Odysseus' Plea to Achilles

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Book nine of Homer's Iliad presents the desperate Achaians sending an embassy to Achilles in an attempt to persuade him to fight. Agamemnon is in despair over the war and finally assents to make peace with Achilles by sending Odysseus, Phoinix, and Aias to go to Achilles' tent on the Trojan beach. Odysseus first speaks to Achilles, craftily presenting the upcoming phase of the war as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for honor and riches. Odysseus begins his speech to Achilles with a challenge and immediately points out the Greeks reliance on him: “There is doubt if we save our... vessels or if they will be destroyed, unless you put on your war strength” (9.230-231). Here, Odysseus puts the hope of the Achaians to return home on Achilles' shoulders. Odysseus goes on to point out that Hektor “gives way to no one neither god nor man” (9.238-239). This is the first of two cleverly inserted challenges concerning Hektor in Odysseus' appeal. Having seen the effect of Agamemnon's calling Achilles a common spearman, Odysseus is familiar with Achilles' pride and desire for honor. Mentioning that Hektor yields to neither “god nor man” (9.239), Odysseus is able to present the situation as an opportunity for great honor and glory. This appeal to Achilles' honor continues throughout the speech. Odysseus continues by requesting that Achilles “rescue the afflicted sons of the Achaians from the Trojan onslaught” (9.247-248). He adds that “it will be an affliction to [Achilles] hereafter, [and that] there will be no remedy found to heal the evil thing when it has been done” (9.249-250). This proves to be a very cleverly constructed appeal by Odysseus. He uses the word “rescue”, which implies not only the opportunity for personal glory, but also the opportunity to be honored by everyone who is rescued – indeed, the entire Achaian army. Odysseus quickly follows this however, by

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