Briseis to Agammemnon
fresco by Tiepolo
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The Anger of Achilles
by Jacques-Luis David, 1819
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Ambassadors Sent by
Agamemnon to Urge
Achilles to Fight
by Jean Auguste Dominique, 1801
Achilles and Patroclus
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Thetis Bringing the
Armor to Achilles
by Benjamin West, 1806-1808
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ACHILLES PART FOUR - BRISEIS
Continued from page three
His mother Thetis had warned Achilles that the first Greek to
land on Trojan soil would also be the first to perish in the
war, so Achilles was able to avoid
that. It was unlucky Protesilaus who was first to land and he
soon died, but not before first dispatching a large number of Trojans,
who had gathered at the beachfront in an attempt to repel the
No luck. Stopping a thousand ships, each filled to the brim with
seasoned soldiers, is no easy task. The Trojans soon retreated
behind the walls of their city.
The Greeks set up camp right on the beach and prepared for a
The walls of Troy were heavily fortified and the Trojans had
stocked up tremendous stores of supplies so the siege lasted ten
During that time Achilles kept busy by sacking and pillaging a
large number of surrounding cities, including the islands of
Tenedos and Lesbos, and the cities of Thebe, Antandrus,
Adramyntium, Lyrnessus, reaching very far to the south and
taking also Cyme, Phocaea, Smyrna, Clazomenae and Colophon.
With each conquest the legend of Achilles grew. He was
King Agamemnon, leader of the Greek invasion, insulted a seer of
Apollo, who had come to claim his daughter Chreisis, who was
kidnapped by the Achaeans (Greeks). To punish the king Apollo
brought a terrible pestilence upon the army and many Greek
warriors died horribly.
It took the seer Calchas to pronounce that it was Agamemnon's
pride which brought this evil upon the Greeks. Still Agamemnon
chose to insult this seer also, vain man, but was astute enough
to announce that he would give up claim to the girl Chreisis.
To show who was boss, however, he took away Briseis, who was
Achilles' current sweetheart. This put Achilles into a deep funk
and he refused to fight, instead wasting away in his tent while
his army of Myrmidons idled their time away getting a tan on the
When the Trojans realized that Achilles and his feared Myrmidons had
withdrawn from battle they became emboldened by the great
warrior's absence and they launched a series of raids against
the Greeks, inflicting severe losses. At Thetis's urging, Zeus
permitted this to happen, in order that the Greeks would once
again honor Achilles and realize how indispensable to them he
As time went on and the Trojans became more and more dangerous,
Agamemnon came to his senses and agreed to appease Achilles'
wrath. And it is for that purpose that he offered him seven
tripods, seven women, seven cities, and many other gifts
including the -according to Agamemnon - untouched maiden
But Achilles was too upset by Agamemnon and no gift of wealth
would sway him to rejoin the battle. He could never control his
pride, or the rage that consumed him whenever that pride was
Pride was Achilles' major character flaw. Poisoned by this
attribute, he abandoned his comrades, and he even prayed that
the Trojans would slaughter the entire Greek army.
Why? It was all because of a slight by Agamemnon.
The Greeks appeared lost.
Now, Achilles had a best friend called Patroclus. This handsome
warrior was Achilles' second-in-command, his personal charioteer,
brother-in-arms, and beloved cousin. The two were inseparable.
Hector took full advantage of Achilles' absence by wreaking
havoc on the Achaean army. He led a daring assault that finally
penetrated the Greek ramparts, and he was the first and only
Trojan to set fire to an Achaean ship.
It was when the Trojans thus became so bold as to actually begin setting fire to the
Greek ships, some say, that Achilles consented to send his pal Patroclus to
fight, giving him his own famous armor to wear.
Yet others claim that Patroclus acted on his own, because he
felt so badly at how the Greeks were faring versus the
rejuvenated Trojans. Off to battle he went, wearing the
distinctive armor and helmet of his best buddy Achilles, in
outward appearance looking identical to him.
The Trojan prince Hector killed brave Patroclus in battle,
believing it was Achilles he slew, and took the armor for
himself. The death of his best friend devastated Achilles and
spurred him into action. He was angry and wanted revenge!
Realizing that he had been wasting his time and skills bitterly
pouting by his ships, Achilles asked his mother Thetis to fetch
him new armor from the great god of smiths, Hephaestus. His old armor
had been taken by Hector, son of Priam, the King of Troy, when he
When Thetis delivered the new armor Achilles called a council of
war and reconciled with Agamemnon, both agreeing that they had
acted foolishly. All the rage and animosity which Achilles had
felt towards Agamemnon had now been transferred to prince
It was payback time!
None could stand before the wrath of Achilles. The night before
Achilles returned to combat, Hector, succumbing to
overconfidence, had ordered the Trojan army to camp outside the
safety of the city walls. This critical tactical error caused
his crucial downfall the following day.
At the sight of
him the startled Trojans broke ranks and scattered, dividing into two
bodies. Achilles and his peerless army of Myrmidons drove one part across the plain towards the
city of Troy and penned the other in a bend of the river.
The River-god Xanthus tried to subdue him but Hephaestus came to the aid
of Achilles and dried up the waters with a scorching flame. The
stunned Trojan survivors hastened back to the safety of their
fortified walls like a bunch of scared rabbits.
Now it was Hector's turn.
Achilles continues on