Lecture 8: The End of the Iliad
Focus Passages
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Focus Passages

A) Iliad 24.477-512: King Priam entered without their seeing him, and going right up to Achilles he clasped his knees and kissed the dread murderous hands that had slain so many of his sons. As when some cruel spite [atê] has befallen a man that he should have killed some one in his own country, and must flee to a great man's protection in a land [dêmos] of strangers, and all marvel who see him, even so did Achilles marvel as he beheld Priam. The others looked one to another and marveled also, but Priam besought Achilles saying, "Think of your father, O Achilles like unto the gods, who is such even as I am, on the sad threshold of old age. It may be that those who dwell near him harass him, and there is none to keep war and ruin from him. Yet when he hears of you being still alive, he is glad, and his days are full of hope that he shall see his dear son come home to him from Troy; but I, wretched man that I am, had the bravest in all Troy for my sons, and there is not one of them left. I had fifty sons when the Achaeans came here; nineteen of them were from a single womb, and the others were borne to me by the women of my household. The greater part of them has fierce Ares laid low, and Hektor, him who was alone left, him who was the guardian of the city and ourselves, him have you lately slain; therefore I am now come to the ships of the Achaeans to ransom his body from you with a great ransom. Fear, O Achilles, the wrath of heaven; think on your own father and have compassion upon me, who am the more pitiable, for I have steeled myself as no man yet has ever steeled himself before me, and have raised to my lips the hand of him who slew my son." Thus spoke Priam, and the heart of Achilles yearned as he bethought him of his father. He took the old man's hand and moved him gently away. The two wept bitterly - Priam, as he lay at Achilles' feet, weeping for Hektor, and Achilles now for his father and now for Patroklos, till the house was filled with their lamentation.

B) Iliad 24.589-595: Achilles himself lifted it on to a bier, and he and his men then laid it on the wagon. He cried aloud as he did so and called on the name of his dear comrade, "Be not angry with me, Patroklos," he said, "if you hear even in the house of Hades that I have given Hektor to his father for a ransom. It has been no unworthy one, and I will share it equitably with you."

C) Iliad 24.552-570: And Priam answered, "O king, bid me not be seated, while Hektor is still lying uncared for in your tents, but accept the great ransom which I have brought you, and give him to me at once that I may look upon him. May you prosper with the ransom and reach your own land in safety, seeing that you have allowed me to live and to look upon the light of the sun." Achilles looked at him sternly and said, "Vex me, sir, no longer; I am of myself minded to give up the body of Hektor. My mother, daughter of the Old One of the sea, came to me from Zeus to bid me deliver it to you. Moreover I know well, O Priam, and you cannot hide it, that some god has brought you to the ships of the Achaeans, for else, no man however strong and in his prime would dare to come to our host of warriors; he could neither pass our guard unseen, nor draw the bolt of my gates thus easily; therefore, provoke me no further, lest I sin against the word of Zeus, and allow you not, suppliant though you are, within my tents."

D) Iliad 24.719-776: When they had borne the body within the house they laid it upon a bed and seated minstrels round it to lead the dirge, whereon the women joined in the sad music of their lament. Foremost among them all Andromache led their wailing as she clasped the head of mighty Hektor in her embrace. "Husband," she cried, "you have died young, and leave me in your house a widow; he of whom we are the ill-starred parents is still a mere child, and I fear he may not reach manhood before he can do so our city will be razed and overthrown, for you who watched over it are no more &endash; you who were its savior, the guardian of our wives and children. Our women will be carried away captives to the ships, and I among them; while you, my child, who will be with me will be put to some unseemly tasks, working for a cruel master. Or, maybe some Achaean will hurl you (O miserable death) from our walls, to avenge some brother, son, or father whom Hektor slew; many of them have indeed bitten the dust at his hands, for your father's hand in battle was no light one. Therefore do the people mourn him. You have left, O Hektor, sorrow unutterable to your parents, and my own grief [penthos] is greatest of all, for you did not stretch forth your arms and embrace me as you lay dying, nor say to me any words that might have lived with me in my tears night and day for evermore."

[746] Bitterly did she weep the while, and the women joined in her lament. Hecuba in her turn took up the strains of woe. "Hektor," she cried, "dearest to me of all my children. So long as you were alive the gods loved you well, and even in death they have not been utterly unmindful of you; for when Achilles took any other of my sons, he would sell him beyond the seas, to Samos Imbrus or rugged Lemnos; and when had taken away your life-breath [psukhê] with his sword, many a time did he drag you round the tomb [sêma] of his comrade &endash; though this could not give him life &endash; yet here you lie all fresh as dew, and comely as one whom Apollo has slain with his painless shafts."

[760] Thus did she too speak through her tears with bitter moan, and then Helen for a third time took up the strain of lamentation. "Hektor," said she, "dearest of all my brothers-in-law &endash; for I am wife to Alexander who brought me here to Troy &endash; would that I had died before he did so &endash; twenty years are come and gone since I left my home and came from over the sea, but I have never heard one word of insult or unkindness from you. When another would chide with me, as it might be one of your brothers or sisters or of your brothers' wives, or my mother-in-law &endash; for Priam was as kind to me as though he were my own father &endash; you would rebuke and check them with words of gentleness and goodwill. Therefore my tears flow both for you and for my unhappy self, for there is no one else in Troy who is kind to me, but all shrink and shudder as they go by me."

[776] She wept as she spoke and the vast crowd [dêmos] that was gathered round her joined in her lament.

...Thus, then, did they celebrate the funeral of Hektor tamer of horses.

E) Iliad, alternative endings: Thus, then, did they celebrate the funeral of Hektor; and an Amazon came, the daughter of great-hearted man-slaying Ares.


Thus, then, did they celebrate the funeral of Hektor; and an Amazon came, the daughter of Otreres, the beautiful Penthesileia.

F) Proclus' Summary of the Aithiopis, attributed to Arctinus of Miletus

[1] The Amazon Penthesileia, daughter of Ares and Thracian by birth, comes to Troy as an ally of the Trojans.
In the middle of her aristeia, Achilles kills her
and the Trojans arrange for her funeral.
Thersites, reviling and reproaching Achilles by saying that he loved Penthesileia, is killed by Achilles.
From this a quarrel arises among the Achaeans about Thersites' murder.
After this, Achilles sails to Lesbos, sacrifices to Apollo, Artemis, and Leto
and is purified of the murder by Odysseus.
Now Memnon, son of Eos [Dawn], who owns armor made by Hephaistos, comes to the aid of the Trojans.
Thetis tells her son about the outcome of events concerning Memnon.
[10] When a battle occurs, Antilochos is killed by Memnon
but then Achilles kills Memnon.
At this, Eos asks from Zeus the dispensation of immortality for him [Memnon], and it is granted.
But Achilles, while routing the Trojans and rushing into the citadel, is killed by Paris and Apollo.
When a heated battle starts over the corpse,
[15] Aias [Ajax] picks it up and carries it off to the ships
while Odysseus fights off the Trojans.
Then they hold funeral rites for Antilochos
and lay out Achilles' corpse;
Thetis comes with the Muses and her sisters and makes a lament for her son.
[20] After that, Thetis snatches him off the pyre and
carries him over to the island Leuke.
But the Achaeans heap up his burial mound and hold funeral games
and a quarrel breaks out between Odysseus and Aias over the armor of Achilles.

G) Odyssey 8.488-532: Odysseus said to Demodokos, "Demodokos, there is no one in the world whom I praise with admiration more than I do you. You must have studied under the Muse, Zeus' daughter, and under Apollo, - with such a sense of order [kosmos] do you sing the return of the Achaeans with all their sufferings and adventures. If you were not there yourself, you must have heard it all from some one who was. Now, however, change your song and tell us of the construction [kosmos] of the wooden horse which Epeios made with the assistance of Athena, and which Odysseus got by stratagem into the fort of Troy after freighting it with the men who afterwards sacked the city. If you will sing this tale aright I will tell all the world how magnificently heaven has endowed you."

[499] The bard, inspired by a god, lit up the picture of his story, starting at the point where some of the Argives set fire to their tents and sailed away while others, hidden within the horse, were waiting with Odysseus in the Trojan place of assembly. For the Trojans themselves had drawn the horse into their fortress, and it stood there while they sat in council round it, and were in three minds as to what they should do. Some were for breaking it up then and there; others would have it dragged to the top of the rock on which the fortress stood, and then thrown down the precipice; while yet others were for letting it remain as an offering and propitiation for the gods. And this was how they settled it in the end, for the city was doomed when it took in that horse, within which were all the bravest of the Argives waiting to bring death and destruction on the Trojans. Anon he sang how the sons of the Achaeans issued from the horse, and sacked the town, breaking out from their ambuscade. He sang how they overran the city here and there and ravaged it, and how Odysseus went raging like Ares along with Menelaos to the house of Deiphobos. It was there that the fight raged most furiously, nevertheless by Athena's help he was victorious.

[521] All this he told, but Odysseus was overcome as he heard him, and his cheeks were wet with tears. He wept as a woman weeps when she throws herself on the body of her husband who has fallen before his own city and people, fighting bravely in defense of his home and children. She screams aloud and flings her arms about him as he lies gasping for breath and dying, but her enemies beat her from behind about the back and shoulders, and carry her off into slavery, to a life of labor [ponos] and sorrow, and the beauty fades from her cheeks - even so piteously did Odysseus weep.

H) Odyssey 24.35-95: "Happy [olbios] son of Peleus," answered the ghost [psukhê] of Agamemnon, "for having died at Troy far from Argos, while the bravest of the Trojans and the Achaeans fell round you fighting for your body. There you lay in the whirling clouds of dust, all huge and hugely, heedless now of your chivalry. We fought the whole of the livelong day, nor should we ever have left off if Zeus had not sent a gale to stay us. Then, when we had borne you to the ships out of the fray, we laid you on your bed and cleansed your fair skin with warm water and with ointments. The Danaans tore their hair and wept bitterly round about you. Your mother, when she heard, came with her immortal nymphs from out of the sea, and the sound of a great wailing went forth over the waters so that the Achaeans quaked for fear. They would have fled panic-stricken to their ships had not wise old Nestor whose counsel was ever truest checked them saying, 'Hold, Argives, flee not sons of the Achaeans, this is his mother coming from the sea with her immortal nymphs to view the body of her son.'

[57] "Thus he spoke, and the Achaeans feared no more. The daughters of the old man of the sea stood round you weeping bitterly, and clothed you in immortal raiment. The nine muses also came and lifted up their sweet voices in lament - calling and answering one another; there was not an Argive but wept for pity of the dirge they chanted. Days and nights seven and ten we mourned you, mortals and immortals, but on the eighteenth day we gave you to the flames, and many a fat sheep with many an ox did we slay in sacrifice around you. You were burnt in raiment of the gods, with rich resins and with honey, while heroes, horse and foot, clashed their armor round the pile as you were burning, with the tramp as of a great multitude. But when the flames of heaven had done their work, we gathered your white bones at daybreak and laid them in ointments and in pure wine. Your mother brought us a golden urn to hold them - gift of Bacchus, and work of Hephaistos himself; in this we mingled your bleached bones with those of Patroklos who had gone before you, and separate we enclosed also those of Antilokhos, who had been closer to you than any other of your comrades now that Patroklos was no more.

[80] "Over these the host of the Argives built a noble tomb, on a point jutting out over the open Hellespont, that it might be seen from far out upon the sea by those now living and by them that shall be born hereafter. Your mother begged prizes from the gods, and offered them to be contended for [agôn] by the noblest of the Achaeans. You must have been present at the funeral of many a hero, when the young men gird themselves and make ready to contend for prizes on the death of some great chieftain, but you never saw such prizes as silver-footed Thetis offered in your honor; for the gods loved you well. Thus even in death your kleos, Achilles, has not been lost, and your name lives evermore among all humankind.

More Resources

In some traditions, Achilles was said to have fallen in love with the Amazon warrior Penthesileia, just at the moment that he kills her in battle. This famous vase depicts that moment. Click on the image to be taken to the Beazley archive, where you can link to more information about Penthesileia, and a larger image of the vase.

Greek vase paintings frequently depicted scenes that were also narrated in the Epic Cycle. The myths of the Epic Cycle seem to have been even more popular in early Greek art than those narrated in the Iliad and Odyssey. Robin Mitchell-Boyask's Images of the Trojan War Myth contains links to many of these depictions.


Eos (the Dawn Goddess) holding the body of her son Memnon. The narration of the death of Memnon at the hands of Achilles was narrated in the Aethiopis.

An electronic text of Proclus' summaries of the Epic Cycle is available here. A handy outline of the poems of the Epic Cycle is available here.