Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.
Farewell to Patroclus
Upon return to the Achaean camp, Achilles asks the Myrmidons to ride their chariots past Patroclus so they can all mourn him 'as the dead should be mourned'. They all ride around the corpse three times, while Achilles cries out that he has kept his vow to slay Trojans and drag Hector's corpse to the Achaean camp. Later that evening, the men feast with Agamemnon; however, Achilles refuses to wash the blood from his body until his friend's burial is complete.
A Special Dream
When Achilles is finally able to fall asleep, Patroclus visits him in a dream. He is being denied entrance past Hades' gates and suggests Achilles is neglecting him now that he is dead. He asks that Achilles make quick of his funeral, so he may pass on, but also that he may have his ashes buried close to Achilles' so they can be together again when Achilles dies. Upon awaking from this dream, Achilles and his men gather the wood, ropes, and offerings needed for Partoclus' funeral pyre. Achilles kills twelve, noble Trojan sons, sacrifices sheep, cattle, and horses, and then prays to the gods to give him wind so the pyre will burn. All night his slain friend burns, until nothing but ashes are left to be saved in a golden urn.
The Chariot Race
Once the funeral is complete, the funeral games are arranged to celebrate their great fallen warrior. Achilles prepares a chariot race with rich prizes for the victors. Even though this is not a battle, the gods and goddesses still interfere to make sure their preferred mortal wins. The participants, Eumelus, Diomedes, Menelaus, Antilochus, and Meriones, engage in drama from the get-go.
Right away, we see smack talk and divine intervention, or intervention from the gods, come into play! The god Apollo tries to knock Diomedes out of the race by loosening the whip from his hand, but the goddess Athena sees this and quickly intervenes! Not only does she give the whip back to Diomedes, she also strengthens his team and breaks the yoke on Eumelus' chariot.
Meanwhile, Antilochus ignores Menelaus' warnings that he is coming too close on a narrow stretch, and this pushes Menelaus out of the way, allowing Antilochus to place second behind Diomedes. Meriones comes in fourth, just behind Menelaus; Eumelus comes in last of all. Since he should have come in second place, and Achilles feels somewhat sorry for him, Eumelus is given a prize anyways.
Boxing and Wrestling
To continue the funeral games, Achilles sets out more prizes and first arranges for a boxing match. The first to step forward is Epeius, who claims he can beat any man who dares to challenge him. One man, Euryalus, rises to the challenge. He is known for defeating every Cadmeian opponent at Oedipus' funeral games. During these games, though, he comes out the loser.
For the wrestling match, warriors Ajax the Great and Odysseus step forward. After going after one another's strengths, the men bring about awe from all who watch their match. When neither is able to come out on top, Achilles calls a draw and awards both men prizes.
For the foot race we have Ajax the Lesser, Odysseus, and Antilochus. In a moment of comedy, we see Athena step in to answer Odysseus' prayers for help as he is coming in second to Ajax. She swiftly swoops in to give him strength, while also causing Ajax to slip and fall in bull poo that was left over from Achilles' sacrifice to the gods. While Ajax comes in second, with a mound of dung on his face, Antilochus honors the older generation and notes no one would have been able to beat Odysseus, unless, perhaps, Achilles. Grateful for the flattery, Achilles awards extra gold to Antilochus.
Armed Combat and Throwing
It is now time for the men to show some more of their combat skills. First up is the armed combat with Ajax the Great and Diomedes, where the first to draw blood will be declared the winner. While Ajax manages a hit at Diomedes' breastplate, the Greeks show great fear for Ajax because Diomedes is relentless in his continued advances for Ajax's neck. Achilles stops the combat and declares Diomedes the winner.
For the throwing competition, Polypoetes, Leonteus, Ajax the Great, and Epeius, come forward to compete. Epeius is first, but is mocked for his efforts. Leonteus passes him, but then, Ajax easily overshoots those efforts. Yet, when Polypoetes comes forward, he overthrows the others by a landslide and wins the great prize.
Archery and Agamemnon's Honor
For the archery competition, the men are required to shoot a fluttering dove that is tethered to a cord on a ship. Lord Teucer and Meriones come forward to compete. Teucer is first, but because he forgets his sacrifice to Apollo, the god causes him to slice the cord and miss the bird. Quickly, because the bird is now freed, Meriones steps forward, offers his prayer of sacrifice to Apollo, and shoots the bird through its wing, thus taking the prize.
Now, we know there is not a lot of love going on between Achilles and Agamemnon; however, the final challenge in the funeral games brings about a great moment between these two. As the final challenge, spear throwing, is announced, Agamemnon and Meriones step forward to compete. Achilles, however, interjects to state it is known Agamemnon is superior to all others in strength and skill when it comes to spear throwing, so he is automatically named the winner.
Book 23 of Homer's The Iliad is all about Achilles finding closure from Patroclus' death. He mourns his friend, prepares his funeral, and conducts the funeral games. Despite the plotting and divine intervention from gods and goddesses during the challenges, Achilles emits a sense of peace, especially when he honors Agamemnon. The chapter draws a close to Patroclus' funeral, but not to Achilles' grief.
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