Zeus should have rejected Thetis’s plea for her son Achilles

After raging at King Agamemnon, the mighty warrior Achilles gave up his beautiful, beloved Briseis and sat alone on the beach. He looked upon the endless sea and wept. Then he did what men of all ages do in desperation:

With outstretched hands he earnestly prayed to his dear mother:
“Mother, since you bore me to be a man with a short life,
honor surely should be given into my hands by the Olympian —
Zeus who thunders on high. But now he has honored me not even a little.
For truly the son of Atreus, wide-ruling Agamemnon,
has dishonored me. He has arrogantly seized my prize and keeps her.”

{ πολλὰ δὲ μητρὶ φίλῃ ἠρήσατο χεῖρας ὀρεγνύς:
μῆτερ ἐπεί μ᾽ ἔτεκές γε μινυνθάδιόν περ ἐόντα,
τιμήν πέρ μοι ὄφελλεν Ὀλύμπιος ἐγγυαλίξαι
Ζεὺς ὑψιβρεμέτης: νῦν δ᾽ οὐδέ με τυτθὸν ἔτισεν:
ἦ γάρ μ᾽ Ἀτρεΐδης εὐρὺ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων
ἠτίμησεν: ἑλὼν γὰρ ἔχει γέρας αὐτὸς ἀπούρας. }[1]

In medieval Europe, the most powerful person was Mary, the mother of Jesus. Whether it was a thief facing execution or a wayward cleric, Mary offered help to everyone. In archaic Greece, Achilles’s mother Thetis was merely a goddess. Nonetheless, Thetis cared enough for her son Achilles to dress him in women’s clothing to try to preserve him from the massive slaughter of men in the horrific Trojan War. Of course she would comfort Achilles in his rage:

His mother came, sat beside him as he wept,
stroked him with her hand, and called him by name:
“Child, why do you weep? What sorrow has come upon your heart?
Tell me! Do not hide it in your mind. Say it, so that we both may know.”

{ καί ῥα πάροιθ᾽ αὐτοῖο καθέζετο δάκρυ χέοντος,
χειρί τέ μιν κατέρεξεν ἔπος τ᾽ ἔφατ᾽ ἔκ τ᾽ ὀνόμαζε:
τέκνον τί κλαίεις; τί δέ σε φρένας ἵκετο πένθος;
ἐξαύδα, μὴ κεῦθε νόῳ, ἵνα εἴδομεν ἄμφω. }

Men of all ages and stations have the name “child {τέκνον}” to their mothers. Men don’t even know what’s on their agitated minds until their mothers cox them into speaking it. But men at least know that mothers know everything:

Then groaning heavily, Achilles, swift of foot, spoke to her:
“You know. Why should I tell these matters to you who know all?”

{ τὴν δὲ βαρὺ στενάχων προσέφη πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς:
οἶσθα: τί ἤ τοι ταῦτα ἰδυίῃ πάντ᾽ ἀγορεύω }

That’s a sensible question. Thetis remained silent. Achilles then remembered that he shouldn’t question his mother. He thus told her about the matters that had caused him to rage and weep.

Because men regard mothers as all-powerful, men typically don’t pray to their mothers by invoking a mutual exchange of favors, as they would pray to a mere goddess or god in ancient Greece. Men simply implore their mothers for help against those hurting them. Achilles said to his mother Thetis:

But you, if you have the power, come to your son’s aid!
Go to Olympus and plead with Zeus, if ever before
you have warmed his heart by word or deed.

{ ἀλλὰ σὺ εἰ δύνασαί γε περίσχεο παιδὸς ἑῆος:
ἐλθοῦσ᾽ Οὔλυμπον δὲ Δία λίσαι, εἴ ποτε δή τι
ἢ ἔπει ὤνησας κραδίην Διὸς ἠὲ καὶ ἔργῳ. }

Zeus was Thetis’s former boyfriend. He left her because of a prophecy about her getting pregnant. The child claimed against his mother “you said”:

Often I have heard in my father’s halls
you boasting, declaring that you alone among the immortals
pushed aside shameful destruction for Zeus of dark mists, Cronos’s son,
that day when other Olympians thought to bind him —
that is Hera, Poseidon, and Pallas Athena.
But you, goddess, came and freed him from his bonds,
having quickly called to high Olympus the hundred-hander,
whom the gods call Briareus, but all men call
Aegaeon. He is mightier than his father Poseidon.
Exalting in this glory, Briareus sat down beside Cronos’s son Zeus,
and the blessed gods were frightened. They did not bind Zeus.
Now remind Zeus of this. Sit besides him and clasp his knees
in the hope that he might be minded to help the Trojans,
that he might pin the Achaeans between their ships’ sterns and the sea.
Dying, then they would have fitting reward for their own king.
Then Atreus’s son, wide-ruling Agamemnon, would know his
madness, for he honored not at all the best of the Achaeans.

{ πολλάκι γάρ σεο πατρὸς ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἄκουσα
εὐχομένης ὅτ᾽ ἔφησθα κελαινεφέϊ Κρονίωνι
οἴη ἐν ἀθανάτοισιν ἀεικέα λοιγὸν ἀμῦναι,
ὁππότε μιν ξυνδῆσαι Ὀλύμπιοι ἤθελον ἄλλοι
Ἥρη τ᾽ ἠδὲ Ποσειδάων καὶ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη:
ἀλλὰ σὺ τόν γ᾽ ἐλθοῦσα θεὰ ὑπελύσαο δεσμῶν,
ὦχ᾽ ἑκατόγχειρον καλέσασ᾽ ἐς μακρὸν Ὄλυμπον,
ὃν Βριάρεων καλέουσι θεοί, ἄνδρες δέ τε πάντες
Αἰγαίων᾽, ὃ γὰρ αὖτε βίην οὗ πατρὸς ἀμείνων:
ὅς ῥα παρὰ Κρονίωνι καθέζετο κύδεϊ γαίων:
τὸν καὶ ὑπέδεισαν μάκαρες θεοὶ οὐδ᾽ ἔτ᾽ ἔδησαν.
τῶν νῦν μιν μνήσασα παρέζεο καὶ λαβὲ γούνων
αἴ κέν πως ἐθέλῃσιν ἐπὶ Τρώεσσιν ἀρῆξαι,
τοὺς δὲ κατὰ πρύμνας τε καὶ ἀμφ᾽ ἅλα ἔλσαι Ἀχαιοὺς
κτεινομένους, ἵνα πάντες ἐπαύρωνται βασιλῆος,
γνῷ δὲ καὶ Ἀτρεΐδης εὐρὺ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων
ἣν ἄτην ὅ τ᾽ ἄριστον Ἀχαιῶν οὐδὲν ἔτισεν. }

Thetis wept in sympathy with her son. She lamented that he was doomed to a short life since he had shed his women’s clothes. He shouldn’t have to suffer additional grief. She told him that she would intercede with Zeus for him.

Fulfilling Achilles’s prayer, Thetis persuasively and persistently implored Zeus. Thetis used orthodox gestures of supplication and the typical bargaining practice of ancient Greek prayer:

She sat down in front of him and laid hold of his knees
with her left hand. With her right, she clasped him beneath the chin.
Begging lord Zeus, son of Cronos, she said:
“Father Zeus, if ever among the immortals I aided you
in word or deed, grant what I wish.
Give honor to my son, who will go to his death more swiftly than all
mortals. Put dishonor on Agamemnon, lord of men,
for by his own arrogant act he took and keeps my son’s prize.
Uphold honor for my son, Olympian Zeus, lord of counsel.
Give might to the Trojans, but only until the Achaeans
show respect to my son and honor him by making amends.”

{ καί ῥα πάροιθ᾽ αὐτοῖο καθέζετο, καὶ λάβε γούνων
σκαιῇ, δεξιτερῇ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἀνθερεῶνος ἑλοῦσα
λισσομένη προσέειπε Δία Κρονίωνα ἄνακτα:
Ζεῦ πάτερ εἴ ποτε δή σε μετ᾽ ἀθανάτοισιν ὄνησα
ἢ ἔπει ἢ ἔργῳ, τόδε μοι κρήηνον ἐέλδωρ:
τίμησόν μοι υἱὸν ὃς ὠκυμορώτατος ἄλλων
ἔπλετ᾽: ἀτάρ μιν νῦν γε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
ἠτίμησεν: ἑλὼν γὰρ ἔχει γέρας αὐτὸς ἀπούρας.
ἀλλὰ σύ πέρ μιν τῖσον Ὀλύμπιε μητίετα Ζεῦ:
τόφρα δ᾽ ἐπὶ Τρώεσσι τίθει κράτος ὄφρ᾽ ἂν Ἀχαιοὶ
υἱὸν ἐμὸν τίσωσιν ὀφέλλωσίν τέ ἑ τιμῇ. }[2]

Thetis prayed that Zeus would temporarily give strength to Achilles’s enemies to dishonor Agamemnon and bring honor to Achilles. That’s much more complicated than praying for immortality for Achilles. Zeus remained silent for long. Nonetheless, she persisted. Thetis presented herself as a classic “poor dear,” but with a menacing undertone:

Yet Thetis, just as she had clasped his knees,
held on to him, clinging close to him, and asked again a second time:
“Promise this now to me without fail, and bow your head to it.
Or refuse it, for there’s nothing to make you afraid. Then I will know
well by how much I am the least honored among the gods.”

{ … Θέτις δ᾽ ὡς ἥψατο γούνων
ὣς ἔχετ᾽ ἐμπεφυυῖα, καὶ εἴρετο δεύτερον αὖτις:
νημερτὲς μὲν δή μοι ὑπόσχεο καὶ κατάνευσον
ἢ ἀπόειπ᾽, ἐπεὶ οὔ τοι ἔπι δέος, ὄφρ᾽ ἐῢ εἰδέω
ὅσσον ἐγὼ μετὰ πᾶσιν ἀτιμοτάτη θεός εἰμι. }

Zeus had much to fear. According to Achilles, Zeus’s wife Hera, along with Poseidon and Pallas Athena, had sought to overthrow him. In context, Thetis seems to be implying by apophasis that Zeus has reason to fear, not Hera, but her if he refused her plea.

Thetis supplicating Zeus on behalf of her son Achilles in the Iliad

Zeus didn’t dare to refuse Thetis’s plea. He bowed his head to her as she requested. He, however, feared Hera in acquiescing to Thetis:

This surely will be deadly work, since you will send me into strife
with Hera when she provokes me with her taunting words.
Even as it is, constantly among the immortal gods she
reproaches me and says that I aid the Trojans in battle.

{ ἦ δὴ λοίγια ἔργ᾽ ὅ τέ μ᾽ ἐχθοδοπῆσαι ἐφήσεις
Ἥρῃ ὅτ᾽ ἄν μ᾽ ἐρέθῃσιν ὀνειδείοις ἐπέεσσιν:
ἣ δὲ καὶ αὔτως μ᾽ αἰεὶ ἐν ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι
νεικεῖ, καί τέ μέ φησι μάχῃ Τρώεσσιν ἀρήγειν. }

Zeus was the head god in charge of the cosmos. He of course didn’t rule the goddesses around him. Like so many men in nominal positions of leadership throughout history, he did what goddesses told him to do.

Women’s power over men comes at a cost. Thetis coercing Zeus into empowering the Trojans to press a devastating attack upon the Greeks sets in motion the massive slaughter of men in the Iliad. The Trojan attack led to Patroclus’s death in battle and to Achilles rejoining the fighting on the Greek side. Instead of helping Achilles to seek honor, Thetis might have encourage him to go home, never again engage in violence against men, and to take up weaving with young women. Then Achilles would have had a longer and more humane life. Instead, Thetis pleaded for a Trojan attack. Women are deeply implicated in epic violence against men.

Women’s power over men can hurt women. In the largely lost Aethiopis of the ancient Greek Epic Cycle, the goddess of dawn Eos is a parallel figure to Thetis. Both Eos and Thetis in the Aethiopis gain immortality for their sons Memnon and Achilles, respectively.[3] In the Iliad, the foretold death of Achilles is the normal, brutal end for a warrior. Achilles’s short life and forthcoming death grieves his mother Thetis immensely. With much better access to literature now lost, subsequent poetry extensively developed the “dawn song.” That type of song tells of the dawn separating a loving woman and man. Powerful and inexorable, the goddess of dawn Eos raped men. The separation of women and men in love, along with men being raped, is an unspoken horror that Thetis, through her mythic association with Eos, includes in the Iliad.[4] The harm to women of separating them from men they love surely should be of social concern.

Venus supplicating Jupiter in Virgil's Aeneid

With his keen insight into women’s power, Virgil recognized that men must not allow women to have unlimited power. In a succession myth preserved only in the Iliad, Thetis prevented the destruction of Zeus’s divine order by deploying the hundred-handed man-giant Briareus to Zeus’s side. In the Aeneid, Virgil transformed Thetis’s appeal to Zeus into Venus’s appeal to Jupiter. Paralleling the poor-dearism that Thetis used so effectively with Zeus, Venus went “unusually sorrowful and with eyes brimming with tears {tristior et lacrimis oculos suffusa nitentis}” to Jupiter.[5] She begged him for help for her son Aeneas and the Trojans. What man wouldn’t seek to serve Venus? Jupiter kissed Venus on the lips and comforted her. He promised that Aeneas would found in Italy a Roman Empire without end. Jupiter foretold a reign of peace:

Grim with their iron and close-fitting bars,
the Gates of War will be closed. Within them, unholy rage,
sitting upon savage weapons, hands bound behind its back with a hundred
bronze shackles, will roar — a horror with blood-stained lips.

{ … dirae ferro et compagibus artis
claudentur Belli portae; Furor impius intus,
saeva sedens super arma, et centum vinctus aenis
post tergum nodis, fremet horridus ore cruento. }[6]

Rather than preserving the divine order as did Briareus, this hundred-shackled monster represents savage, bloody civil strife. It’s “ghastly Discordia {Discordia taetra},” gendered through Homeric allusion.[7] The hundred-shackled monster is best understood as the “rage {μῆνῐς}” of Thetis, who controlled Zeus and Briareus.[8] In Virgil’s view, confining her rage, like recognizing the wickedness of the husband-killing Danaids, is necessary to ward off destruction and promote civic peace.

Zeus should have dared to say “no” to Thetis and to defy her power over him. He should have rejected her plea for him to strengthen a Trojan attack on the Greeks. If Zeus had refused Thetis, he would have saved the lives of many Trojan and Greek men. He would have helped Achilles to live a longer life. Zeus undoubtedly found Thetis sexually attractive, as Jupiter did Venus. Men in relation to women must acquire the capability to think with the head connected to the neck closest to their arms. Women’s support is of course essential for men’s nominal rule. Yet men must strive to be more than merely instruments of women’s will and pleasure. The Aeneid acutely represents gender trouble. Like women leaders, the god Zeus lacked concern for men’s lives.[9]

* * * * *

Read more:


[1] Homer, Iliad 1.351-6, ancient Greek text and English translation (modified) from Murray (1924). The Chicago Homer provides a useful resource for studying the ancient Greek text of the Iliad.

Achilles’s prayer to his mother Thetis differs from typical prayers to goddesses and gods in Homeric poetry. Achilles doesn’t declare specific favors he has done for his mother to deserve a reciprocal favor from her. In his opening prayer, he doesn’t even ask for a favor from her. He implicitly seeks from her sympathy for the wrong he has endured. As a technical matter, Achilles’s prayer is followed by the description “he spoke shedding tears {ὣς φάτο δάκρυ χέων}” rather than the typical Homeric form “he spoke praying {ὣς ἔφατ᾿ εὐχόμενος}.” Muellner (1976) p. 23, cited in Slatkin (1991) pp. 62-3, in reference to Iliad 1.357. Cf. Iliad 1.351 above. Not fully understanding men’s relation to their mothers has led to misinterpretation:

his prayer is substandard … Achilles is less a man addressing a goddess than a god addressing a goddess or, which is similar, a man addressing his mother who happens to be a goddess.

Muellner (1976) p. 23. Achilles’s prayer isn’t “substandard.” It’s readily recognized as a standard form for men praying to their mothers. Moreover, men characteristically regard their mothers as goddesses. That isn’t mere happenstance. Learned classicists have missed the obvious, enduring character of Achilles’s prayer to his mother Thetis. See, e.g. Tsagalis (2008), Chapter 10.

Subsequent quotes from the Iliad are similarly sourced. Those above are Iliad 1.360-3 (His mother came…), 1.364-5 (Then groaning heavily, Achilles…), 1.393-5 (But you, if you have the power…), 1.396-412 (Often I have heard in my father’s halls…), 1.500-10 (She sat down in front of him…), 1.512-6 (Yet Thetis, just as she had clasped his knees…), 1.518-21 (This surely will be deadly work…).

[2] On touching the chin as a conventional practice in ancient Greek supplication, Naidan (2006) pp. 47, 52, 58, 95. Athena rejects Theano’s supplication on behalf of the Trojan women by raising her chin (head):

She spoke in prayer, but Pallas Athene refused, throwing her head back.

{ ὣς ἔφατ ̓ εὐχομένη, ἀνένευε δὲ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη. }

Iliad 6.311, ancient Greek text and English translation, with related discussion, from Brouillet (2019).

[3] On the parallel between Eos and Thetis in the Epic Cycle, Slatkin (1991) pp. 21-31. The Aithiopis / Aethiopis is attributed to Arctinus of Miletus. According to Proclus’s summary of the Aithiopis:

Memnon, the son of Tithonus and the Dawn, wearing armor made by Hephaestus and accompanied by a large force of Ethiopians, arrives to assist the Trojans. Thetis prophesies to her son about the encounter with Memnon. When battle is joined, Antilochus is killed by Memnon, but then Achilles kills Memnon. And Dawn confers immortality upon him after prevailing on Zeus. … {Paris and Apollo then kill Achilles} … Then the Achaeans bury Antilochus, and lay out the body of Achilles. Thetis comes with the Muses and her sisters, and laments her son. And presently Thetis snatches her son from the pyre and conveys him to the White Island.

{ Μέμνων δὲ ὁ Τιθωνοῦ καὶ Ἠοῦς υἱὸς ἔχων ἡφαιστότευκτον πανοπλίαν μετὰ πολλῆς Αἰθιόπων δυνάμεως παραγίνεται τοῖς Τρωσὶ βοηθήσων· καὶ Θέτις τῶι παιδὶ τὰ κατὰ τὸν Μέμνονα προλέγει. καὶ συμβολῆς γενομένης Ἀντίλοχος ὑπὸ Μέμνονος ἀναιρεῖται, ἔπειτα Ἀχιλλεὺς Μέμνονα κτείνει· καὶ τούτωι μὲν Ἠὼς παρὰ Διὸς αἰτησαμένη ἀθανασίαν δίδωσι. … ἔπειτα Ἀντίλοχόν τε θάπτουσι καὶ τὸν νεκρὸν τοῦ Ἀχιλλέως προτίθενται. καὶ Θέτις ἀφικομένη σὺν Μούσαις καὶ ταῖς ἀδελφαῖς θρηνεῖ τὸν παῖδα· καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐκ τῆς πυρᾶς ἡ Θέτις ἀναρπάσασα τὸν παῖδα εἰς τὴν Λευκὴν νῆσον διακομίζει. }

Proclus, Chrestomathy, Aithiopis, with additions from Apollodorus, The Library, ancient Greek text and English translation (with editorial marks eliminated) from West (2003) pp. 110-4. Here’s Gregory Nagy’s translation. The White Island is the Land of the Blessed, an alternate fate to going to Hades. On Thetis thus conferring immortality on Achilles, Davies (2016) pp. 76-7.

[4] In the Odyssey, Calypso compares her capture and raping of Odysseus to Eos’s raping of Orion. Odyssey 5.121-4. Calypso offered Odysseus immortality in exchange for continually raping him. The first priority for a goddess, whether Thetis or Calypso, should be to prevent violence against men, whether that violence be the rape of men or epic killing of men. Immortality is hardly a blessing for men continually enduring violence in their lives. Cf. Slatkin (1991) pp. 42-3.

[5] Virgil, Aeneid 1.228, Latin text of Greenough (1900) and my English translation, benefiting from that of Fairclough & Gould (1999). Dickinson College Commentary and the Vergil Project are useful resources for studying the Latin text of the Aeneid. Like Zeus’s solicitousness toward Thetis, and Jupiter’s toward Venus, Vulcan’s armor-making service for Venus is a canonical example of yes-dearism.

[6] Aeneid 1.293-6, sourced as previously. The Aeneid explicitly refers to Aegaeon (Briareus) in a simile for the raging Aeneas:

Like Aegaeon, said to have a hundred arms
and a hundred hands, flashed fire from fifty mouths
and breasts when against Jove’s thunder bolts
he rumbled with an equal number of shields and bared as many swords,
so Aeneas over the whole plain rages victoriously
once his blade warms.

{ Aegaeon qualis, centum cui bracchia dicunt
centenasque manus, quinquaginta oribus ignem
pectoribusque arsisse, Iovis cum fulmina contra
tot paribus streperet clipeis, tot stringeret enses:
sic toto Aeneas desaevit in aequore victor
ut semel intepuit mucro. … }

Aeneid 10.565–70, sourced as previously.

The Hundred-Handers {Hecatoncheires / Ἑκατόγχειρες} were three male-gendered giants named Briareus / Aegaeon, Cottus, and Gyges. See, e.g. Hesiod, Theogony vv. 147–153. The most prominent Hundred-Hander was Briareus.

[7] Ennius, Annals, Book VII: “after ghastly Discordia / shattered the ironbound posts and gates of War {postquam Discordia taetra / Belli ferratos postes portasque refregit}.” Frag. 225, Latin text and English translation (adapted) from Golberg & Manuwald (2018).

Virgil apparently followed the Punic War {Bellum Poenicum} of the third-century BGC Roman epic poet Naevius in depicting Venus’s appeal to Jupiter:

In Book 1 of the Aeneid a storm is described, and Venus complains to Jupiter about the dangers her son faces, and Jupiter comforts her by telling her that her posterity will flourish. All of this is taken from Book 1 of Naevius’ Punic War: there too Venus complains to Jupiter while the Trojans are beset by a storm, and after her complaint Jupiter comforts her by speaking of her posterity’s great expectations.

{ in primo Aeneidos tempestas describitur, et Venus apud Iovem queritur de periculis filii, et Iuppiter eam de futurorum prosperitate solatur. hic locus totus sumptus a Naevio est ex primo libro belli Punici. illic enim aeque Venus, Troianis tempestate laborantibus, cum Iove queritur, et sequuntur verba Iovis filiam consolantis spe futurorum. }

Macrobius, Saturnalia 6.2.31, Latin text and English translation from Kaster (2011). Since the Iliad was widely known, both Naevius and Virgil would have recognized the parallel betweren Thetis’s appeal to Zeus and Venus’s appeal to Jupiter. Moreover, the dialogue between Juno and Jupiter about Turnus threatening Aeneas in Aeneid 10.464-73 alludes to the dialogue between Hera and Zeus about Patroclus’s impending killing of Sarpedon in Iliad 16.431–45. It subsequently influenced Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.803-15. Casali (2023). On Homer’s classical influence more generally, Nagy (2008).

[8] On the “rage {μῆνῐς}” of Thetis, Slatkin (1991), Chapter 3, “The Wrath of Thetis.” Slatkin translated “μῆνῐς,” the word that begins the Iliad in reference to Achilles, as “wrath.”

[9] In interpreting the Iliad, classical scholars have typically normalized the gender of the persons slaughtered, obscured the vastly gender-disproportionate violence against men, and ignored the implications for men’s welfare. The goddess Thetis is thus made into a hero like the man Achilles:

the Iliad reminds us of Thetis’s mythology, through allusions to her power and through emphasis on the reciprocity of achos {grief} that she and Achilles share — his Iliadic and hers meta-Iliadic — in order to assert the meaning of human life in relation to the entire cosmic structure: in order to show that cosmic equilibrium is bought at the cost of human mortality. The alternative would mean perpetual evolution, perpetual violent succession, perpetual disorder.

Slatkin (1991) p. 103. The cost of cosmic equilibrium isn’t massively gender-disproportionate violence against men. Other social orders are possible.

Epic violence against men should be explicitly recognized. Ending violence against men should be a measure of literature and a concern of critical analysis. Instead, men’s deaths are obscured in abstractions: “the Iliad is a poem that uses mass human death to explore the nature of immortality.” Hanink (2023). The Iliad isn’t about “mass human death.” It’s about mass killing of men. Translators of the Iliad have lacked concern for men as a gender. Consider this translation:

louder than all of these, the Greeks and Trojans
let out their terrifying screams and cries
as they attacked each other.

{ ὅσση ἄρα Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν ἔπλετο φωνὴ
δεινὸν ἀϋσάντων, ὅτ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἀλλήλοισιν ὄρουσαν. }

Iliad 14.400-1, ancient Greek text of Murray (1924), English translation of Wilson (2023). The persons killing each other weren’t merely “Greeks” (Achaeans) and “Trojans”:

louder than all of these, Greek men, Trojan men
let out their terrifying screams and cries
as they attacked each other.

To promote continued study of classics, classics must explicitly recognize and appreciate men as a gender. Meninist literary criticism is wholly lacking in respected classical publications. That’s poignantly apparent in the wide-ranging documentation of scholarly power in studying Thetis. Paprocki, Vos & Wright (2023).

[images] (1) Thetis supplicating Zeus on behalf of her son Achilles in Iliad 1.500-10. Oil on canvas painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres in 1811. Preserved in the Musée Granet (Aix-en-Provence, France). Via Wikimedia Commons. In the eighteenth century, Anton Losenko painted Thetis supplicating Zeus. (2) Venus supplicating Jupiter in Aeneid 1.229-53. Excerpt from woodcut illustration on folio 133r in Brant (1502) (“Strasbourg Vergil”) via Dickinson College Commentaries.


Brant, Sebastian, ed. 1502. Publii Virgilii Maronis Opera cum quinque vulgatis commentariis expolitissimisque figuris atque imaginibus nuper per Sebastianum Brant superadditis. Strasbourg: Johannis Grieninger.

Brouillet, Manon. 2019. “A statue who shakes her head no.” Classical Inquiries. Guest Post. June 5, 2019.

Casali, Sergio. 2023. “The Books of Fate: The Venus-Jupiter Scene in Ovid’s Metamorphoses 15 and Its Epic Models.” Chapter 17 (pp. 386-41) in Joseph Farrell, John F. Miller, Damien Nelis, and Alessandro Schiesaro, eds. Ovid, Death and Transfiguration. Mnemosyne, Supplements, Volume: 465. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

Davies, Malcolm. 2016. The Aethiopis: Neo-Neoanalysis Reanalyzed. Hellenic Studies Series 71. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Fairclough, H. Rushton, revised by G. P. Goold. 1999. Virgil. Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid: Books 1-6. Loeb Classical Library 63. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Golberg, Sander M. and Gesine Manuwald, ed. and trans. 2018. Fragmentary Republican Latin, Volume I: Ennius, Testimonia. Epic Fragments. Loeb Classical Library 294. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018.

Hanink, Johanna. 2023. “She Reeled Us In With The Odyssey. Now: The Hard Stuff.” Slate. Posted online Sept. 26, 2023.

Kaster, Robert A. trans. 2011. Macrobius. Saturnalia. Loeb Classical Library 510-512. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Muellner, Leonard. 1976. The Meaning of Homeric εὔχομαι through its Formulas. Innsbruck: Inst. für Sprachwiss. d. Univ. Innsbruck. Review by Evelyne Cosset.

Murray, A. T., trans. Revised by William F. Wyatt. 1924. Homer. Iliad. Loeb Classical Library 170 and 171. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Alternate source for Murray’s translation.

Nagy, Gregory. 2008. Homer the Classic. Hellenic Studies Series 36. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Naiden, F. S. 2006. Ancient Supplication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Paprocki, Maciej, Gary Vos, and David John Wright. 2023. The Staying Power of Thetis: Allusion Interaction and Reception from Homer to the 21st Century. Sovereign of the Sea: the Staying Power of Thetis in the Greco-Roman World and Beyond (Conference). Berlin: De Gruyter.

Slatkin, Laura M. 1991. The Power of Thetis: Allusion and Interpretation in the Iliad. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Alternate presentation. Review by Andrew Becker. For a reprint with additional essays, Slatkin (2011). For scholars’ follow-up volume, Paprocki, Vos & Wright (2023).

Slatkin, Laura. 2011. The Power of Thetis and Selected Essays. Hellenic Studies Series 16. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Tsagalis, Christos. 2008. The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring Intertextuality in the Homeric Epics. Hellenic Studies Series 29. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

West, Martin L., ed. and trans. 2003. Greek Epic Fragments: From the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC. Loeb Classical Library 497. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wilson, Emily R., trans. 2023. Homer. The Iliad. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

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