Bertel Thorvaldsen, "Priam Pleads with Achilles for Hector's Body," 1868-1870.

In a key scene near the end of the Iliad, King Priam beseeches Achilles to release the corpse of his son Hector. Simone Weil’s famous wartime reading of the poem, “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force,” argues that Priam is just the object that Achilles rules over. Kaylin Bednarz challenges Weil’s reading of the passage, noting that she omitted a key Greek word in her translation. Homer, Iliad 24. 486-516, discussed, translated, and read aloud in Greek by Kaylin Bednarz.

“Godlike Achilles, remember your own father, who is of such an old age as I, on the deadly threshold of old age. It might be that his neighbors harass him, and there is no one to ward off war and ruin from him. But when hearing that you are alive he rejoices, and his days are full of hope that he will see his dear son coming from Troy; but I am completely doomed. I brought the bravest sons in broad Troy, but of them I say there is not one left. I had fifty when the sons of the Achaeans came; nineteen were from one womb. Women in the palace bore the others for me. Violent Ares cut the knees from under most of these sons. This was my only surviving son. He guarded the city and its people. You have recently killed him, as he guarded his fatherland, Hector. And so I have now come to the ships of the Achaeans, in order to ransom him from you; I bring a huge ransom. But respect the gods, Achilles, and take pity on him, remembering your own father. But I am even more pitiful; for I have suffered such things as no other mortal man on earth has, I have put to my face the hands of the man who killed my sons.” So he spoke; he stirred up in Achilles a longing to weep for his father. And so, grasping the old man by the hand he gently pushed him away. They both remembered. Priam, remembering man-slaying Hector, wept intensely, crouching at Achilles’ feet; but Achilles wept for his own father, and then for Patroclus. Their wailing stirred up the house. But when godlike Achilles had his fill of grieving and the longing for it left from his heart and body, he arose from his seat, and raised the old man by the hand, pitying his white head and white beard.

μνῆσαι πατρὸς σοῖο θεοῖς ἐπιείκελ’ Ἀχιλλεῦ,
τηλίκου ὥς περ ἐγών, ὀλοῷ ἐπὶ γήραος οὐδῷ:
καὶ μέν που κεῖνον περιναιέται ἀμφὶς ἐόντες
τείρουσ’, οὐδέ τίς ἐστιν ἀρὴν καὶ λοιγὸν ἀμῦναι.
ἀλλ’ ἤτοι κεῖνός γε σέθεν ζώοντος ἀκούων
χαίρει τ’ ἐν θυμῷ, ἐπί τ’ ἔλπεται ἤματα πάντα
ὄψεσθαι φίλον υἱὸν ἀπὸ Τροίηθεν ἰόντα:
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ πανάποτμος, ἐπεὶ τέκον υἷας ἀρίστους
Τροίῃ ἐν εὐρείῃ, τῶν δ’ οὔ τινά φημι λελεῖφθαι.
πεντήκοντά μοι ἦσαν ὅτ’ ἤλυθον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν:
ἐννεακαίδεκα μέν μοι ἰῆς ἐκ νηδύος ἦσαν,
τοὺς δ’ ἄλλους μοι ἔτικτον ἐνὶ μεγάροισι γυναῖκες.
τῶν μὲν πολλῶν θοῦρος Ἄρης ὑπὸ γούνατ’ ἔλυσεν:
ὃς δέ μοι οἶος ἔην, εἴρυτο δὲ ἄστυ καὶ αὐτούς,
τὸν σὺ πρῴην κτεῖνας ἀμυνόμενον περὶ πάτρης
Ἕκτορα: τοῦ νῦν εἵνεχ’ ἱκάνω νῆας Ἀχαιῶν
λυσόμενος παρὰ σεῖο, φέρω δ’ ἀπερείσι’ ἄποινα.
ἀλλ’ αἰδεῖο θεοὺς Ἀχιλεῦ, αὐτόν τ’ ἐλέησον
μνησάμενος σοῦ πατρός: ἐγὼ δ’ ἐλεεινότερός περ,
ἔτλην δ’ οἷ’ οὔ πώ τις ἐπιχθόνιος βροτὸς ἄλλος,
ἀνδρὸς παιδοφόνοιο ποτὶ στόμα χεῖρ’ ὀρέγεσθαι.
ὣς φάτο, τῷ δ’ ἄρα πατρὸς ὑφ’ ἵμερον ὦρσε γόοιο:
ἁψάμενος δ’ ἄρα χειρὸς ἀπώσατο ἦκα γέροντα.
τὼ δὲ μνησαμένω ὃ μὲν Ἕκτορος ἀνδροφόνοιο
κλαῖ’ ἁδινὰ προπάροιθε ποδῶν Ἀχιλῆος ἐλυσθείς,
αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς κλαῖεν ἑὸν πατέρ’, ἄλλοτε δ’ αὖτε
Πάτροκλον: τῶν δὲ στοναχὴ κατὰ δώματ’ ὀρώρει.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥα γόοιο τετάρπετο δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς,
καί οἱ ἀπὸ πραπίδων ἦλθ’ ἵμερος ἠδ’ ἀπὸ γυίων,
αὐτίκ’ ἀπὸ θρόνου ὦρτο, γέροντα δὲ χειρὸς ἀνίστη
οἰκτίρων πολιόν τε κάρη πολιόν τε γένειον.

Image: Bertel Thorvaldsen, “Priam Pleads with Achilles for Hector’s Body,” 1868-1870.

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