Literary Analysis Essay on Significance of Briseis in Homers Iliad

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Boston College
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Literature review
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Briseis was the daughter of Bryseus of Lyrnessus and was married to Mynes, who was the current king of Hypoplacian Thebe. Achilles later sacked Hypoplacian Thebe, killing Bryseus, his sons, and the king. He then took Briseis as his prize and lay with her in his camp. She made friends with Patroclus, who was a very close friend to Achilles, and promised to make her the wife of Achilles. Briseis is said to have been a very beautiful woman which made her a valuable possession among many. Her beauty was her main tool of survival but was mainly viewed as a sex object hence making her Achilles sex slave. Briseis had a lot of significant contributions to the war between Trojan war.

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Iliad: Main Plot Points

The Homers Iliad begins with Khryses, who is a Trojan priest of Apollo, seeking ransom for his daughter Khryseis who was captured in a raid and taken as a concubine in Agamemnon. Agamemnon however rejected his attempts to get his daughter back and in return insulted him, prompting the priest to pray to the gods to avenge him. Apollo answers his prayers by imposing a plague on the Greek army which prompts Akhilleus assembles a group of wise people to debate on what to do. They later learn the reasons for Apollo’s actions and the king decides to give back the girl in question but in return demands a specific replacement for the girl and specifically asks for Achilles’s prize, Briseis. Agamemnon publicly humiliated Akhilleus by taking his hard-won prize and announcing he can do what he likes with his belongings, Agamemnon has publicly announced that Akhilleus is surplus to requirements and that he will do precisely what he likes with Akhilleus. Akhilleus, therefore, resolves not to go to the war mainly because of the sadness of losing his prize and also because of the way he was humiliated by Agamemnon.

His mother Thetis appeals to the sea gods Zeus on behalf of Akhilleus that his honor is restored through the defeat of Greece warriors in the war due to the absence of Akhilleus So long put into Trojans until the Akhaians give my son his rights, and his honor increased among them.

War in the Iliad

The war starts roughly with the absence of Akhilleus and no amount of advice from Patroklos to engage in the war convinces him. He instead gives Patroklos his fighting armor to help in the war which works as planned since the Trojan warriors got easily scared thinking it was Akhilleus himself. Patroklos however gets carried away with the victory and forgets Akhilleus’s instructions to go back after saving the ship when you have driven them from the ships, come back. He instead carried on during the war and continued to kill more Trojans prompting Apollos to intervene and stop him by allowing the Euphorbos to hit him and was finally killed by Hector. Akhilleus grieves in fury in reaction to the news of the death of his closest friend and promises to avenge him to death. His anger and wrath if felt and turns the Trojans back by a single anguished war cry. Agamemnon apologizes for his actions and offers to return Briseis to Achilles without any harm alongside other gifts but Achilles refuses to accept the gifts, I hate his gifts. Not if he gave me ten times as much, and twenty times over. Agamemnon kept his promises and handed Akhilleus plenty of gifts and his concubine, Briseis.

Briseis later learned of Patroklos death and bitterly mourned him for the man had been a very good friend and kind to her in times of her first caption, you would not let me weep, not when Achillies cut down my husband so now I mourn your death you were always kind. Akhilleus’s anger motivates him to find Hector and avenge his friend’s death despite his knowledge of the prophecy which stated that he would die shortly after Hector’s death since it is decreed your death must come soon after Hectors. Akhilleus gets into a confrontation with Hector and manages to kill him because his strength is no match to Hector’s.

Who Is Briseis in the Iliad?

Briseis is significant in the story because her caption leads to a train of circumstances that greatly affect the ongoing war. When Akhilleus is informed that Briseis has been captured, he withdraws from the war to analyze the situation. He is therefore not emotionally set for the war which therefore greatly affects his warriors since he was one of the greatest warriors among the Greeks.

He attempts to gain victory for the Greeks against the Trojans in his absence by giving his dear friend his fighting armor to confuse the Trojans. The plan turns out to be successful as originally planned out but Patroklos disobeys his orders by continuing to fight even after he had carried out the orders given to him by Akhilleus. Apollos, therefore, decides to intervene which leads to the death of Patroklos. His attempts to avenge his friend’s death indirectly lead to his death through Hector’s death. All these were due to the caption of his concubine Briseis.

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