Rage: The founding stone of The Iliad.
Rage is the emotion around which the story of Iliad revolves. The story goes ahead because of rage, to certain extent. Honor was of utmost importance to the Greek people. No man would give up his honor at any cost. No gifts and prizes could be enough to compensate for lost honor and pride. When a man who looses his honor or feels that he is disrespected he is filled full of rage. And this is exactly what happened with the God like Achilles, when Agamemnon dishonored him. Achilles rage goes through different phases during the course of the Iliad. Also the reason for his rage differs at different stages of the book, The Iliad.
Rage: Sing, Goddess, Achilles rage, Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls Of heroes into Hades dark, And left their bodies to rot as feast For dogs and birds, as Zeus; will was done (I,1-6) These are the lines with which the poem starts. It clearly indicates the effects of Achilles rage. The Greeks had to pay heavily for dishonoring Achilles. But in the poem at this point of time what drives the story is not Achilles rage, but it is the rage of Chryses. Chryses is in rage because Achilles had his daughter as his prize. He offers Agamemnon, the Greek king a huge treasure in return of his daughter, but Agamemnon bluntly refused the offer. Filled with rage Chryses prays to Lord Apollo. This fills the Lord with rage and he punishes the Greek camp. Later in book I Achilles asks Agamemnon to withdraw from the war, but he refuses. This make Achilles feel insulted and dishonored. Later Agamemnon agrees to free Chrysess daughter for Achilles prize. This fills Achilles with rage. He considered Briseis, his war prize as something dear to him. She gave him pride and honor, and he might have been in love with her. This is because many times rage takes the place of love. Thats why he would have been filled with rage. Achilles even thought of killing Agamemnon then and there in his rage, but he dropped this idea when he heard the words of the Goddess, Hera. When you two speak, Goddess, a man had to listen No matter how angry. Its better that way. Obey the gods and they hear you when you pray.(1,226-228)These are words Achilles said to Goddess Hera. By these words Achilles is trying to taunt the Goddess, and he is trying to express his anger, but he is helpless as no matter how strong one is, he would never go against a Gods will. It is because Agamemnon dishonored Achilles and took his prized possession away; Achilles left the Greek camp and withdrew from the war. This was a way of expressing his rage.
Agamemnon sends his men to Achilles hut to get the girl. Achilles warmly welcomes them and gives the girl away. During this episode Achilles is silent controlling his anger, and he speaks nothing. There is a saying, Silence is golden. Achilles shows in anger by not uttering anything that would offend his guests. But no matter how great a warrior you are, everyone has a heart and Achilles filled with anger breaks down and calls for his mother Thetis. With Achilles withdrawing from the war, the Achaeans suffers a great set back. Agamemnon sends Odyssues, Ajax and Pheonix to apologize to Achilles on his behalf and to persuade him to get back in the war. Agamemnon had offered Achilles many gifts also. Welcome. Things must be bad to bring you here, The Greeks I love beast, even in my rage. (IX-201-202) These are the words Achilles says to the group of three men who come to him to ask for forgiveness on Agamemnons behalf. By this Achilles is portraying his anger but at the same time it also shows a softer side of Achilles. Achilles refuses to return to the war and turns down Agamemnons gifts. Achilles denial causes Big Ajax to get angry and he says the following words, A man accepts compensation For a murdered brother, a dead son. The killer goes on living in the same town. After paying bloody money and the bereaved Restrains his proud spirit and broken heart Because he has received payment.(IX, 652-657) Ajax means that a man even forgives a killer after receiving payment for the death of a loved one, but Achilles is so filled with rage that just for one woman he is letting his friends die. Achilles his happy that the Agamemnon and his warriors are suffering in the battlefield, but at the same time his heart also pleads for his fellow countrymen. But Achilles rage is so strong that he prefers to see his companions die rather that help Agamemnon. It might also be possible that Achilles did not return to the war because Agamemnon, himself did not come to ask for forgiveness.