A student of mine, Erin Linton, is working on the rituals and theory of guest friendship in Greek culture, particularly in the Homeric epics. She has pointed to the inclusio within the Iliad, which begins with a duel between Menelaus and Paris to resolve the war and ends with a reconciliation, partial and temporary though it is, between Achilles and Priam. She also points to the “reconciliation” of Agamemnon and Achilles as an example of a kind of guest friendship in the epic. What striking is that reconciliation is actually achieved only through human sacrifice: the single combat of Menelaus and Paris is inconclusive, but there is a real restoration of the friendship and cooperation of Achilles and Agamemnon following the death of Patroclus, and a kind of reconciliation between Greek and Trojan after the death of Hector. Friendship can be established or reestablished, it seems, only on the grounds of sacrifice, human sacrifice.

More on: Classics

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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