Does Achilles Forgive in the Iliad? The Archaic Origins of the Virtue of Forgivingness
In Before Forgiveness, David Konstan argues that the modern concept of interpersonal forgiveness was absent from Western thought until the early modern period. However, by “the modern” concept of the term, Konstan means one specific modern conception of forgiveness: that articulated by Griswold in Forgiveness, a conception unique amongst modern scholarship in its narrow, revisionary and prescriptive nature. In this paper I consider Konstan’s argument with respect to archaic Greece. I argue that, even when we limit ourselves to Griswold’s conception of interpersonal forgiveness, and to the two Iliadic examples considered by Konstan, there is more room for interpersonal forgiveness in the Iliad than Konstan would have us believe. I will show that examination of Achilles’ renunciation of his resentment at Agamemnon in Iliad 18 and Priam in Iliad 24 reveals the earliest depiction in Western literature of the virtue of forgivingness.
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