Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Achilles, Wounded

 

“I know you and what you are, and was sure that I should not move you, for your heart is hard as iron; look to it that I bring not heaven’s anger upon you on the day when Paris and Phoebus Apollo, valiant though you be, shall slay you at the Scaen gates.”

The Iliad, Book 22

If you were going into a pitched battle, you’d be a fool if you didn’t want Achilles on your side. The guy was a one-man wrecking crew, capable of mowing down large swaths of enemy soldiers with reckless abandon. For example, about halfway through The Iliad, Achilles was carving up Trojans at such an alarming rate that he literally clogged up a river with their bodies. What’s more, his theatrical nature on the battlefield was highly demoralizing for the enemy. After defeating Hector, Troy’s best warrior, Achilles took a couple of “victory laps” around Troy–with the lifeless Hector in tow. It was a grizzly demonstration of Achilles’ prowess on the battlefield and his wanton lust to not only defeat the enemy but to humiliate them. While the high and mighty within the Greek army may have chaffed at such acts of barbarity, the rank and file soldier, who understood that the Trojans were just as savage, reveled in his bloodlust.

The problem with having Achilles on your side is that when you take him in, you get all of him, not just the soldier. The son of the sea nymph Thetis and Peleus (King of Myrmidons), Achilles had the general air of a spoiled frat boy. Virtually indestructible (his mother dipped him in the River Styx, rendering nearly all of his body invulnerable to injury), he had a sense of entitlement that was difficult to ignore. He could be petulant, moody, and sullen. At the beginning of The Iliad, he famously refused to fight at all unless his ego was satiated by the fawning attention of both his commanders and fellow soldiers. Achilles’ spear isn’t of much use when the pouting warrior refuses to brandish it.

There’s a reason that, when problems were complex, the Greeks turned not to Achilles but to Odysseus. A farmer that never really wanted to go to war, Odysseus was everything that Achilles was not: measured, thoughtful, clever, eloquent, even-handed, and articulate. He could certainly hold his own in a battle, but where Odysseus really shined was when his leadership came to the forefront. In The Iliad, Odysseus is constantly settling disputes, outmaneuvering the Trojans, and keeping his own soldiers’ eyes on the prize. There’s a basic truth revealed by this dichotomy: if you want to win a battle, bring Achilles; if you want to win a war, bring Odysseus.

Achilles met his end via an arrow fired Hector’s brother Paris, a Trojan soldier that was an equal mix of vanity and cowardliness. It was an ironic but fitting end for Achilles, laid low at the hands of someone just as flawed as he. Odysseus went on to devise the tactics that ultimately destroyed Troy and then made a harrowing journey of his own in order to get back home again. Odysseus’ journey was one that Achilles could have never made. His rashness and arrogance would have made any coordinated effort at success nearly impossible. No, Odysseus’ dark path required the light of wisdom, which something to ponder upon as we venture into our own current sea of uncertainty.

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  1. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Great post. The Iliad and Odyssey are treasures.

    A question about Achilles refusal to fight. It’s been about a year since I re-read the books. My recollection is that Achilles refused to fight because Agamemnon took Briseis away. (It was something like a more serious version of Vizzini telling Westley in The Princess Bride that “you are trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen.”)

    So I don’t think that Achilles was pining away for praise. He had taken a desirable slave girl as spoils of battle, and then the High King took away his prize. I think that it was understandable for Achilles to refuse to fight Agamemnon’s war in those circumstances.

    Am I mixed up? Perhaps there was another episode of Achilles refusing to fight.

    Don’t take this as endorsement for capturing slave girls in warfare, by the way. Those days were brutal.

    • #1
    • June 30, 2020, at 11:30 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Brandon Member
    Brandon

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Great post. The Iliad and Odyssey are treasures.

    A question about Achilles refusal to fight. It’s been about a year since I re-read the books. My recollection is that Achilles refused to fight because Agamemnon took Briseis away. (It was something like a more serious version of Vizzini telling Westley in The Princess Bride that “you are trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen.”)

    So I don’t think that Achilles was pining away for praise. He had taken a desirable slave girl as spoils of battle, and then the High King took away his prize. I think that it was understandable for Achilles to refuse to fight Agamemnon’s war in those circumstances.

    Am I mixed up? Perhaps there was another episode of Achilles refusing to fight.

    Don’t take this as endorsement for capturing slave girls in warfare, by the way. Those days were brutal.

    Regarding the “facts” of the matter, you are correct. The girl was only a stand-in, though, for what really wounded Achilles: that Agamemnon had the authority to take her at his leisure and did so publicly. Basically, he showed up Achilles in front of his crew, and Achilles refused to fight until he got retribution for this embarrassment.

    My general points are these:

    1) I think we have hitched our wagon to Achilles, and right now he is pouting out of boredom and indignation. If he doesn’t wake up and get in the battle and do so soon, we’re going to have a rout on our hands.

    2) Is there an Odysseus in our ranks that can take up the torch and lead? Tom Cotton has tried, but he lacks heft on the national stage.

    • #2
    • June 30, 2020, at 11:34 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I don’t know whom we look to for wisdom today. You mention Tom Cotton, whom I greatly admire, but he has little real power. In this environment, we will need more than wisdom to find our way out of the muck. We will need someone with wisdom who can “rally the troops,” someone who will inspire us to support and follow him. Perhaps he or she will show up soon?

    • #3
    • June 30, 2020, at 12:24 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Terrific post! Memories of much loved high-school and college classes, of works of literature I haven’t re-read nearly as often as I should have, and a timely reminder that character and steadfastness over the long haul are generally of much more use and value that erratic and unstable bouts of occasional brilliance. Thus, George Washington, perhaps.

    M. Brandon Godbey (View Comment):

    My general points are these:

    1) I think we have hitched our wagon to Achilles, and right now he is pouting out of boredom and indignation. If he doesn’t wake up and get in the battle and do so soon, we’re going to have a rout on our hands.

    2) Is there an Odysseus in our ranks that can take up the torch and lead? Tom Cotton has tried, but he lacks heft on the national stage.

    I think you are correct on point one. Regarding point two, I don’t know. The “Odysseus” factor–a steady, smart, measured hand on the tiller, anticipating the “enemy’s” next move, sticking to the battle plan, leading from the perspective of self-awareness and relative modesty, sorting out the messes one at a time and bringing the prize, and himself, home–isn’t nearly as sexy, and doesn’t play nearly as well in the age of Twitter, the 24-hour news cycle, and a news media that would shop their own grandma if it meant a few more clicks and the option to throw their hat in the ring for the next Pulitzer Prize. Check your fact privilege at the door. We choose “truth over facts.” Er, “facts over truth.” Er, whatever. But certainly not both at once.

    Could someone like a Tom Cotton, no matter how capable actually gain “heft” on the national stage under these conditions? On the one hand, one could be forgiven for thinking so, since the Left is apparently so scared of him that people at the New York Times are fired “resign” simply for committing the unpardonable sin of allowing one of the man’s op-ed pieces to go through to publication.

    But it’s hard to “lead,” no matter how capable you might be, under those circumstances, when the words and deeds of your message are deprived of the oxygen necessary to make them known, and when what does manage to leak and dribble its way into the public sphere is immediately and loudly condemned by the well-orchestrated Left as racist and fascist.

    A moment, if ever there was one, for “our side” to man up, get behind him and take a meaningful stand and make it count.

    But, if not “crickets,” then largely ineffectual mewling. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    Super-disheartening.

    • #4
    • June 30, 2020, at 2:00 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  5. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Brandon (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Great post. The Iliad and Odyssey are treasures.

    A question about Achilles refusal to fight. It’s been about a year since I re-read the books. My recollection is that Achilles refused to fight because Agamemnon took Briseis away. (It was something like a more serious version of Vizzini telling Westley in The Princess Bride that “you are trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen.”)

    So I don’t think that Achilles was pining away for praise. He had taken a desirable slave girl as spoils of battle, and then the High King took away his prize. I think that it was understandable for Achilles to refuse to fight Agamemnon’s war in those circumstances.

    Am I mixed up? Perhaps there was another episode of Achilles refusing to fight.

    Don’t take this as endorsement for capturing slave girls in warfare, by the way. Those days were brutal.

    Regarding the “facts” of the matter, you are correct. The girl was only a stand-in, though, for what really wounded Achilles: that Agamemnon had the authority to take her at his leisure and did so publicly. Basically, he showed up Achilles in front of his crew, and Achilles refused to fight until he got retribution for this embarrassment.

    My general points are these:

    1) I think we have hitched our wagon to Achilles, and right now he is pouting out of boredom and indignation. If he doesn’t wake up and get in the battle and do so soon, we’re going to have a rout on our hands.

    2) Is there an Odysseus in our ranks that can take up the torch and lead? Tom Cotton has tried, but he lacks heft on the national stage.

    An Achilles would have stormed in with the 101st Airborne and slaughtered the CHAZ scumbags. Intensely satisfying to us, but fraught with peril. The real issue is that local government is basically throwing in with rioters. This is partly a Bill Barr operation, and some gestures calculated to play to the people despite the utter hatred of the media and pundit class.

    You may have forgotten that Odysseus was too in love with his own intellect. He gave in to hubris and brought down the wrath of the gods on his head. The Odyssey has plenty of moments were Odysseus needlessly prolonged his wandering. If you pay attention to the heroes of these epics, they all had crippling flaws, as they served as lessons. The most unreservedly heroic man in the Illiad is on the opposing side, and gets dragged around the city behind a chariot for his troubles. 

    • #5
    • June 30, 2020, at 6:21 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Serious political question put aside: this was one glorious romp thru the fables of history. Thank you.

    • #6
    • June 30, 2020, at 6:32 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Ammo.com Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Great post. The Iliad and Odyssey are treasures.

    +1 I need to revisit them myself.

     

    Now I have a reason to put them on my reading list. @mbrandongodbey thanks for the reminder. 

    • #7
    • June 30, 2020, at 8:32 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Brandon Member
    Brandon

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Brandon (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Great post. The Iliad and Odyssey are treasures.

    A question about Achilles refusal to fight. It’s been about a year since I re-read the books. My recollection is that Achilles refused to fight because Agamemnon took Briseis away. (It was something like a more serious version of Vizzini telling Westley in The Princess Bride that “you are trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen.”)

    So I don’t think that Achilles was pining away for praise. He had taken a desirable slave girl as spoils of battle, and then the High King took away his prize. I think that it was understandable for Achilles to refuse to fight Agamemnon’s war in those circumstances.

    Am I mixed up? Perhaps there was another episode of Achilles refusing to fight.

    Don’t take this as endorsement for capturing slave girls in warfare, by the way. Those days were brutal.

    Regarding the “facts” of the matter, you are correct. The girl was only a stand-in, though, for what really wounded Achilles: that Agamemnon had the authority to take her at his leisure and did so publicly. Basically, he showed up Achilles in front of his crew, and Achilles refused to fight until he got retribution for this embarrassment.

    My general points are these:

    1) I think we have hitched our wagon to Achilles, and right now he is pouting out of boredom and indignation. If he doesn’t wake up and get in the battle and do so soon, we’re going to have a rout on our hands.

    2) Is there an Odysseus in our ranks that can take up the torch and lead? Tom Cotton has tried, but he lacks heft on the national stage.

    An Achilles would have stormed in with the 101st Airborne and slaughtered the CHAZ scumbags. Intensely satisfying to us, but fraught with peril. The real issue is that local government is basically throwing in with rioters. This is partly a Bill Barr operation, and some gestures calculated to play to the people despite the utter hatred of the media and pundit class.

    You may have forgotten that Odysseus was too in love with his own intellect. He gave in to hubris and brought down the wrath of the gods on his head. The Odyssey has plenty of moments were Odysseus needlessly prolonged his wandering. If you pay attention to the heroes of these epics, they all had crippling flaws, as they served as lessons. The most unreservedly heroic man in the Illiad is on the opposing side, and gets dragged around the city behind a chariot for his troubles.

    Good point.

    The Greeks were excellent as showing that every particular personality has its own drawback. The Achilles of the world effective within their own narrow field, but their rashness and immaturity. Odysseus represents the advantages and drawbacks of the intellectual.

    • #8
    • July 1, 2020, at 5:45 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Mikescapes Member

    She (View Comment):

    Terrific post! Memories of much loved high-school and college classes, of works of literature I haven’t re-read nearly as often as I should have, and a timely reminder that character and steadfastness over the long haul are generally of much more use and value that erratic and unstable bouts of occasional brilliance. Thus, George Washington, perhaps.

    M. Brandon Godbey (View Comment):

    My general points are these:

    1) I think we have hitched our wagon to Achilles, and right now he is pouting out of boredom and indignation. If he doesn’t wake up and get in the battle and do so soon, we’re going to have a rout on our hands.

    2) Is there an Odysseus in our ranks that can take up the torch and lead? Tom Cotton has tried, but he lacks heft on the national stage.

    I think you are correct on point one. Regarding point two, I don’t know. The “Odysseus” factor–a steady, smart, measured hand on the tiller, anticipating the “enemy’s” next move, sticking to the battle plan, leading from the perspective of self-awareness and relative modesty, sorting out the messes one at a time and bringing the prize, and himself, home–isn’t nearly as sexy, and doesn’t play nearly as well in the age of Twitter, the 24-hour news cycle, and a news media that would shop their own grandma if it meant a few more clicks and the option to throw their hat in the ring for the next Pulitzer Prize. Check your fact privilege at the door. We choose “truth over facts.” Er, “facts over truth.” Er, whatever. But certainly not both at once.

    Could someone like a Tom Cotton, no matter how capable actually gain “heft” on the national stage under these conditions? On the one hand, one could be forgiven for thinking so, since the Left is apparently so scared of him that people at the New York Times are fired “resign” simply for committing the unpardonable sin of allowing one of the man’s op-ed pieces to go through to publication.

    But it’s hard to “lead,” no matter how capable you might be, under those circumstances, when the words and deeds of your message are deprived of the oxygen necessary to make them known, and when what does manage to leak and dribble its way into the public sphere is immediately and loudly condemned by the well-orchestrated Left as racist and fascist.

    A moment, if ever there was one, for “our side” to man up, get behind him and take a meaningful stand and make it count.

    But, if not “crickets,” then largely ineffectual mewling. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    Super-disheartening.

    I like Cotton, but as you say he’d be called racist. If Republicans lose big it would take time to recuperate and unite before getting behind someone. He/she’d be called racist too, but you need a start.

    • #9
    • July 1, 2020, at 1:08 PM PDT
    • 1 like