Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TFBT: Analyzing the Ritual of Compensation

If a man’s brother or son has been killed, that man will accept a blood-price  as compensation for the one who was killed, and the one who caused the death, having paid a vast sum, can remain in the locale while the other one’s heart and manly feeling are checked,  now that he has accepted the blood-price   Iliad IX:632
Portrayal of compensation (poine) or maybe I should say the ritual of compensation seems to follow a set pattern in the Homeric literature;
(1)     There is a conflict between two parties.
(2)     Some people die.
(3) There is an offer of compensation to resolve the conflict. 
(4)  The offer is refused.
(5) Other people die.
(6)  More talk of compensation.
(7)  Divine intervention.
(8) The conflict ends.
So (1) Agamemnon and Achilles argue over Briesis. (Iliad 1:200)
(2)  In the Iliad 1:1, most famously “sent forth to Hades many valiant souls of heroes, and made them spoil for dogs and every bird
(3) Agamemnon offered) seven tripods, ten talents of gold,  twenty gleaming cauldrons, twelve strong horses, seven women,  Brieses (Iliad 9:260) and his own daughter, and seven well established cities (149).
(4) “I will be appeased neither by Agamemnon son of Atreus nor by any other of the Danaans “  (Iliad 9: 315)
(5) Patroculus dies.
(6) “I will give you all that radiant Odysseus offered you yesterday in your tents”  
(7) Iris tells Achilles to give up sulking in his tent and go rescue Patrolculus’ body (Iliad18:170) and 
(8) Achilles accepts the compensation and the social order is restored. (Iliad 19:145)
In the Odyssey (1)  Odysseus disagrees with the suitors about Penelope.
(2) The leader of the suitors is struck in the throat with an arrow  22: 15
(3)   We will make everything good among ourselves in the district, and pay you in full for all that we have eaten and drunk. Each one of us shall pay you a fine worth twenty oxen, and we will keep on giving you gold and bronze till your heart is softened. Until we have done this no one can complain of your being enraged against us.” Odyssey 22:55
(4) “Resourceful Odysseus again glared at him and said, “Though you should give me all that you have in the world both now and all that you ever shall have, I will not stay my hand till I have paid all of you in full”.  Iliad 22:60
(5)  The rest of the suitors die.
(6)   As for the sheep and goats which the wicked suitors have eaten, I will take many myself by force from other people, and will compel the Achaeans to make good the rest till they shall have filled all my yards.”  Odyssey 23:355
(7)  Athena, so she said to Odysseus, “Odysseus, noble son of Laertes and seed of Zeus, stop this strife.” (Odyssey 24:538) 
(8)    Then Athena, daughter of Zeus of the aegis assumed the form and voice of Mentor, and presently made a covenant of peace between the two contending parties.”  (Odyssey  24:546)
Likewise 1) Achilles and Hector strove over the killing of Patroculus. 2)  Hector is fatally wounded.  3) “I pray you by your life and knees, and by your parents, let not dogs devour me at the ships of the Achaeans, (22:340) but accept the rich treasure of gold and bronze which my father and mother will offer you, and send my body home” 4) Achilles refuses.  5) Hector dies.  6) There’s a lot of talk about the compensation among the gods  7) Thetis tells Achilles to accept the ransom.  8)  Achilles accepts the ransom from Priam. “He would be crying for Patroklos. And the sounds of lament rose up all over the dwelling. But when Achilles was now sated with grief and had unburdened the bitterness of his sorrow,”  (Iliad 24:512)
Naturally, the story Phoenix tells during the Embassy scene comes to mind.  In order to convince Achilles to accept compensation he tells him the story of Meleagros.  However,   our analysis so far betrays the fallacy in Phoenix’s argument.  Meleagros is not in conflict with those offering him fifty acres of vineyard and farmland on the most fertile plain of lovely Calydon.     In fact “he was angry in his heart at his dear mother Althaea “ (Iliad 9:555)  So, Meleagros wasn’t being offered compensation, but rather a bribe according to our analysis of the ritual of compensation


  1. I think the conflict between Zeus and Prometheus, as presented by Aeschylus, generally fits the same scheme, with some modifications:

    (1) There is a conflict between two parties.
    (2) The weaker party suffers.
    (3) There is an offer of compensation to resolve the conflict.
    (4) The offer is refused.
    (5) Both parties suffer.
    (6) Presumably more talk of compensation, though we lack direct data.
    (7) Third-party (mortal) intervention.
    (8) The conflict ends.

    1. Good comment Maya. Maybe i should look for application in other scenarios. thanks Bill