This is my midterm for my Classics course this semester.
The question was as follows:
A round-table discussion is being held in Hades among various characters, real and imaginary, who appear in the works we have read so far. Write a transcript of the discussion, guided by the way Homer, Thucydides, Sophocles and Euripedes portray these characters.
The discussants are considering the following questions:
- What was the most critical decision that you faced?
- What factors, for and against, did you consider in making your decision?
- What did you achieve or fail to achieve as a result of your decision?
After the first round, each character will make a brief critical comment on the decision of one other character.
The four characters conducting this discussion are:
My answer was as follows:
Perhaps at one point my main goal was to gain glory for myself and my family by sacking Troy and bringing Helen back. I have no love for Agamemnon, no true allegiance to him. My quarrel with him truly began long before our siege of Troy. Have I achieved that? Perhaps, I am remembered, maybe because I perished before Troy fell. I was told I had a choice, either to live a long, prosperous life and die at home, anonymously; or to die with honor on the battlefield. Make no mistake; however, my mind was not made up until Patroklos was killed in my armor. Agamemnon treated me disgracefully, and no amount of ransom or tribute could assuage me. He was indeed clever to send as his emissaries my beloved comrades, especially Odysseus, but it was also cowardly. No, he is best forgotten. But O, my beloved Patroklos whom I sent in my stead was felled in battle! If I had but put aside my pride and joined the melee then, I might have died without a comrade’s blood on my hands! My real goal was then to avenge Patroklos’ death and that I did. Once avenged, my soul was partially assuaged. What I did to Hektor’s lifeless body was unnecessary. He was destined to be buried properly. His body would not rot. It was preserved by the Gods. It was only right to give him back to his father, Priam.
At what point do the laws of men and the laws of The Gods meet? In most cases, the laws of men mimic the Olympian law, and all live in harmony. Often, however, when a ruler lays down a law that protects himself and/or his economy, this will invariably fly in the face of divine justice. Take then, a page from my book, and see what decision I was faced with. Polyneices was my brother. He died trying to enforce the guidelines of rulership set down by both himself and my other brother. But power often rots the hearts of men and when they both perished and Creon took control, with his crown came the rotten heart, full of greed and malice. His law forbidding the burial of Polyneices was an offense against man and god, enacted by his own lust for absolute power. I am a Theban woman, and I stand and laugh in the face of any man or woman who dares to tell me to forsake the will of the gods! As men and women, we are often the tools of the Gods’ will and as such, I carried out their bidding. My sister may have loved Polyneices, but not enough. I have heard all the arguments as to why I should have obeyed and all of them talk of fear of reprisal and punishment should I disobey Creon’s edict. I ask you, what is the punishment of men next to the punishment o the Gods? Ask Creon of the Olympian wrath, for he can tell you well of it. I did what was necessary and right and just. Therefore, I did not fail my brother, the Gods, or myself.
Melians (To Antigone):
We realize the importance placed on the final resting-place of great men, and we salute you and that is why this argument was so important to us. Like Achilles, we also recognize the need for vengeance, but once assuaged, temperance must prevail.
Enough of this talk of Gods! This shameful display keeps us away from real matters! The Gods are no different from men, they decree to whatever will help them, If you do a favor for them, they will undoubtedly do one for you. The divine power of the Gods is within reach of us all if you know what to do. I will not play games with you as I have done in the past. I will not speak of women’s woes as a whole, or of woman’s folly. If I did so, it was only to get closer to my main goal, which was to hurt Jason, my husband, in the best/worst possible way. Should I have killed my children? I make no claims about what I should or should not have done; morality is but a man’s invention to keep lesser men in check. In killing the children, I spared them from what would have become a hideous life for them. Do you really think that Jason’s new wife would have tolerated them long? Death was chasing them the moment Jason remarried. In killing them, I spared them and hurt Jason in the best way I knew how. Jason knew what I was capable of, for I killed within my own family to be with him, and I killed others too in order to better his position. I admit as well that I killed the children too because they were a painful symbol and reminder of my stupidity in loving a man so much as to murder for him in the first place and then follow him lovingly to a foreign land only to be treacherously deceived. I did what I had to do and I would do it again. My only regret is having loved and trusted Jason as much as I did.
Achilles (To Medea):
Shameful, hideous woman! This just proves that women are vengeful, insidious creatures who are full of spite and malice, with no forethought of King and Country. For Helen, many good men died and whatever became of her, the blood of thousands is on her hands and yours as well, Medea. I hope you share the fate of a thousand traitors! For you disgust me!
Antigone (To Achilles):
You are a good man, Achilles. The spirit of vengeance is strong and easily seduces, but after it is quenched and what has to be done is accomplished, the strong and the weak are then found out. What was the body of Hektor to you once you plucked the life out of it? It is only to his family and those he loved (including the Gods) to whom it matters. Only Justice tempered with Mercy is pleasing to the Gods.
Medea (To Antigone):
What twaddle! You yourself said that a lifeless body is of no use, except to his beloved, but what is it really except a symbol? Do not be a pawn in this game of honor, for look what is has caused you! You pay with your life and for what? Flesh and dirt, what will that pay for? You could have lived a long life, Antigone, full of joy and sorrow, but you threw it away for nothing. You sicken me.
We made a decision to rebel against our Athenian captors and we may now believe that to be ill advised. Our help did not come in time and we were defeated. We were then fighting for our very lives, not with weapons, but with words. We may have been defeated but now our decision was to argue to save the lives of our captive people. We pleaded that a captive people must be treated firmly but justly and why spoil the land which houses the remains of so many fallen Athenian heroes by making the very same land notorious for the slaughter of innocents? We partially succeeded in our endeavors but not completely. Many of our people died many enslaved. This was a mixed outcome for us.
Btw, I got an A+
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