A Father’s Loss

‘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.

Death of Priam Louvre Wikipedia
Death of Priam

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 beseeches Akhilleus for Hektor's corpse Bertel Thorvaldsen 1815 Wikimedia
Priam beseeches Akhilleus for Hektor’s corpse
Bertel Thorvaldsen 1815

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.

Further reading:
Priam, Greek and Roman Mythology
Priam, Greek Mythology Link
Priam, Myths Encyclopaedia: Myths and legends of the world

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Add Yours
  1. Aquileana

    Ciao cara Luciana,

    Your post is so intriguing and truly very well written…

    As to your questions (Meaning: Could have Priam avoided the ten year long Trojan war? and Do you think Priam was at fault?) I would say that it is hard to say.

    You are right when you say that The King of Troy had many opportunities to stop the war, but he didn’t though.

    Arrogance might have been a valid explanation. But also lack of caution I think…

    It is hard to understand why Trojans let the wooden horse came into their city… He was certainly naive when he thought that greeks were going to make peace so easily after all the grievances and affronts… And besides with a gift of redemption!

    As to those several those prophetic warnings Priamo didn’t heed, that is also proof of his arrogance and hybris.

    Maybe there are factors that might explain why Priam was indeed at fault.

    Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed the reading!.
    Best wishes, Aquileana 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Arrogance was certainly a factor. Living behind those might impenetrable walls made him complacent and believe the city was safe. Then the trick with the wooden horse.

      Hubris yes, indeed!

      Thank you as always Aquileana 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Linnea Tanner

    Hi Luciana,

    This is another wonderful article in your series about the heroes and heroines of the Iliad. The story of Priam begging for the body of his son who Achilles has desecrated is one of the most compelling scenes in Homer’s epic tale. This scene drives home the tragedy of war in which a father has to bury his son. Though Iliad is a tribute to the heroes, it also brings out the tragedies of the Trojan War that culminated in the Greeks brutally sacking Troy.

    Thanks for sharing. Your recent articles have been thought-provoking and insightful.


    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Hi Linnea

      Thank you! The story has so many layers it seems the more you delve the more there is to find.

      I’ve read the story many times and still discover new aspects and little facets which make it an extraordinary tale.

      Thank you for your amazing comment.


    • cav12

      An alternative story would be interesting ;D

      Quite, if Priam had decided to give Helen back then it wouldn’t be an interesting moral story.

      Thank you Christy 😀


  3. Craig

    For me this post neatly encapsulates what I imagine the average Greek citizen believed of free-will and determinism. Although these tales were timeless even before Aristotle, he believed that human action requires contingency and that practical knowledge is about those events that can be changed by human action. All these sorts of stories, of doom that cannot be avoided took the Gods out of the realm of we mere mortals.

    Yet another thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Thank you Craig 😀

      What I love about this story is the humanity of each character and the gods. Each are fallible no matter how high ranking they are. The gods are not immune to their foibles yet cast extreme challenges on their constituents.


  4. rosarymcquestion


    You never cease to amaze me with your knowledge of the ancients. And while reading the story of Priam I couldn’t help but draw a comparison with the world’s current state of affairs. No matter how far we’ve come as a society, it’s unfortunate that the tragedy of war and suffering continues to prevail over peace.

    Thank you for another amazing post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Grazie Bella 😀

      You are so right. We don’t seem to heed the warnings of the past. I scratch my head as to why we aren’t learning. How many more innocents lives need to be taken? Enough is enough.

      Liked by 1 person

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