Ransom, Revenge, and Heroic Identity in the Iliad

Ransom, Revenge, and Heroic Identity in the Iliad

Ransom, Revenge, and Heroic Identity in the Iliad

Ransom, Revenge, and Heroic Identity in the Iliad

Synopsis

Wilson examines the nature of compensation--ransom and revenge--in the liad, offering a fundamentally new reading of the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles. She presents a detailed anthropology of compensation in Homer, located in the wider context of agonistic exchange, to demonstrate how the struggle over definitions is a central feature of elite competition for status in the zero-sum and fluid ranking system of Homeric society. The study thus asserts the integral role of compensation in the traditional, cultural and poetic matrix of this foundational epic.

Excerpt

This book emerged from a dissertation presented to the faculty of the University of Texas in 1997 under the title The Politics of Compensation in the Homeric Iliad. The dissertation itself grew out of a presentation in a graduate seminar on the Iliad, though my interest in the poetics and politics of compensation was sparked much earlier in a Jewish studies seminar on Oral Torah. It has been my good fortune to have at every stage of this project a wealth of colleagues, teachers, and friends who invested their time, energy, and expertise in my work. It is a pleasure to thank them.

I am especially indebted to Erwin Cook for his guidance, critical insight, and unflagging support, from the genesis of the project to its published form. To Andrew Riggsby, Thomas K. Hubbard, Barbara Goff J. Andrew Dearman, and Michael Gagarin I owe special thanks for reading and commenting on early versions of one or all of the chapters. Additionally, the first two chapters and the catalog benefited greatly from Raymond Westbrook's careful critique from the perspective of ancient Near Eastern law. Gregory Nagy read the entire manuscript and offered detailed and invaluable suggestions for revision, as did Walter Donlan, who also made available to me offprints of his own work. I owe many thanks to my colleagues Edward Harris, J. Roger Dunkle, Hardy Hansen, and Christopher Barnes for comments on the Introduction and first chapter and for many insightful conversations. I am also grateful for the generous and helpful suggestions made by the anonymous readers for Cambridge University Press. A portion of chapter 4 was presented orally for a Baylor University Colloquium in Classics in 1996 and later published as “Symbolic Violence in Iliad 9” in Classical World 93.2:132–47. Parts of chapters 1 and 4 were also presented at annual meetings of the American Philological Association in . . .

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