Monday, January 30, 2012

The Iliad: Messianic Message Part Two Briseis

So Like I said last week there was one other women I wanted to look at when it came to where or not the Iliad has a messianic message. Her name is Briseis. she was just a normal women till one day the Greeks came killed her family and husband. she was then given to Achilles. Now in the Iliad it is mentioned that she might love Achilles, but at the same she was a prisoner of war, a prize I hardly think it would have mattered one bit if she loved him or not. Their relationship is compared to that of Helen and Menelaus which is why the Greeks are camped on the shores sieging Troy. Oh and let me add Achilles killed Briseis' family, I think lust, possession, and survival had more to do with both these relationships then what we would hold up as true love.

Any way so there was another girl who was taken during this particular pillaging her name is Chryseis she was given to Agamemnon as his prize after the battle. but she has someone who cares about her and pleads with the God Apollo to strike the Greeks for taking his daughter. -if anything this could be where the messianic story could be...kind of.  Well Apollo decides to listen to his priest, the Greeks get hit by a plague and so Chryseis is sent back to her father.

Now this is where things get interesting. See Agamemnon doesn't think it is right that Achilles have a prize form the battle when he doesn't have a girl to keep his bed warm. So what does he do? Well he is in charge so he takes Achilles' prize. and Achilles whines like a baby to his mommy and refuses to fight in the battle till Agamemnon gives him back his prize. Sounds a bit more like a mixture of wounded pride and boy getting his toy truck stolen by the bully on the play ground then a great and mighty warrior who has come to Troy to killed honorably in battle.

This is the event which sets up the rest of the book. If Achilles wasn't so worried about his own wounded pride then the book would have ended much differently. here is the thing Achilles doesn't start fighting again when he is given the girl back, he is, he starts fighting again because his beloved friend was killed. His friend was killed because Achilles did the dishonorable thing and stayed out of battle. he acted the part of a coward and no longer deserved the prize he had been give. Briseis is the catalyst for Achilles' dishonorable actions, he does the right thing only after Patrolclus gets killed in battle. But that will be the topic for next weeks post.

This weeks post is shorter but hopefully it gets the point across. Briseis is stolen from her family, then as a prize she is passed from one man to another, then back to the first. She is little more then a symbol of the power of the man she is given to. Achilles is not her Messiah, she is not his messiah figure. Instead this relationship reflects poorly on Achilles by wounding his pride and leading him to act with dishonor rather then with honor. If anything this once again points out that the world is a terrible place where the weak are ruled and used by the strong and there is no one who will help the cause of the weak. It is better to be part of the strong.

Real quick note about Chryseis, she is stolen from her family too, but her father is still alive. he begs for her to be given back. but according to the laws of war in the ancient time there is no reason that the Greeks should give up any of their prizes. Luckily this man has someone to go to for help, a god. this could be your messianic message but it is such a minor part of the story that it can hardly be concidered a theme of the book. Better the theme that is here that gets repeated through out the book is be careful what gods are on your side and also do your best to not piss off any of them.

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