THE STORY (59 minutes) With Hector dead, the desperate Trojans grasp on to increasingly ridiculous deus ex machina solutions to save their city from the Greeks. And then old King Priam hatches the most hair-brained (or brilliant) scheme of them all…..
THE COMMENTARY HOW DID ACHILLES DIE and WHO KILLED HIM? (15 minutes; begins at 59:00) With this podcast episode we leave behind Homer`s account of the Trojan War, and once again delve into that jambalaya of accounts, fragments, partial references and contradictory content that served as our source materials in Episodes One through Ten. I remind listeners that the death of Achilles does not appear in Homer – though Homer clearly predicts it and even tells us who will kill Achilles (Paris), and even where Achilles will die (on the Trojan Plain). I then raise the perennial and frustrating debate on whether or not Achilles was immune from physical injury. I note that Homer’s Achilles is vulnerable to injury (a Trojan arrow draws blood in Book 21 of Iliad; and Achilles needs armour when entering battle). But on the other hand, the Achilles of the River Styx story (you will recall that Thetis immersed her infant son in that river) is clearly immune from physical injury. I note that a storyteller cannot have it both ways. Either Achilles is immune, due to his Styx-dunking, or he is not immune. I defend my personal storyteller choice of “immune Achilles” on the grounds that the Styx-dunking is an established and popular part of the Trojan War Epic canon, and in my view makes for a more satisfying story. Homer, I note, did not include the Styx story, because it had not yet been written down (or even created?) until 100 A.C.E., by a writer named Statius (in The Achilleid). Next I explore whether a poison arrow, if lodged into Achilles’ left heel, could have actually caused his death. Here I cite The Trojan War: A New History, by Barry Strauss, 2006, who argues “yes”.
Finally, I confess that my “version” of the death of Achilles (via Priam’s plot to marry Achilles to his daughter Polyxena, and Paris’ assassination of Achilles in a temple of the god Apollo) holds together on the most gossamer of primary source threads. But I invite (dare) storytellers to come up with a more plausible and satisfying account of Achilles’ death, given the paucity and contradictory nature of the surviving accounts. I conclude by reviewing a series of “death of Achilles” accounts which I rejected in my version of the telling. I conclude by inviting listeners to explore the source materials, and come up with their own best understanding of how Achilles died.