Supplication - to humbly petition, beg, or beseech.
This week, I will cover 4 vase paintings that feature supplication. Two featuring Achilles/Priam, and two featuring Nessos/Herakles. All very different in style.
On Wednesday and Thursday I will present two vase fragments that depict King Priam supplicating Achilles, asking him to return his son Hector's body to him.
A translation of The Iliad by Ian Johnston: http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/homer/iliad24.htm
Selected quotes to flesh out the story behind these fragments:
[Achilles]'d see Dawn’s approach across the sea and beaches,
then he’d harness his fast horses to their chariot,
tie on Hector and drag him behind, driving
three times around the tomb of Menoetius’ dead son.
Then in his hut he’d rest again, leaving Hector
stretched out, face down in the dust. But Apollo,
feeling pity for Hector, though he was dead,
guarded his skin from any lacerations,
covering his whole body with the golden aegis,
so as Achilles dragged him, he did not tear his skin.
Still Achilles kept dishonouring godlike Hector.
Priam then climbed from his chariot to the ground.
He left Idaios there to tend the mules and horses.
The old man went directly in the hut
where Achilles, dear to Zeus, usually sat.
He found Achilles there, with only two companions,
sitting some distance from him—warrior Automedon
and Alcimus, offshoot of the war god Ares—
busy attending him. He’d just completed dinner.
He’d had food and drink, but the table was still there.
The men did not see great Priam as he entered.
He came up to Achilles, then with his fingers
clasped his knees and kissed his hands, those dreadful hands,
man-killers, which had slain so many of his sons.
Just as sheer folly grips a man who in his own land
kills someone, then runs off to a land of strangers,
to the home of some rich man, so those who see him
are seized with wonder—that’s how Achilles then
looked on godlike Priam in astonishment.
The others were amazed. They gazed at one another.
Then Priam made his plea, entreating:
“Godlike Achilles, remember your own father, who’s as old as me, on the painful threshold of old age. It may well be that those who live around him are harassing him, and no one’s thereto save him from ruin and destruction. But when he hears you’re still alive, his heart feels joy, for every day he hopes he’ll see his dear son come back home from Troy. But I’m completely doomed to misery, for I fathered the best sons in spacious Troy, yet I say now not one of them remains. I had fifty when Achaea’s sons arrived— nineteen born from the same mother’s womb, others the women of the palace bore me. Angry Ares drained the life of most of them. But I had one left, guardian of our city, protector of its people. You’ve just killed him, as he was fighting for his native country. I mean Hector. For his sake I’ve come here, to Achaea’s ships, to win him back from you.
And I’ve brought a ransom beyond counting. So Achilles, show deference to the god and pity for myself, remembering your own father. Of the two old men, I’m more pitiful, because I have endured what no living mortal on this earth has borne— I’ve lifted up to my own lips and kissed the hands of the man who killed my son.”
Priam finished. His words roused in Achilles a desire to weep for his own father. Taking Priam’s hand, he gently moved him back. So the two men there both remembered warriors who’d been slaughtered. Priam, lying at Achilles’ feet, wept aloud for man-killing Hector, and Achilles also wept for his own father and once more for Patroclus. The sound of their lamenting filled the house.