By Kurt A. Raaflaub
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Raaflaub and Robert W. Wallace (hetairoi and therapontes; see van Wees 1997: 670; Donlan 1999: 345–57) of their leader Achilles. Odysseus himself well illustrates the fluidity and complexities of social status in his deceptive story to Athena, explaining that he refused to delight Orsilochos’s father, Idomeneus, and be Orsilochos’s therapon in Troy, but instead “I commanded other hetairoi ” (Od. 5 Of course, not every hetairos has equal status and is equally good and brave in battle. But no one is simply expendable: “We all know how to Wght” (Il.
So, too, as we saw, the leaders can act despicably, but the ideal basileus is a “shepherd of his people” (poimen laon), not a brutal commander, distant ruler, or exploiter. For high status with concomitant honors and privileges he depends on the demos (Donlan 1999: 19–20). This material sufWces to demonstrate our point. In Homer, despite elite claims to the contrary, the demos’s role is signiWcant on the battleWeld, in the assembly, and in society. Although equality is not yet formalized or conWrmed by law or ideology, basic forms of egalitarianism are reflected in the weakness of aristocratic authority and social hierarchies, including class vocabulary.
99–107 Similarly, Agamemnon and Achilles suffer because they failed to suppress selWsh ambition and anger in favor of the common good (Raaflaub 2001: 32 Kurt A. Raaflaub and Robert W. Wallace 80–83). Thersites rebukes Agamemnon in the assembly: “It is not right for you, their leader, to lead in sorrow the sons of the Achaians” (Il. 233–34). Despite the elite’s effort to emphasize distance and qualitative difference, Homer’s language reflects no social contempt for the masses. Ordinary people are never called kakoi (low, bad, mean), as they are in later archaic poetry.