Who is Briseis in The Iliad? - Story & Role

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  • 0:04 Losing it All
  • 0:27 Briseis in the Trojan War
  • 0:49 Briseis and Achilles
  • 1:17 Stolen by Agamemnon
  • 2:16 Back to Achilles
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Briseis loses all she has ever held dear - twice. Ripped from her family and homeland and thrust into slavery, Briseis manages to find some happiness only to have it all taken away.

Losing It All

Picture this: a beautiful girl has had her whole world torn apart. Her whole family murdered, this girl finds herself a slave of the conquering hero. And just when she manages to find some happiness with her new life, she has it all taken from her yet again. This is what happened to poor Briseis in Homer's epic The Iliad. This lesson will focus on the story and role of Briseis in The Iliad.

Briseis in the Trojan War

Briseis, in Greek Mythology, was a beautiful princess. She is described as having long blonde hair. Early in the war, when the Greeks invaded her city outside of Troy, Briseis's parents and husband were killed. However, it's likely her beauty saved her from their fate. Instead of being murdered alongside her family, she is captured and given to the Greek hero Achilles.

Briseis and Achilles

Though she is initially his slave, there is plenty of evidence in The Iliad that Briseis and Achilles are actually in love with each other. Achilles's great friend Patroclus even promises her that she will marry Achilles. She looks forward to that day when she returns with him to his homeland, where she will 'formalize my marriage.'

Trouble begins for their happily-ever-after, though, when Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces, steals a girl named Chryseis from the city of Troy and makes her his concubine.

Stolen by Agamemnon

Soon after Chryseis is stolen, her father, Chryses, demands her return. Chryses is a priest of the god of the sun, Apollo, and Apollo is angered at the way Agamemnon disrespected his priest. So, Apollo sends a plague down among the Greek soldiers. Many die, and the other Greek captains tell Agamemnon he must return the girl to her father.

Agamemnon agrees, but on one condition: he gets to take Achilles's concubine, Briseis. Patroclus consoles her, telling her she will soon be returned to Achilles. The poor girl is brought to Agamemnon, where we can only imagine what she goes through.

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