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Ring Composition for Nestor’s Speech in Book XI of Iliad

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    Ring Composition for Nestor’s Speech in Book XI of Iliad

    Nestor’s speech to Patroclus near the end of Book XI of Homer’s Iliad can be written in a ring composition. Nestor is trying to convince Patroclus to join in the battle as the Greeks are in desperate need of reinforcement. Achilles has lived up to his word not to go to battle unless Agamemnon realizes his mistakes. Agamemnon has already sent Nestor, Odysseus and Ajax to convince him to join in the battle, but Achilles pride and bitterness has made him stubbornly refuse. The Trojans had been victorious upon the absence of Achilles and his army. Nestor, being the wisest counselor, persuades Patroclus, Achilles’ friend, at least to have the rest of the Myrmidons back to battle.

    Ring composition is a narrative technique wherein a narrator discusses on a number of topic until a significant point is reached and retraces in reverse the topics on the way to the significant point. That is, the significant point is found at the beginning, middle and end part of the narrative where the middle develops the point. The speech below is a version of Nestor’s speech to Patroclus written in ring composition.

    You, Patroclus, should convince Achilles to come back and join the war. We need him to win the war. The Oracle prophesied that Troy would not fall without him. But he would not care how many Achaeans would suffer this war. Will he wait until the ships are ablaze? Or when every one of us has perished? At least ask him to let the Myrmidons fight, and ask him to let you lead them. Many of our comrades have fallen or have been wounded. Most of Greece’s chiefs, like Diomed, Odysseus, and even Agamemnon, are wounded. The man I was carrying, Machaon has just been wounded with an arrow. So is Eurypylus who was wounded in the thigh also with an arrow. We are short of commanders to lead our army.

    As for me, I no longer have the strength to lead in battle. Once when I was young, we raided Elis and I have slain a man named Itymoneus. He was fighting in the front ranks in defense of their cattle and I hit him with my spear while I was driving in the spoil. When he fell, the people around him were in great fear. We had a vast number of booty: fifty herds of cattle and as many flocks of sheep; there were as many droves of swine and wide-spreading flocks of goats. As for horses, we seized one hundred and fifty, all of them mares. We drove them to Pylos, the city of Neleus, my sire. He was glad we brought so much though it was only my first time in the field.

    After three days, the Epeans came in huge numbers. They have already destroyed the town of Thryoessa on the river Alpheus, on the border of the city of Pylus. There were willing warriors in Pylos to fight the Epeans. I was among them, although Neleus had forbid me to arms and hid my horse for he has lost all his other sons. I came with the company of our mounted forces near Minyeius, and there we waited until the Epeans on foot came in the morning. In full force and vigor we charged and by noon, we were offering the victims and a bull to almighty Zeus. To Poseidon we offered another and to Hera, we offered a herd-heifer. After this we took supper and laid to rest.

    Meanwhile, the Epeans have been wreaking havoc in the city of and were determined to take it. We joined in the battle as soon as the sun shows itself the next morning. I was the first to kill an enemy, Mulius. I speared him as he was coming towards me. When he fell, I took his chariot and took my place in the front ranks. When the Epeans saw that the captain of their horsemen had fallen, they scattered in every direction in fear and I swept down on them like a whirlwind. I had taken fifty chariots in all and there were two riders in each, all had fallen by my spear. The great lord Zeus had provided victory for us that day and we chased the remaining enemy over the plains until we reached a place called Buprasium. There, Hera bid us to abandon the slaughter as I killed the last man. We took the armor of the slain and went back to Pylos, where men gave thanks to Zeus among the gods, and to me among men.

    Men no longer adore me in battles now, unlike when I was still young and strong. As for Achilles, men will follow him where he fight. But he keeps his valor to himself. He will not yield to his stubbornness. He will not settle with his quarrel with Agamemnon, over some concubine. Did not your father, Menoetius charge you with thus: to guide Achilles in the right way and counsel him wisely? For, as even he is of nobler birth than you are, you are older and Achilles will follow you to his own profit. We heard him saying this when in Agamemnon’s house after we had filled ourselves with meat and drink. I urged you both—Achilles and you—to join the war against the Trojans. You were both willing enough to go but now have deserted us to fight by ourselves. Have you forgotten what your father has charged you? Even Achilles has been charged with his sire, Peleus, to fight among the foremost and better his peers. Remind him this and he might listen to you. With heaven’s help, you might talk him over.

    If Achilles does not listen, ask him why. When we came to our charge to send Achilles to Agamemnon to join the battle, he was hidden from us in guise of a girl, for his mother, who knew his fate if he comes to Troy and tried to prevent it. Odysseus’ wit has revealed the guise by presenting a spear and shield among the gifts, and when a false alarm for an attack was sounded, Achilles snatched the weapons—not the kind of gift that a girl would want. Once discovered, he was willing to join the Achaeans, for the same prophesy that let his mother prevent him for joining the war proclaimed that he will become one of Greece’s greatest heroes. If he is afraid of what his mother has told that he is fated to die young when he fights in Troy, let him send you and have the rest of the Myrmidons follow you.

    How many Achaeans should suffer and die before you join in the battle? Are we doomed to be fed to the hounds of Troy, away from our friends and our. country? For truly there is no hope for the Achaeans. The Trojans, on the other hand, are growing stronger with each battle. We will perish at our ships. He asked you to know who the man I was carrying wounded, yet he will not go to war. Why should he care about any of the Achaeans? Let him send you in battle clad in his armor. When the Achaeans see you in his armor, they will think that Achilles has returned to battle and be inspired to fight back. When the Trojans see you, they might again mistake you as him and flee the battlefield. In any case, you are fresh and can easily overcome a tired enemy and keep them away from our tents and our ships. This will also give time for our warriors to rest for they are already hard pressed and there is little breathing time in battle. We need more warriors to fight the battle. Moreover, we need some chiefs to command our army. Achilles or you can turn this war around. Greece needs you.

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    Ring Composition for Nestor’s Speech in Book XI of Iliad. (2016, Dec 25). Retrieved from

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