the wake of Injustice and try to atone for the harms Injustice wrought. Those unrelenting men who spurn the daughters of Jove are punished by vengeful Jove.

Achilles also acts as a foil to Hector in this book. Like Hector, Achilles realizes that death comes to both the coward and the brave. While Hector believes that one should thus act bravely due to these circumstances, Achilles believes that he should behave like a coward since he is not rewarded for his valorous deeds and will meet death regardless. The pessimism of Achilles and the optimism of Hector is an interesting contrast. After reading this book, I admire Hector much more than Achilles.

Book 10 – The Night-Adventure of Diomed and Ulysses

  • Upon the refusal of Achilles to return to the army, the distress of Agamemnon is described in the most lively manner. He takes no rest that night, but passes through the camp, awaking the leaders, and contriving all possible methods for the public safety. Menelaus, Nestor, Ulysses, and Diomed are employed in raising the rest of the captains. They call a council of war, and determine to send scouts into the enemies’ camp, to learn their posture, and discover their intentions. Diomed undertakes this hazardous enterprise, and makes choice of Ulysses for his companion. In their passage they surprise Dolon, whom Hector had sent on a like design to the camp of the Grecians. From him they are informed of the situation of the Trojan and auxiliary forces, and particularly of Rhesus, and the Thracians who were lately arrived. They pass on with success; kill Rhesus, with several of his officers, and seize the famous horses of that prince, with which they return in triumph to the camp.
  • The same night continues; the scene lies in the two camps.

Friendship is a major theme in the Iliad. Diomed determines to take Ulysses with him during his dangerous enterprise behind Trojan lines of battle at night. Diomed and Ulysses are friends of each other and of Minerva. The Greeks believed that the Gods befriended mortals and protected them. I think that the gods favored mortals who were similar to themselves. For example, Venus favors Helen and Paris because they are beautiful and enamored with one another. Venus, being the goddess of love and beauty, naturally prefers them over other mortals. Likewise, Ulysses is clever and relies upon his wit rather than brute strength; and thus Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, favors him.

Book 11 – The Third Battle and the Acts of Agamemnon

  • Agamemnon, having armed himself, leads the Grecians to battle; Hector prepares the Trojans to receive them, while Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva give the signals of war. Agamemnon bears all before him and Hector is commanded by Jupiter (who sends Iris for that purpose) to decline the engagement, till the king shall be wounded and retire from the field. He then makes a great slaughter of the enemy. Ulysses and Diomed put a stop to him for a time but the latter, being wounded by Paris, is obliged to desert his companion, who is encompassed by the Trojans, wounded, and in the utmost danger, till Menelaus and Ajax rescue him. Hector comes against Ajax, but that hero alone opposes multitudes, and rallies the Greeks. In the meantime Machaon, in the other wing of the army, is pierced with an arrow by Paris, and carried from the fight in Nestor’s chariot. Achilles (who overlooked the action from his ship) sent Patroclus to inquire which of the Greeks was wounded in that manner; Nestor entertains him in his tent with an account of the accidents of the day, and a long recital of some former wars which he remembered, tending to put Patroclus upon persuading Achilles to fight for his countrymen, or at least to permit him to do it, clad in Achilles’ armour. Patroclus, on his return, meets Eurypylus also wounded, and assists him in that distress.
  • This book opens with the eight and-twentieth day of the poem, and the same day, with its various actions and adventures is extended through the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and part of the eighteenth books. The scene lies in the field near the monument of Ilus.

Fate is inexorable. Homer describes the death of one Trojan soldier as the direct consequence of Fate luring the soldier to disregard his father’s pleas to remain at home and fight in the Trojan War. This sense of fatalism pervades the Iliad. Some are destined to be great while others are destined to die an obscure death. Even the gods are subject to the dictates of the Fates. The Fates were three goddesses – Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos (Greek); Nona, Decima, and Morta (Latin). One goddess spun the thread of life, one measured the thread, and the last cut the thread of life and chose the manner of a person’s death. Because of the rigid adherence to the whims of these three goddesses, I am surprised that the ancient Greeks did not offer sacrifices to these deities. I suppose that they believed their fate was determined at the hour of their birth, and that nothing could be done to alter it.

Book 12 – The Battle at the Grecian Wall

  • The Greeks having retired into their entrenchments, Hector attempts to force them; but it proving impossible to pass the ditch, Polydamas advises to quit their chariots, and manage the attack on foot. The Trojans follow his counsel; and having divided their army into five bodies of foot, begin the assault. But upon the signal of an eagle with a serpent in his talons, which appeared on the left hand of the Trojans, Polydamas endeavors to withdraw them again. This Hector opposes, and continues the attack; in which, after many actions, Sarpedon makes the first breach in the wall. Hector also, casting a stone of vast size, forces open one of the gates, and enters at the head of his troops, who victoriously pursue the Grecians even to their ships.

“You bid me be ruled rather by the flight of wild-fowl. What care I whether they fly towards dawn or dark, and whether they be on my right hand or on my left? Let us put our trust rather in the counsel of great Jove, king of mortals and immortals. There is one omen, and one only- that a man should fight for his country.”

“My good friend, if, when we were once out of this fight, we could escape old age and death thenceforward and for ever, I should neither press forward myself nor bid you do so, but death in ten thousand shapes hangs ever over our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and either win glory for ourselves, or yield it to another.”

In this book, Hector defies augury. He scorns Polydamas’ interpretation of the hawk with a blood-red serpent in its talons which appeared on the left-hand side of the Trojans. Hector’s defiance is a direct consequence of his confidence. Hector is valiant because he believes that one day he must die; and therefore, he should win as much glory as possible while he lives.

This notion is reiterated by Sarpedon to Glaucus to encourage him to fight in the foremost rank of the Trojans so that they might deserve the eminence they enjoy among their people. Sarpedon says that death hangs over men in thousands of different forms at all times, and no man can elude it. Thus, one should strive to win glory without concern for one’s life, which will inevitably be taken by death.

The Iliad (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

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