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What Are the Roles of the Maidens Chryseis & Briseis in the Epic "The Iliad"?


"The Iliad" is an ancient Greek poem that was written by Homer. The story takes place during the Trojan War and focuses on the protagonist and demigod Achilles, who must defeat the Trojans to ensure the survival of the Greeks. The maidens Chryseis and Briseis play an important part in defining Achilles' troubled and bitter relationship with Agamemnon, commander of the Greek army, and Achilles' change of heart in the Greek-Trojan conflict.

Chryseis, the Cause of Pestilence

Chryseis serves the role of revealing Agamemnon's corruption, selfishness and pride. During an attack on Troy, the Greek army captured two beautiful maidens, Chryseis and Briseis, and gave them to Agamemnon and Achilles as war prizes. Chryseis' father prayed to Apollo for help in rescuing his daughter, so Apollo sent a horrible plague on the Greeks. Achilles discovered the cause of the pestilence and publicly forced Agamemnon to return Chryseis. Agamemnon agreed but demanded Briseis as compensation for his compliance.

Briseis, the War Prize

Briseis' role is to reveal Achillles' humanity, and she also served as the catalyst that led to Achillles' revised war goals. Achilles despised Agamemnon for his cruel request to relinquish Briseis, yet he agreed to give her up. Achilles went to his mother, the sea goddess Thetis, and asked her to plead with Zeus to allow the Trojans to defeat the Greeks. He sought revenge against Agamemnon and wanted to dishonor him as a military leader. Achilles no longer saw Agamemnon as his leader -- he became his enemy.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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