Iliad

The Treatment of Material Gifts and Wealth in Books VII and IX of Homer's Ililad College

Book VII and Book IX of Homer’s Iliad present opposing views on the significance of material wealth in relation to the heroic code, contrasting Hector and Achilles consecutively, who have already been established by the poet as polar in character. On one hand, in the passage from Book VII, material wealth acts with moral significance to end the battle between Aias and Hector and promote a friendship for the benefit of both the Trojan and Greek armies; whereas Achilles breaks down this heroic ideal, as if the giving of the gifts as an act has lost its meaning as a means to mend the relationship between Achilles and Agamemnon, and is completely undermined by Achilles’ arguable self-preservation due to his lack of emotional control. Since material wealth in Homer’s era was representative of social status, the exchanging of gifts would have withheld a certain honour that could be easily linked with the heroic code. The acceptance of gifts, which appears to act as a form of forgiveness and relative peace between two people, which is reflected in the passage from Book VII, follows the dignity expected of the hero in order to protect the needs of the greater population. Yet, the opposing dismissal of gift giving because of the desire...

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