A study Guide and Review Questions for Book 24: “Achilles and Priam”



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Literature, Culture, and the Humanities --- The Iliad

Mr. Wasilewski, Mrs. McHugh, and Mrs. Lulis


A Study Guide and Review Questions for Book 24: “Achilles and Priam”

You should be able:




  • place Achilles’ grief in perspective

  • recognize what Achilles does each morning in an attempt to calm his grief

  • understand why and how Apollo protects Hector’s body




  • understand the reference, “Paris in all his madness” and also the reference “the lust that loosed disaster”

  • recognize how long Hector has been dead

  • notice the effective use of verbs and adjectives and images in Apollo’s speech

  • know Apollo’s opinion

  • understand Hera’s claim about Achilles having a connection to the gods

  • follow Zeus’s characterization of Hector

  • understand Zeus’s decree

  • understand why Zeus does not support the gods taking Hector’s body

  • understand the order Thetis delivers from Zeus

  • understand what Iris will command Priam to do

  • recognize the condition in which Thetis finds Zeus

  • be aware of what looms ahead for Achilles

  • study Achilles fast agreement to Thetis’ message

  • focus on the conditions set for Priam’s journey to Achilles

  • recognize the emotional side of those within Priam’s city walls

  • understand the impact of gifts that will “melt Achilles’ rage”

  • compare and contrast Priam and Hecuba’s reaction to the journey

  • realize Priam’s one wish

  • appreciate the significance of the gifts Priam takes

  • understand Priam’s one wish before he dies

  • notice the response has to his remaining sons

  • name the actions Zeus take to protect Priam

  • comprehend the message and the significance of the dialogue between Priam and Hermes (disguised as Achilles’ aide)

  • describe and understand Hector’s condition

  • study line 478 and to appreciate Priam’s psychological approach to Achilles

  • understand why the narrator comments so specifically on Achilles’ hands

  • recognize Achilles’ response to Priam’s psychological approach

  • understand what these two men share in common

  • retell and comprehend the parable of the two great jars on the floor of Zeus’s halls

  • recognize the sad irony of Achilles’ advice to Priam

  • recognize what may be behind Achilles’ hostile response to Priam’s wanting to see Hector’s body

  • notice how and in what way Achilles is demonstrating signs of kindness

  • recognize Achilles new awareness of others and their needs

  • understand why Achilles asks for Patroclus’ forgiveness

  • interpret the symbolism behind the story of Niobe

  • understand the significance of the ritual meal Achilles has prepared and served

  • acknowledge what each man sees as he admires the other

  • understand how Achilles admonition to Priam to sleep outside is, in reality, Achilles being politically correct

  • understand the funeral rites of the Ancient Greeks

  • understand why Hermes gets Priam out of Achilles camp before daybreak

  • study the reaction of all of Troy to the return of Hector

  • ask yourself if the same response would have ever been generated by the Acheans if Achilles has been the one to die

  • appreciate Andromache’s lament

  • compare and contrast Andromache’s response to Hector’s death to the response Priam has to Hector’s death and the response Achilles has to Patroclus’ death

  • notice Hecuba’s understanding of death and its finality

  • respond to Helen’s estimation of Hector

  • follow the details of Hector’s actual burning ceremony

  • understand the significance of fear returning to the Trojans

  • recognize the importance of The Iliad ending as it does


Interpreting Book 24:
What does Homer’s description of Achilles as he mourns Patroclus reveal about Achilles?

When Priam ransoms Hector’s body form Achilles, Achilles describe the two urns that stand on Zeus’s doorsill. What do the contents of these two urns indicate about human life?


Look at the ending of Book 24. How does the ending show the workings of divine pity? How does it also show the workings of human pity?




Applying Book 24 Concepts to a New Situation:
The Ritual of burial helps the Trojans endure the unendurable. What rituals does society have today that help us bear human tragedy?

Analyzing Literature—Recognizing and Interpreting Epic Similes
The elaborate comparisons prevalent in Book 24 of The Iliad are epic similes. Homer compares certain characters and situations to objects or occurrences that his audience is familiar with, thus drawing them into the experience of the poem. Homeric similes enable both ancient and modern audiences to identify with the action taking place in the poem.

From your perspective, find the one most significant epic simile in Book 24. Explain the comparisons and tell, from your viewpoint, how this simile invites you to identify with the story.


Critical Thinking and Reading—Understanding Ancient Code of Ethics
In The Iliad, funeral rites are elaborate. They provide a way of celebrating the life and acknowledging the worth of the dead person. They also help the living come to terms with grief and loss so that they can separate themselves from the dead and go on living. First the corpse must be prepared for burial. Then the close to the deceased must give voice to their mourning in ritual laments that follow a comfortingly familiar pattern, but that also allow for personal detail. Following the ritual laments, the corpse is burned on a funeral pyre, and the ashes are later buried.
Another sacred code of behavior had to do with hospitality, xenia. It was customary to offer a stranger food, drink, and shelter before asking his or her name or business. Neither the host nor the guest was to violate the bond of hospitality; wronging a host or a guest was a crime punishable by Zeus. Ties of xenia could bind persons unrelated by blood, and their descendants, in a strong alliance.
What does Achilles hope to accomplish by defiling Hector’s corpse?

How do the gods respond to Achilles’ treatment of Hector’s body?


Why does Achilles arrange a truce so that Hector can be buried?


What role do rituals play in binding private and public worlds in The Iliad?


Achilles insists on sharing food with Priam although Achilles has just finished eating. What is the role of shared food in the context of hospitality? What is the role of shared food in the context of grief and accepting loss?


How does the meeting of Priam and Achilles in Achilles’ tent stretch the limits of the guest-host relationship?

Thinking and Writing—Writing About Shared Humanity
Priam’s tears of loss over Hector’s death move Achilles to realize that his own father would have been similarly devastated by the thought of Achilles dead on the battlefield. That realization breaks down the strict heroic code Achilles lives by, and the two men shed tears of sadness in recognition of their common human condition. Analyze the scene between Achilles and Priam and discuss ways in which it illustrates their shared humanity. Be certain you have supported your discussion with examples from the text.


Please note: I have had to vary the translations that I use for the Iliad, the page numbers may be an estimate and not an exact reference.




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