Chryses' supplication of Agamemnon at the beginning of the Iliad is anomalous in three interconnected ways: neither the language nor the gestures is typical of supplications in the Iliad, and there is no mention of the family of the person supplicated. These apparent difficulties, however, allow Chryses' supplication to play its role in the economy of the narrative. In some ways Chryses' supplication matches Priam's supplication of Achilles, since in both incidents a father asks for the return of his child. But in other ways Chryses' supplication does not match this or other typical supplications in the epic. Chryses' supplication is described by the narrator with the verb λίσσομαι but most of the uses of λίσσομαι occur in situations which are not strong supplications. In general, supplication is characterized by the verbs γουνοῦμαι and γουνάζομαι often coupled with the action of grasping the knees, but Chryses does not use submissive language and gestures. Chryses, like Achilles, can invoke divine aid when he is wronged. If Chryses' speech act had not been a supplication, the parallel with Priam's situation would be impossible, but if it had been typical, then the parallel with Agamemnon's treatment of Achilles would be impossible. Moreover, the lack of an appeal to familial pity may be interpreted as a subtle allusion to the story of the sacrifice of Iphigeneia at Aulis and as a comment on the characterization of both Chryses and Agamemnon; and the lack of the language or gestures of submission allows Achilles to interpret and to re-interpet this first event, to place himself in two different roles, the supplicant and the supplicated, as his own understanding of the events of the story grows and deepens.
- Copyright 1998 The Regents of the University of California