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An aristeia or aristia (//; Ancient Greek: ἀριστεία, IPA: [aristěːa], "excellence") is a scene in the dramatic conventions of epic poetry as in the Iliad, where a hero in battle has his finest moments (aristos = "best"). An aristeia can result in the death of the hero at the aristeia's end.
One of the most epic examples of aristeia is in Book 21 of the Iliad when Achilles almost single-handedly routs the Trojan army. This includes his chase of Hector around Troy; Achilles eventually succeeds in killing him and dragging his corpse around the city. Another instance of this phenomenon in the Iliad is found in Diomedes' performance in battle, empowered by Athena (Book V), Hector's in the Trojan assault on the Achaian camp in Book VIII (with the help of Zeus) as well as Patroclus' aristeia in Book XVI, which ultimately leads to his demise at the hands of Hector. In Book XXII of the Odyssey, Greek hero Odysseus slaughters all of the suitors in his palace in another homeric display of martial excellence. It is also seen, to some extent, in the Aeneid, when Nisus and Euryalus leave the Trojan defenses to slaughter the Latin captains while they sleep. It also features in Book X, when Mezentius takes the place of Turnus and strikes down all in his path: it draws upon homeric models, using a simile.
- Homer (800 BC). The Iliad. p. Book XXI.
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