From beginning to end of the Iliad, Agamemnon and Achilleus are locked in a high-stakes struggle for dominance based on their efforts to impose competing definitions of loss incurred and the nature of compensation thereby owed. This typology of scenes involving apoina, or ransom, and poine, or revenge, is the basis of Donna Wilson's detailed anthropology of compensation in Homer which she locates in the wider context of agonistic exchange. Wilson argues that a struggle over definitions is a central feature of elite competition for status in the zero-sum and fluid ranking system characteristic of Homeric society. This system can be used to explain why Achilleus refuses Agamemnon's 'compensation' in Book 9, as well as why and how the embassy tries to mask it. Ransom, Revenge and Heroic Identity in the Iliad thus examines the traditional semantic, cultural, and poetic matrix of which compensation is an integral part.
'... this book is an important contribution to the understanding of the Iliad. It will prove useful to all those studying Homeric poetry and society.' Journal of Hellenic Studies 'This book offers a rich feast of theory and literary analysis. Wilson's scholarship is first rate and her analysis, though subtle and with many strands, is clear and coherent ... It is a noteworthy contribution both to the study of power and dominance in Homeric society and to the poetics of the Iliad.' Walter Donlan, University of California, Irvine '... Donna Wilson succeeds brilliantly in untangling an interpretive knot that has bound up the exegesis of the Iliad for centuries. ... [She] provides a sensitive and sophisticated analysis of the cultural poetics of compensation, showing that the crucial terms ... are not major structuring concepts with the Iliad, but within Greek society, and not just static concepts, but ones essentially open to constant rhetorically charged renegotiation.' Richard Martin, Antony and Isabelle Raubitschek Professor of Classics, Stanford University