The Iliad by Homer: Interpretation in Art

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In the Iliad Homer tells the story of how the murderer was able to repent and remember when he still had a soul. Achilles is presented in the book as an evil that ruined many sons. King Priam sent his son Hector to be the city’s guardian but Achilles killed him and kept his body. The king’s plea proved effective; he could put the seed of reason into the murderer and make him remember his father. In addition, Priam begged to remember God’s punishment and kissed Achilles’ hands, while in the image on the vase, he was only falling at someone else’s feet. This gesture on the vase shows Priam’s obedience to another’s a will, while the murderer feasts gloatingly on another’s bones. But it is different in the book: Achilles heard the king, his pleas, and pleas to remember his family. His heart longed for his father, and he wept with Priam, recalling his family. Perhaps his conscience woke up, and he gave Hector’s body to the king. After Achilles had mourned his father and his murders, he was able to feast, a sign that he still had a heart.

The image on the vase is more violent: Achilles is feasting while Hector’s corpse lies nearby. Priam, crouching at his feet, asks for his body back, but Achilles is focused on his victory. His victory is gory: blood drips red onto Hector’s corpse from the meat. Achilles’ face expresses no sympathy or remorse; he does not remember his father and is unlikely to regret what he has done. The artist portrayed him as he became in conquering Troy, a murderer who is willing to feast on other people’s corpses. He focused on the aspect of morality that left Achilles. The moment depicted on the vase resulted from a reworking of the book and a different interpretation of Achilles’ view of the war that had begun.