Sorrow and sympathy

In this passage from the Iliad, Briseis has just been returned to Achilles after being seized by Agamemnon. When she returns to Achilles’ hut she finds Patroclus dead. Patroclus had been particularly kind to her and she remembers this kindness in a tearful speech over the body of Patroclus. After she has spoken the other women join her in crying. Some would take the passage to mean that the women were not lamenting at all for Patroclus but for just their own personal sorrow. The view I prefer is that their sorrow for Patroclus is real but it also reminds the women of their own personal griefs. After all this is the way that sympathy works.

ὣς ἔφατο κλαίουσ᾽, ἐπὶ δὲ στενάχοντο γυναῖκες 
Πάτροκλον πρόφασιν, σφῶν δ᾽ αὐτῶν κήδε᾽ ἑκάστη. 

 So she spoke crying, and the women followed her in weeping for Patroclus. That was their excuse but really each was weeping for their own sorrows. 

 iliad 19.301 

 Similarly a bit further on Achilles remembers what he left behind in his home in Greece. The other top Greeks remember what they left behind as well. 

ὣς ἔφατο κλαίων, ἐπὶ δὲ στενάχοντο γέροντες, 
μνησάμενοι τὰ ἕκαστος ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἔλειπον: 

 So he spoke crying and the elders followed hin in weeping, each of them remembering what they had left behind in their homes. 

 iliad 19.338

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s