I'm coming from a talk by Hannah Arendt, where she mentions Homer as being the first to entertain the notion of "we must not forget those who fought equally as valiant as our enemies" and unbiased history generally. She also cited Schiller with "Weil des Liedes Stimmen schweigen,/ von dem überwundnen Mann..." translated "Because all songs fell silent/ singing of the defeated man..." to (apparently) give an example of a modern occurence of that thought.

Where did Homer write about this? I can't for the life of me seem to be able to even search for it, let alone find something.

  • Here is her book! Her library ended up at Bard College in NY. Lol. I'm sure this is not the only book she owned of Homer. blogs.bard.edu/arendtcollection/homer-iliad – Gordon Jan 9 '18 at 1:59
  • Probably the Iliad, esp. book 24, will yield an answer to your question, but I am not an expert on Arendt or Homer. Above I said that surely she owned more works by Homer, but I'm not sure. (I see an English and German copy of the Iliad). – Gordon Jan 9 '18 at 8:30

In Iliad XXII Achilles slays Hector, Priam's son. In XXIII the spirit of Patroclus appeals to - pleads with - Achilles to bury the body but XXIV sees Achilles dragging the body about. Apollo intervenes with Zeus, who persuades Priam to pay a ransom for the body of Hector. Priam, now aged, needs help to make a deal; Hermes assists him over the plain. Achilles receives him graciously and accepts the ransom. Priam then returns to Troy, where Hector is mourned and buried.

The Iliad ends, then, with the defeated Hector getting equal mention to the victorious Achilles. '"This were well," she cried, "O lord of the silver bow, if you would give like honour to Hector and to Achilles'.

The following translation, even if not particularly good, by Samuel Butler provides the context (sorry, it's wordy) :

'Thus shamefully did Achilles in his fury dishonour Hector; but the blessed gods looked down in pity from heaven, and urged Mercury, slayer of Argus, to steal the body. All were of this mind save only Juno [Hera], Neptune [Poseidon], and Jove's [Zeus'] grey-eyed daughter, who persisted in the hate which they had ever borne towards Ilius with Priam and his people; for they forgave not the wrong done them by Alexandrus in disdaining the goddesses who came to him when he was in his sheep yards, and preferring her who had offered him a wanton to his ruin.

When, therefore, the morning of the twelfth day had now come, Phoebus Apollo spoke among the immortals saying, "You gods ought to be ashamed of yourselves; you are cruel and hard-hearted. Did not Hector burn you thigh-bones of heifers and of unblemished goats? And now dare you not rescue even his dead body, for his wife to look upon, with his mother and child, his father Priam, and his people, who would forthwith commit him to the flames, and give him his due funeral rites? So, then, you would all be on the side of mad Achilles, who knows neither right nor ruth? He is like some savage lion that in the pride of his great strength and daring springs upon men's flocks and gorges on them. Even so has Achilles flung aside all pity, and all that conscience which at once so greatly banes yet greatly boons him that will heed it. man may lose one far dearer than Achilles has lost- a son, it may be, or a brother born from his own mother's womb; yet when he has mourned him and wept over him he will let him bide, for it takes much sorrow to kill a man; whereas Achilles, now that he has slain noble Hector, drags him behind his chariot round the tomb of his comrade. It were better of him, and for him, that he should not do so, for brave though he be we gods may take it ill that he should vent his fury upon dead clay."

Juno [Hera] spoke up in a rage. "This were well," she cried, "O lord of the silver bow, if you would give like honour to Hector and to Achilles; but Hector was mortal and suckled at a woman's breast, whereas Achilles is the offspring of a goddess whom I myself reared and brought up. I married her to Peleus, who is above measure dear to the immortals; you gods came all of you to her wedding; you feasted along with them yourself and brought your lyre- false, and fond of low company, that you have ever been."

Then said Jove [Zeus], "Juno [Hera], be not so bitter. Their honour shall not be equal, but of all that dwell in Ilius, Hector was dearest to the gods, as also to myself, for his offerings never failed me. Never was my altar stinted of its dues, nor of the drink-offerings and savour of sacrifice which we claim of right. I shall therefore permit the body of mighty Hector to be stolen; and yet this may hardly be without Achilles coming to know it, for his mother keeps night and day beside him. Let some one of you, therefore, send Thetis to me, and I will impart my counsel to her, namely that Achilles is to accept a ransom from Priam, and give up the body." '

  • I read the last chapters of the Iliad myself as you were writing this and I realized that I made a false assumption. Homer doesn't so much formulate the thought of honouring the enemy as he does honour the enemy in his works. With that knowledge, I now see that Arendt's comment that this happened "since Homer" was meant that way. – helios713 Jan 9 '18 at 12:18
  • @helios713. I think we both got there in the end. I appreciate your comment. Best - GT – Geoffrey Thomas Jan 9 '18 at 12:23

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