- 西洋古典學研究 (ISSN:04479114)
- vol.18, pp.19-29, 1970-03-23
Agamemnon's speech (II. 19. 96 ff) in reply to that of Achilles is apt to be taken for an excuse, but a close scrutiny of the two speeches shows that it is nothing of the kind. It is to be noted that an "apology" is almost meaningless in the Homeric world where one believes only in an attained result without considering about its motive. Such an attitude is typical of a society where people live under "a kind of armed truce" without having the benefit of even "a limited public administration of justice"; it reflects also the Homeric theology which recognizes the divine will in every phase of human activity. Accordingly, if one's honour is hurt a recompense is sought usually not in a mere excuse but in an aquisition of wealth, and Achilles acts no otherwise when on Athene's advice he refrains from resorting to violence against Agamemnon. He seems, however, to have given up this attitude when he rejects flatly Agamemnon's offer of many gifts and Briseis' return. The reason for his conduct, which he never explains clearly, is to be sought in that he rebels against the heroic principle of behaviour according to which an offer of gifts is prerequisite to recompense an injured honour. In other words, he finds the conventional means of compensation meaningless if it were but a mere formality. All the same he is unable to give a logical explanation for his conduct, for his concept of honour differs so much from the traditional one that the epic language has no suitable words to express his disillusionment. Thus the only way left for him, when confronted with the necessity to take part again in the war, is to criticize the heroic practice through his behaviour: he is, or pretends to be, utterly indifferent to Agamemnon's gifts, and this attitude is to be explained as a bitter attack against the wide-spread acceptance of honour in the forms of material gains. But whether he wishes or not, he is given the gifts, and on the face of it he follows the pattern of heroic behaviour as if he renounced his wrath only in exchange for them. In this he is, one might say, typical of an Homeric hero. His rebellion is destined to collapse, because his criticism of the heroic principle, if carried to its logical conclusion, would have to be directed against the Homeric theology as forming the background of the heroic world and also because he has no proper words for his feelings. And since he leaves his criticism incomplete, he is after all allowed to remain within the frame-work of the Homeric narrative.