What Is the Purpose of the “Embassy to Achilles” (Iliad Book 9)

What Is the Purpose of the “Embassy to Achilles” (Iliad Book 9)

Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, is a timeless work that delves into the Trojan War, a conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans. Book 9 of the Iliad, also known as the “Embassy to Achilles,” serves a crucial purpose in the narrative. This article aims to explore the significance of this section and shed light on its role in the overall story.

The “Embassy to Achilles” takes place during a critical point in the war. Achilles, the greatest Greek warrior, has withdrawn from the battle after a dispute with Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek forces. As a result, the Trojans, led by Hector, have gained momentum, and the Greeks are suffering heavy losses. In order to turn the tide of the war, the Greek leaders send an embassy to Achilles, urging him to rejoin the fight.

The purpose of this embassy is multi-faceted. Firstly, it serves as a desperate attempt by the Greeks to convince Achilles to put aside his anger and rejoin the battle. Achilles’ absence has had a significant impact on the Greek forces, and his return is seen as crucial to their success. The embassy members, including Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax, are chosen because of their influential positions and personal relationships with Achilles. Their mission is to appeal to his sense of honor, pride, and loyalty to his comrades.

Secondly, the embassy aims to highlight the consequences of Achilles’ absence. The Greek leaders emphasize the dire situation on the battlefield, the deaths of their fellow soldiers, and the potential loss of the war. They argue that Achilles’ refusal to fight not only affects his own reputation but also endangers the lives of his friends and fellow warriors. By depicting the suffering of the Greek forces, the embassy hopes to evoke a sense of responsibility in Achilles and motivate him to rejoin the fight.

Furthermore, the embassy provides an opportunity for Achilles’ character development. Throughout the Iliad, Achilles undergoes a transformation, from a vengeful and prideful warrior to a more empathetic and compassionate figure. The embassy serves as a catalyst for this change, as Achilles is forced to confront the consequences of his actions and the impact they have on others. Through the emotional pleas and arguments presented by the embassy members, Achilles is challenged to reassess his priorities and the values he holds dear.

The “Embassy to Achilles” also raises important themes and questions that resonate throughout the Iliad. It explores the concept of heroism and the responsibilities that come with it. Achilles, as the embodiment of heroism, is faced with the choice between personal glory and the greater good of his comrades. The embassy forces him to confront this dilemma, highlighting the tension between individual desires and communal obligations.

Additionally, the embassy addresses the theme of honor and the role it plays in the lives of warriors. Achilles’ honor has been wounded by Agamemnon’s actions, and his withdrawal from the battle is a way to express his indignation. The embassy seeks to restore his honor by appealing to his sense of duty and reminding him of the heroic values he once held dear.


Q: Who are the members of the embassy to Achilles?
A: The embassy consists of Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax, significant figures in the Greek forces.

Q: What is the outcome of the embassy to Achilles?
A: Despite the embassy’s efforts, Achilles initially refuses to rejoin the battle. However, following further events in the poem, he eventually decides to return and seek revenge against Hector.

Q: How does the embassy contribute to Achilles’ character development?
A: The embassy forces Achilles to reflect on his actions and the consequences they have on others. It challenges his pride and self-interest, leading to a transformation in his character throughout the Iliad.

Q: What are the main themes addressed in the embassy to Achilles?
A: The embassy explores themes of heroism, honor, duty, and the tension between individual desires and communal obligations.

Q: Why is the embassy considered a crucial turning point in the Iliad?
A: The embassy highlights the impact of Achilles’ absence on the Greek forces and plays a significant role in his eventual decision to rejoin the battle, thus influencing the outcome of the Trojan War.

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