The Iliad is filled with compelling public scenes, such as assemblies, battles, and funerals. While these scenes contribute to the epic’s overall progression and drama, private scenes provide a more intimate glimpse into the lives and emotions of characters. Private scenes also reveal much about cultural practices, attitudes, and traditions of the time. To illustrate what these private scenes reveal, this study organizes these intimate settings into two categories: Trojan domestic scenes and the Achaean shelters.
The first of the two settings are the domestic scenes of Troy, where women are present and families intact. Here, private scenes expose the interior lives of women, providing more information about family dynamics, women’s roles, and female domesticity. This segment builds primarily upon the writing of Pantelia and Arthur. Pantelia discusses the significance of women weaving and expressing themselves within these domestic scenes, while Arthur makes the distinction between the separate but equally important roles and duties of men and women to the family and city-state. Helen and Andromache weaving in their chambers (books 3 and 22) and Helen’s and Paris’ interactions in the bedchamber (book 3) serve as the primary examples of how private space in Troy reveals women’s roles and provides them a domain in which they have the power of self-expression, albeit limited.
The second grouping focuses on the Achaean tents, where, since most Achaean women remained at home, private interactions occur mainly among men within their temporary shelters, providing a space for frank discussion, persuasion, and negotiation. The study looks at three instances in which men approach Achilles’ tent with a request in books 9, 11, and 24, relying on Adkins and Pedrick to better understand characters’ personal values and emotions and how, in private scenes, they are displayed in rituals such as supplication. The interactions among Achaean men are sometimes more formal than among the Trojans due to the absence of families. Nonetheless, such scenes still expose softer emotions hidden under tough exteriors, and provide insight into cultural norms.
The study concludes that private spaces offer insight into the inner lives of the epic’s characters, pointing out values and customs that are important to them, among these, friendship, paternal love, xenia, and supplication. They also indicate that the society depicted in the Iliad valued the good of the community over individualism. Finally, private scenes, in which characters disclose their true feelings more willingly than in public, are often the most poignant of the epic. In them are found men moved to tears, women worrying for their families and futures, and all characters at times expressing a love, or at least respect, for one another that surpasses self-absorption.
The Next Generation: Papers by Undergraduate Classics Students