HOMER: The Iliad [Book XIX]

In Book XIX of Homer’s Iliad, Thetis brings the newly forged armor to Achilles. She finds him weeping over Patroclus. He tells her that he is worried that Patroclus’ body will decompose while he is away fighting the Trojans and avenging Patroclus’ death. Thetis puts nectar and ambrosia into the nose of Patroclus and assures Achilles that Patroclus’ body will not decompose while he is away. Then she instructs him to assemble the Greek army and inform them that his wrath towards Agamemnon has abated.

Achilles calls the assembly and reconciles himself to Agamemnon. Agamemnon, likewise, apologizes for disrespecting Achilles and promises to give him Briseis and other gifts as tokens of their newly established friendship. “I was blind, and Jove robbed me of my reason; I will now make atonement, and will add much treasure by way of amends.”

Both Achilles and Agamemnon deny culpability for their past behavior. They accuse the gods of depriving them of their judgement. By blaming the gods instead of themselves, Agamemnon and Achilles make it easier to forgive one another. It is no longer Agamemnon who slighted Achilles, but rather the gods – and vice versa.

After Agamemnon and Achilles reconcile, the Greeks prepare for battle. While Achilles mounts his horses, he scolds them for failing to protect Patroclus. The goddess Juno imbues one of Achilles’ horses, Xanthus, with the ability to speak. Xanthus responds to Achilles and tells him that he will soon die on the plains of Troy. Achilles is unfazed and urges his horses into the battle. “Why, O Xanthus, do you thus foretell my death? You need not do so, for I well know that I am to fall here, far from my dear father and mother; none the more, however, shall I stay my hand till I have given the Trojans their fill of fighting.”

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