Issue 1: Page 06
Agelaus’ strategy has really backfired. He’d given his staff to Paris to take inside in order to prevent exactly this kind of outburst. But Paris, whom you can see watching in obvious dismay in the first panel, instead uses it to attack the king’s emissaries. He is only saved by Agelaus’ intercession.
Take a closer look at how Agelaus dissuades the emissary from harming his son. Doesn’t it seem like there’s something he wants to say, but can’t allow himself to utter . . . ?
It’s remarkable that Agelaus still has so much of his wits about him, considering the speed and violence of the emissary’s response. You may be wondering, would behavior like Paris’ really have earned such a swift reprisal in late Bronze-Age Troy?
Well, if Trojan custom was anything like Hittite, defiance of the king or the king’s appointee would have been one of the offenses to warrant the death penalty. One of the clauses in the Hittite document known as the Laws holds that:
“If anyone rejects a judgement of the king, his house will become a heap of ruins. If anyone rejects a judgement of a magistrate, they shall cut off his head.”
As Trevor Bryce observes in his book, Life and Society in the Hittite World, “It is not a particular offense which attracts this penalty, for none is specified in this clause. Rather it is the failure to abide by the judgement handed down, irrespective of the offense. Direct defiance of the king himself attracted the most severe retribution—apparently the destruction of the offender’s entire family, if that is the correct interpretation of the first part of the clause.”
Needless to say, in the Hittite empire Paris’ actions would have been a huge no-no. Compounded with the fact that he hasn’t just defied the king’s emissary, but has actually attacked him, a summary execution doesn’t seem like such a stretch.
It’s true, though, that the context here in Age of Bronze is a bit different than what’s imagined in the Hittite document above. Paris is not defying a judicial ruling of the king, but rather a de facto tax assessment.
Further, and at the risk of belaboring the point, it’s probably well to mention again that Hittite and Trojan are not equivalent, and that this Hittite document is not evidence for Troy. But Troy and the Hittite empire were probably within the same cultural sphere, and this text does at least give you a sense of how the great kingdom to Troy’s east dealt with defiance of its king. As to whether the Trojans themselves would have meted out the same punishment for the same offense, we just don’t have the evidence to say.
Still, supposing that Paris was running the risk of death and knew it, Eric has at least drawn him a bull worth fighting over. The animal that Paris struggles to protect is based in part on a magnificent bull’s head rhyton (drinking/libation vessel) from Crete. Its horns were gilt wood, its eyes rock-crystal, and the wide band around the muzzle was shell.
Make it edible and you too would probably fight to keep it.
Kidding aside, Paris has yet another motivation for his behavior besides the fineness of the animal. It has to do with the fact that, even though Paris is often represented as a shepherd at this stage in his life, Eric has chosen to follow the sources which make him a cowherd. One of his reasons for doing so was to better motivate Paris’ violent reaction to the loss of his family’s bull.
As we’ll soon see, though, Paris’ attachment to the bull isn’t exactly a matter of affection, like the warmth one feels for a pet. Let’s find out more about why the loss of the bull gets Paris so upset, especially in light of what he had planned for it.
Both the Hittite law quoted above and Bryce’s discussion of it occur on p. 41 of his Life and Society in the Hittite World. The description of the bull’s head rhyton is based on Reynold Higgins’ Minoan and Mycenaean Art.