An Entry from the Journal of Odysseus
In the tenth year of the war with the Trojans.
I had forgotten how exasperating that Achilles is! He’s a fool when running into the fight and when abstaining from it in his senseless rage. Just now, the man finally let go his anger with Agamemnon and agreed to fight – only after Hector slew his friend, of course. I thought the man had finally come to his senses. But no, I hoped for too much; Achilles is as insane as usual. What did he want to do after making peace with the king? He was all for going to battle immediately! When I tried to persuade him to let the forces eat first and strengthen themselves (unlike him, they had been fighting all day), Achilles declared, “I, by god, I’d drive our Argives into battle now, starving, famished, and only then, when the sun goes down lay on a handsome feast…You talk of food? I have no taste for food – what I really crave is slaughter and blood and the choking groans of men!” (19:246-256). That Achilles has no taste for tactics and craves death, not slaughter. I tried a second time to persuade him, battering at his blindness with all Athena’s wisdom and logic that I could muster. (I did not want him to be as ruinous for our side fighting with us as he had been while refusing to fight at all.) I told him, “When could we find a breathing space from fasting? No. We must steel our hearts. Bury our dead, with tears for the day they die, not one day more. And all those left alive…remember food and drink – so all the more fiercely we can fight our enemies” (19:270-275). Only then did Achilles relent. He let the soldiers eat, though he refused to do so. I care little whether he eats or drinks. Let him die if he chooses! But I will not let him bring down Achaeans with him in his folly.
If Achilles continues to act like this, I may regret that he made peace with Atrides* and has begun fighting with us again. It will take a lot of swordplay on his part to make up for his senselessness, in my opinion.
The fight resumes, and I must arm again.
*Explanatory note: Agamemnon is often called Atrides because he is the son of Atreus.
Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. London, England: Penguin Books, 1990.