The Use of Hiketeia in The Iliad College

Hiketeia is a ritual supplication in which an individual embraces the knees of another in solicitation of a favor or errand. The use of hiketeia in The Iliad establishes a nature of authority in characters of power, including Zeus and Achilles, by demonstrating and creating indebtedness in “generosity” granted to the supplicant. Passages in Book One and Book Twenty-Four validate and examine the acquisition of power for both Zeus and Achilles by granting the requests of Thetis and Priam made through hiketeia.

In Book One Achilles’s mother, Thetis, is an immortal goddess who performs hiketeia onto Zeus. She grasps him by the knees with one hand and his face by the other. Thetis begs him to bring honor to her son after Agamemnon has disgraced him in front of his troops. She asks Zeus to give the Trojans victory until Agamemnon begs in desperation for Achilles to return and fight. Because hiketeia is sacred and a moment of pure subjection, the request cannot be denied casually. If a request is granted, the baiter is indebted to the individual that granted hiketeia. Zeus ultimately agrees to this request, despite the repercussions from his wife and the deaths of thousands of mortals, because he himself is indebted to Thetis for...

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