Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Post-Iliad

Delahoyde & Hughes
Orpheus

AFTER THE
ILIAD


Sources:

Homer’’s Odyssey on the fates of other heroes.

Homeric texts in the Trojan cycle fill in before and after, mostly prose summaries of lost classics like Aethiopas regarding the end of Achilles.

Sophocles’’ and Euripides’’ plays.

Virgil’’s Aeneid.


After the death of Hector, Troy gains new allies. One is an Ethiopian prince named Memnon (son of the Goddess of the Dawn) who supplies Troy with a large army, but who is killed by Achilles. Another new ally is Penthesilia, leader of the Amazons (female warriors). Penthesilia is also slain by Achilles. But he grieves over her and is mocked for it by Thersites (who we saw in Book 2 of the Iliad). Achilles kills him.

One account has Achilles receiving his death-wound from Paris after driving the Trojans back to the gates of the city. But another account says that Achilles was captivated by the charms of Polyxena, daughter of king Priam, whom he possibly saw first on the occasion of the twelve-day truce for Hector’s burial. In order to marry her, he agrees to use his influence with the Greeks to establish peace. In the temple of Apollo, negotiating the marriage, Achilles is shot by Paris. A poisoned arrow, guided by Apollo, wounds Achilles in the heel —— the only vulnerable place on him, since his mother Thetis had dipped him when he was an infant in the river Styx, a baptism that made him invulnerable except where she held onto him with her fingers. (This story seems inconsistent with the Iliad, where Achilles seems to need armor.) So Achilles dies, as foretold, shortly after the death of Hector and before the end of the war.

Odysseus (known for his wisdom and tactics) and Ajax (known for his valor) rescue the corpse of Achilles. His body is burned and his ashes placed in the urn along with those of Patroclus. Then Odysseus and Ajax vie in assembly for the right to wear Achilles’ armor, the work of Hephaestos that Thetis had brought him. The Greek leaders award the honor to Odysseus. Ajax is disgraced and enraged. He sneaks around at night to murder Menelaus and Agamemnon, and Athena additionally strikes him with madness. Ajax goes bonkers, thinks the herds and flocks are the Greek army, and in a homicidal frenzy slaughters animals, thinking they are Greek chieftains. He takes a huge ram to his tent, thinking it’s Odysseus, binds him to a tent-pole, and beats him savagely. Then he wakes up and sees butchered animals all over the field. To die more nobly than he’s been behaving, Ajax draws his sword and kills himself. His blood sinks into the earth and a hyacinth grows (which has what looks like an “Ai” on its leaves, meaning “woe”; the flower is also called Delphinium Ajacis, or Ajax’s Larkspur).

The Greeks are disheartened. Calchas has no prophetic news but knows that the Trojans have a seer named Helenus who might know something. Odysseus captures him and they learn that Troy cannot fall unless someone fights them with the bow and arrows of Heracles. Damn! Prince Philoctetes had them from the funeral pyre and was on his way with them all to Troy, but we stopped on the island of Lemnos to offer a sacrifice, Phil was bitten by a serpent, the reeking wound wouldn’t heal, we couldn’t carry him to Troy, and we couldn’t wait, so we left him there. You think he’ll be glad to see us and give us his stuff? Of course it’s Odysseus who goes with another Greek. They steal Phil’s stuff, but feel guilty and persuade him to join them. He is taken to the healer among the Greek army and goes into battle, wounding Paris.

Paris asks to be taken to Oenone, the nymph he was living with on Mount Ida before the three goddesses made him their beauty judge. Oenone has magic drugs. You think she’ll be happy to see him and cure him? She is not happy to have been deserted, so whe watches him die and kills herself.

One more chore needs doing. The statue of Athena at the Palladium in Troy supposedly had fallen from the heavens. The city cannot be taken as long as the statue remains in it. Odysseus and Diomedes, disguised, enter the city and steal it. But Troy still holds out. We need a plan for getting into the city itself.

Virgil tell of the next and last stages in the Aeneid, Book 2….


Postscript:

Menelaus recaptures Helen. After some digressions, they return home. The next time we see them, Telemachus is searching for his father Odysseus. He arrives at Sparta where the royal couple, Menelaus and Helen, are celebrating the marriage of their daughter Hermione to the son of Achilles.

Agamemnon brings Cassandra with him as a captive back to his palace. Clytemnestra had taken a lover and hated Agamemnon for sacrificing Iphigenia, their daughter, for good winds ten years earlier when they were about to sail for Troy. Agamemnon is butchered in his bath.

Odysseus, along with the other celebrating Greeks, had failed to honor the gods for their victory, and Poseidon is particularly pissed. Odysseus sails for another ten years before making it back to Ithica. He encounters the Cyclops, Circe (the witch who turns men into pigs), the nautical terrors of Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens, and he loses himself in luxury and sensuality on the island of Calypso. When he does get back, he sneaks into his home in disguise. His old dog, only a puppy when he left for Troy, recognizes him and dies. He kills the obnoxious suitors hovering around his wife Penelope and reestablishes himself in his home.

Aeneas’ adventures are given in Virgil’’s Aeneid.


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