‘In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.’
How does one reconcile the loss of so many offspring, the destruction of their home and the death of their people? Such personal suffering could never be healed. These events litter the history books and still wars happen. Power, greed, the desire to dominate and subjugate, annihilate are the basic premises. The cost of innocent lives, homes, cultures and humanity don’t seem to be considered as long as the end result is achieved, however one gets there. For Priam, the last King of Troy, he witnessed the end.
Priam didn’t heed the prophetic warnings of the seers nor his daughter when told his son would bring death and devastation. Prior to Paris’ birth, Hekuba had a vision and a seer advised them to expose him to the elements, which Priam did follow. Years later Paris arrived to compete in a competition and Cassandra recognised him straight away. She tried to warn her parents when they learned who he was, but was ignored.
The King of Troy had many opportunities to stop the war but the advice fell on deaf ears. Was he trying to make amends for abandoning Paris as a baby? That’s one possibility, for example when he supported his son who refused to give up Helen and instead, willing to return the goods he stole. The other: arrogance. How could anyone destroy a “well-walled” city? Homer repeatedly makes reference to the walls of Troy which were built by Poseidon and Apollo.
‘…the walls of the well-built town’ Book 21, line 514-515
‘They [Trojan warriors] were making straight for the town and the high wall…’ Book 21, lines 539-540
‘Then the Trojans’ town with its high gates…’ line 545
When Hektor is killed, Priam protected by Hermes, enters the Greek camp and appeals to Akhilleus to release his son. It is perhaps the saddest and most compelling part of the story. Homer presents the characters as surrogates: Priam, as the father Akhilleus will never see again, and Akhilleus, the son loved and cherished by a father figure. There was respect also, from Akhilleus’ point of view, of the old man who was brave to venture alone into enemy territory. The king in turn admired the younger man for his fighting prowess and being fearless. We have here people, the mutual admiration society. ;D
Priam, his family and Trojans honour Hektor with a funeral and which marks the end of the Iliad.
Could have Priam avoided the ten year long war? He certainly had the means and options to do so but I guess it wouldn’t make for a great story. Do you think Priam was at fault? Love to hear from you.
Thank you for visiting and reading.