Briseis and Chryseis are characters who are not allowed to be their own within the story of The Iliad. Even their very names are not their own, describing them only in association with their fathers. In this sense, they are described in association with others — spoken about and passed around as nothing more than bargaining chips, even if ones that are viewed affectionately.
One especially striking motif in the description of Briseis and Chryseis was the usage of one particular word — “PRIZE”. Over and over again, they are seen as prizes to be possessed. I have adapted passages from The Iliad where they are referred to as prizes. The two of them speak for themselves, and pass of the narrative to one another as they speak at the original text’s usage of the word “PRIZE”, which they replace with a term they are instead using to refer to themselves or one another. Chryseis will speak on the left side, and Briseis will speak on the right side.
“Prophet of evil, never yet have you spoken anything good for me,
always to prophesy evil is dear to your heart.
You have never spoken nor yet accomplished any good word;
and now you speak in assembly of the Danaans, declaiming god’s will— that for this reason, you say, the Archer who shoots from afar causes their affliction—
because I was not willing to accept his splendid ransom
for the girl Chryseïs, since I greatly desire to have her
at home; for I prefer her to Clytemnestra,
my wedded wife, as she is not inferior to her,
not in figure or bearing, nor even in disposition or handiwork.
Yet, even so, I am willing to give her back—if this is for the best.
I wish my men to be safe rather than perish.
But make ready another PRIZE at once, so that I alone
of the Achaeans am not unrecompensed, since that is not fitting.
For all of you are witness that my own PRIZE goes elsewhere.”
The Iliad 1.111-120
Prophet of my mine, you have spoken something that should be good for me,
Always to prophesy my belonging is dear to your heart.
You have spoken and yet we have accomplished few good words;
And now you speak in assembly with the Danaans, explaining god’s will — that for this reason,
You say, the Archer who shoots from too far causes affliction —
Because he was not willing to accept my father’s ransom
For me, the woman Chryseis, since he desires to posess me
At home; for he prefers me to Clytemnestra,
His wedded wife, as he measures me by
In figure or bearing, in disposition, in handiwork.
He acts gracious in that he would give me back — if it is, for him, what’s best.
He wishes for his men to be safe, who I wish to perish.
But he wants another —
— woman — me, Briseis, at once, so that he alone
Of the Achaens is not unappeased, since he is throwing a fit.
For all of you are witness that
— I escape elsewhere.
“Do not in this way, skilled though you be, godlike Achilles,
try to trick me, for you will not outwit nor persuade me.
Or do you intend—while you yourself have a PRIZE—that I just sit here
without one—are you ordering me to give the girl back?
No, either the great-hearted Achaeans will give me a PRIZE
suited to my wishes, of equal value—
or if they do not give one, then I myself will go and take
either your own PRIZE, or that of Ajax, or I will
take and carry away the PRIZE of Odysseus; and whomever I visit will be made angry;
but, we shall consider these things later.
The Iliad 1.131-140
He commands that in this way, skilled though you be, godlike Achilles,
Try to trick him, for you will not convince or persuade him.
Or do you intend — while you yourself posess —
— me, that he sit there
Without a prisoner — are you ordering him to release Chryseis?
No, either the foolhearty Achaeans will give him —
— a woman, suited to his wishes, of some quantified value —
Or if they do not give one, then he will again violate
Me, or a prisoner of Ajax, or he will violate
A prisoner of Odysseus; without minding how the women may be angry;
But, they shall debate our fates later.
So then, I will speak as it seems best to me.
Nor shall any other man have in mind counsel better than this,
such as I have turned in mind both in the past and still now—
turned since that time when you, O descended from Zeus, went and took
the girl Briseïs from the shelter of Achilles, for all his anger,
not at all in accordance with our counsel; for I did indeed
strongly dissuade you; but you, yielding to your great-hearted fury,
dishonored the best of men, one whom the very gods esteem;
for you have taken and hold his PRIZE. Still, even now
let us consider how we might, making atonement, win him over
with propitiatory gifts and gentle words.
The Iliad 9.104-113
So then, he will speak as men always do — as seems best to them.
Nor should any other man have counsel for a better reason than this,
Such as they have maintained in their minds in the past and still now —
As fitting to the time when you, O appropriately from Zeus, went and kidnapped
Me from the posession of Achilles, for all his anger,
Not at all in accordance with my counsel; for I would have indeed
Strongly dissuaded you; but you, yielding to your weak-hearted fury,
Dishonored me, whether or not the very gods hold me in esteem;
For you have violated and hurt
— Briseis. Still, even now
Condisder how you might make atonement, not to win him over
But to apologize, with non-existent gifts and words.
Run, then, if your spirit so moves you. Nor will I
beg you to stay here for my sake. Other men stand by me,
who will pay me honor, and especially all-devising Zeus.
You are most hateful to me of the kings cherished by Zeus;
always contention is dear to you, and fighting and battles.
If you are so very powerful, a god doubtless gave this to you.
Go home with your ships and your companions—
be lord of the Myrmidons; of you I take no account,
nor do I care that you are angered. But I promise you this:
As Phoebus Apollo robs me of Chryseïs,
whom I will send away, on my ship, with my companions—
so I will take Briseïs of the pretty cheeks,
yes, your PRIZE, going myself to your hut, so that you will discern
how much I am your better and so another man will be loath
to speak as my equal, openly matching himself with me.
The Iliad 1.173-187
You could run, then, if your spirit so moves you. Nor will I
Beg you to continue posessing me for any sake. Other men stand by him,
Who will pay him obedience, and especially all-consuming Zeus.
Truly, I am most hateful to not just kings, but all cherished by Zeus;
Always contention is so dear to all of you, and fighting and battles.
If you are so very powerful, the gods doubtless gave little good to you.
I wish I were able to go home as you might with your companions —
Be lord of anything; of you, I wish no account,
As no one cares how I am angered. But I promise you this:
As Phoebus Apollo returns home Chryseis,
Who will be sent away, without her companions–
So he will violate me by whatever means,
Yes, your —
— prisoner, going himself ot her hut, so that you will discern
How much he wishes to better both I and another woman, who are loath
To be seen as his equal; openly disgraced are we.