Owens, William M. 2023. “Briseis and Andromache Enslaved: Sleeping with the Enemy in Greek and Roman Epic.” In “Γέρα: Studies in honor of Professor Menelaos Christopoulos,” ed. Athina Papachrysostomou, Andreas P. Antonopoulos, Alexandros-Fotios Mitsis, Fay Papadimitriou, and Panagiota Taktikou, special issue, Classics@ 25. https://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HLNC.ESSAY:103900169.
Before rereading the Achilles-Briseis relationship, I will look in more detail at how Virgil has revised Hector’s vision of Andromache’s slavery. In Book 6 of the Iliad, the Trojan hero vividly imagines the day when Troy will fall. He tells Andromache that what troubles him most is that this is also the day that she will lose her freedom and be led off by one of the bronze-clad Achaeans. He wishes to be dead and buried before he hears his wife cry as she is dragged off:
ὅτε κέν τις Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων
455 δακρυόεσσαν ἄγηται ἐλεύθερον ἦμαρ ἀπούρας·
καί κεν ἐν Ἄργει ἐοῦσα πρὸς ἄλλης ἱστὸν ὑφαίνοις,
καί κεν ὕδωρ φορέοις Μεσσηΐδος ἢ Ὑπερείης
πόλλ’ ἀεκαζομένη, κρατερὴ δ’ ἐπικείσετ’ ἀνάγκη·
καί ποτέ τις εἴπῃσιν ἰδὼν κατὰ δάκρυ χέουσαν·
460 Ἕκτορος ἧδε γυνὴ ὃς ἀριστεύεσκε μάχεσθαι
Τρώων ἱπποδάμων ὅτε Ἴλιον ἀμφεμάχοντο.
ὥς ποτέ τις ἐρέει· σοὶ δ’ αὖ νέον ἔσσεται ἄλγος
χήτεϊ τοιοῦδ’ ἀνδρὸς ἀμύνειν δούλιον ἦμαρ.
ἀλλά με τεθνηῶτα χυτὴ κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτοι,
465 πρίν γέ τι σῆς τε βοῆς σοῦ θ᾽ ἑλκηθμοῖο πυθέσθαι.
Hector imagines Andromache, under the necessity of slavery, forced to work at the loom or carry water, typical tasks of domestic female slaves. Nonetheless, he reminds her that, even as a slave, she will retain her nobility and still be remembered as “the wife of Hector, who was ever the bravest fighter of the Trojans.” This projection of Andromache’s fate, as bleak as it may be, may not be as bleak as it could have been. Hector himself will remain present as the heroic object of Andromache’s grief and memory. He may omit, at least through explicit reference, the likelihood of Andromache’s rape by her owner. 
Let’s turn now to the Aeneid, where in Book 3 Aeneas tells Dido of how he found Andromache and Hector’s brother, the seer Helenus, at Buthrotum in Epirus, where, as husband and wife, they rule over a replica of Troy. Aeneas first sees Andromache, just as Hector imagined, tearfully mourning her lost husband. She is sacrificing at a cenotaph dedicated to him. Aeneas describes how he addressed her:
heu! quis te casus deiectam coniuge tanto
excipit, aut quae digna satis fortuna revisit,
Hectoris Andromache? Pyrrhin conubia servas?
“Andromache, wife of Hector.” Aeneas is that man—the man who, Hector imagined, would one day see his wife and note her change in fortune, that the widow of so great a man (coniuge tanto) is now a slave: Ἕκτορος ἥδε γυνή, Hectoris Andromache. However, the words that follow undermine the nobility that Hector hoped would still attach to Andromache through him. Aeneas does not merely ask Andromache if she is still Pyrrhus’ concubine. In literal terms, he asks if she is still maintaining “marital relations” with her master: conubia servas. The question itself is curious. Aeneas had just told Dido that he heard a rumor that Andromache had become the wife of her fellow Trojan Helenus (3.297, patrio Andromachen iterum cessisse marito). His words to Andromache are almost taunting: servas contains a sideways allusion to Andromache’s enslavement; in conubia is an allusion to a status, that of lawful wife, from which Andromache was excluded when enslaved. 
Andromache’s reply expresses consciousness of the shame of her enslavement and service as a concubine. She notes first the good fortune of Priam’s daughter Polyxena, who, sacrificed at Achilles’ tomb, never had to serve in the bed of a victorious master:
O felix una ante alias Priameia virgo,
hostilem ad tumulum Troiae sub moenibus altis
iussa mori, quae sortitus non pertulit ullos
nec victoris heri tetigit captiva cubile!
In Slavery and Social Death, his seminal cross-cultural study of slavery, sociologist Orlando Patterson argues that slavery involves the systemic degradation and extreme social marginalization of enslaved persons, a process Patterson characterizes with the provocative metaphor of “social death.”  However, the ancients themselves may have thought of enslavement as a kind of death. The third-century CE jurist Florentinus commented in the Digest that slaves are called servi because the commanders spare the lives of those whom they take prisoner instead of killing (1.5.4, servare nec occidere solent). In a discussion regarding the inheritability of legacies, Florentinus’ contemporary Ulpian made an explicit association between slavery and death. A legacy would terminate in the event of the legatee’s death; a legacy would also terminate if the legatee should be sentenced to slavery, “because slavery is likened to death” (Digest 35.1.59, quia servitus morti adsimulatur). I have argued recently that the enslavement of protagonists in the Greek novels is frequently connected with their apparent, but false, death, a literary device known as Scheintod. 
For Virgil’s Andromache, however, enslavement was even worse than death. She sketches out her life as a slave, a slave-narrative in five bitter hexameters:
nos patria incensa diversa per aequora vectae
stirpis Achilleae fastus iuvenemque superbum
servitio enixae tulimus; qui deinde secutus
Ledaeam Hermionen Lacedaemoniosque hymenaeos
me famulo famulamque Heleno transmisit habendam.
Andromache notes the destruction of her homeland that—in contrast to lucky Polyxena—resulted in her enslavement. She was then transported far from her home. Put to work as Pyrrhus’ concubine, she gave birth to a child. After that, when Pyrrhus fell in love with Hermione, he gave Andromache to another of his slaves, Hector’s brother Helenus, and set them free. Andromache’s response reflects throughout the consciousness of her slave status. She gave birth in slavery: servitio. She expresses no love for this child, whom she associates with the haughty pride and arrogance of his father, her master (cf. fastus and superbum).  The degradation of slavery marks even her manumission and legitimate marriage to Helenus, Hector’s brother and her fellow ex-slave. Pyrrhus had transferred Andromache as if she were a piece of property (transmisit habendam) to Helenus, a degrading transfer of one slave to another: famulo famulamque.  The contrast with the heroine of Euripides’ Andromache is striking, a heroine who remains noble despite her status as a slave. Euripides’ Andromache espouses the qualities of a virtuous wife. She is ready to die for the child she bore to Neoptolemus her master. Furthermore, she respects Neoptolemus as a reliable protector against threats to her and her child from his wife Hermione. 
Virgil’s Andromache, in contrast, seems to take pleasure in Pyrrhus’ bloody fate, when Orestes, jealous over Hermione, kills him at the altar of Apollo in Delphi:
ast illum ereptae magno flammatus amore
coniugis et scelerum Furiis agitatus Orestes
excipit incautum patriasque obtruncat ad aras.
Andromache’s servile desire for vengeance may be betrayed here by a mythological solecism. An altar at Delphi becomes for Pyrrhus, incongruously, “his father’s shrine.” The puzzling reference has led to much speculation.  Nonetheless, a plain sense reading of the reference may be possible in the context of the antagonism that characterized master-slave relations. We see a reflection of a servile fantasy not just for revenge, but a particular revenge fantasy in which the tables are turned on the master.  Pyrrhus, who slew Priam on Priam’s paternal altar, suffers karmic payback, slain on his own paternal altar.
Upon the death of their former master, Andromache and Helenus inherit part of his kingdom and attach to it names of Trojan origin:
morte Neoptolemi regnorum reddita cessit
pars Heleno, qui Chaonios cognomine campos
Chaoniamque omnem Troiano a Chaone dixit,
Pergamaque Iliacamque iugis hanc addidit arcem.
Virgil has translated the myth involving Andromache’s and Helenus’ release from slavery to the context of Roman social relations. Helenus and Andromache have become Roman liberti. Just as a Roman master would free a favored slave and make him an heir, so did Pyrrhus free Helenus and bequeath to him a part of his kingdom. In this context cessit reflects the legal connotation of “pass by inheritance.”  However, Helenus and Andromache remain dishonored despite manumission. From the perspective of the Roman elite, they are permanently marked by “the stain of slavery,” the macula servitutis.  In Virgil’s revision of Hector in Iliad 6, slavery diminished Andromache’s honor as well as embittering her against her master.
The only direct evidence for Briseis’ feelings appears in her lament for Patroclus, the only time, in fact, when she speaks. This lament may actually be read as evidence that would undermine the notion of an affectionate relationship between Achilles and Briseis. When beautiful Briseis sees Patroclus’ body, “pierced through by the sharp bronze,” brought back to Achilles’ camp, she embraces the corpse, cries out, and then beats herself about the breast, neck, and face:
Βρισηὶς δ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἔπειτ᾿, ἰκέλη χρυσέῃ Ἀφροδίτῃ,
ὡς ἴδε Πάτροκλον δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέι χαλκῷ,
ἀμφ᾿ αὐτῷ χυμένη λίγ᾿ ἐκώκυε, χερσὶ δ᾿ ἄμυσσε
στήθεά τ᾿ ἠδ᾿ ἁπαλὴν δειρὴν ἰδὲ καλὰ πρόσωπα.
In tears Briseis speaks her lament, which follows a three-part pattern noted by Margaret Alexiou: (1) a preliminary direct address to the deceased; (2) a narrative remembering the past or imagining the future; (3) a return to direct address and lament.  Speaking directly to Patroclus, Briseis states first that he was “so very dear” to her heart. Then she notes the change of circumstances. When she was taken from Achilles’ camp by Agamemnon, Briseis had left Patroclus alive. Now, on her return, she finds him dead:
εἶπε δ᾿ ἄρα κλαίουσα γυνὴ ἐϊκυῖα θεῇσι·
“Πάτροκλέ μοι δειλῇ πλεῖστον κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ,
ζωὸν μέν σε ἔλειπον ἐγὼ κλισίηθεν ἰοῦσα,
νῦν δέ σε τεθνηῶτα κιχάνομαι, ὄρχαμε λαῶν,
In the narrative section, Briseis first remembers her husband, not Patroclus. The first of her many misfortunes occurred when she saw her husband, like Patroclus, “pierced through by the sharp bronze,” defending their city, along with her three brothers, all slain on the same wretched day.
… ὥς μοι δέχεται κακὸν ἐκ κακοῦ αἰεί.
ἄνδρα μὲν ᾧ ἔδοσάν με πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
εἶδον πρὸ πτόλιος δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέι χαλκῷ,
τρεῖς τε κασιγνήτους, τούς μοι μία γείνατο μήτηρ,
κηδείους, οἳ πάντες ὀλέθριον ἦμαρ ἐπέσπον.
The narrative section continues as Briseis recalls that it was Achilles who killed her husband. She also singles out Achilles among the Greeks who destroyed her city that day. Addressing, again, the corpse, Briseis remembers how Patroclus, nonetheless, used to refuse to let her mourn her loss. She notes a vision of the future that he used to hold out to her, telling her repeatedly that that he would make her Achilles’ properly wedded wife, that he would take her with the fleet to Phthia, and that there he would celebrate the marriage with Achilles’ people. For these reasons, Briseis concludes in the third and final section of the lament, she will mourn for Patroclus unceasingly, because he had always been kind to her:
295 οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδέ μ᾿ ἔασκες, ὅτ᾿ ἄνδρ᾿ ἐμὸν ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεὺς
ἔκτεινεν, πέρσεν δὲ πόλιν θείοιο Μύνητος,
κλαίειν, ἀλλά μ᾿ ἔφασκες Ἀχιλλῆος θείοιο
κουριδίην ἄλοχον θήσειν, ἄξειν τ᾿ ἐνὶ νηυσὶν
ἐς Φθίην, δαίσειν δὲ γάμον μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσι.
300 τῶ σ᾿ ἄμοτον κλαίω τεθνηότα, μείλιχον αἰεί.
The narrator then notes that Briseis’ fellow enslaved women joined her in her lament, each of them using Patroclus as a pretext to mourn their own losses (19.301–302): Ὣς ἔφατο κλαίουσ᾿, ἐπὶ δὲ στενάχοντο γυναῖκες, / Πάτροκλον πρόφασιν, σφῶν δ᾿ αὐτῶν κήδε᾿ ἑκάστη.
The antagonism that characterized the master-slave relationship involved the hostility of the master to the slave as well as the hostility of the slave to the master. If Briseis did not love Achilles, Achilles does not appear to have loved Briseis. Evidence for his feelings appears in the angry rejection of Agamemnon’s offer of compensation, which Odysseus presents in the embassy episode, and in Achilles’ own lament for Patroclus in Book 19. In the response to Odysseus, the hero continues to rage at the insult done his honor when Agamemnon took away Briseis, his allotted prize. Achilles rejects the compensation offer, which would include the return of Briseis, whom, Agamemnon will swear by solemn oath, he has not touched.  Though he has rejected an opportunity to take back Briseis, Achilles refers to her as his alochos, a word that ordinarily indicates a wife. “He has taken and keeps my dear wife,” Achilles says. “Let him lie beside her and be happy.” In indignation, he notes that the reason the Greeks are fighting the Trojans in the first place is to defend Menelaus’ marriage to Helen. He asks rhetorically, “Are the sons of Atreus alone among mortal men the ones who love their wives?” He tells Odysseus that he loves Briseis, from his heart, even though she is his war-prize:
ἔχει δ’ ἄλοχον θυμαρέα· τῇ παριαύων
τερπέσθω. τί δὲ δεῖ πολεμιζέμεναι Τρώεσσι
Ἀργείους; τί δὲ λαὸν ἀνήγαγεν ἐνθάδ’ ἀγείρας
Ἀτρεΐδης; ἦ οὐχ Ἑλένης ἕνεκ’ ἠϋκόμοιο;
340 ἦ μοῦνοι φιλέουσ’ ἀλόχους μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
Ἀτρεΐδαι; ἐπεὶ ὅς τις ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς καὶ ἐχέφρων
τὴν αὐτοῦ φιλέει καὶ κήδεται, ὡς καὶ ἐγὼ τὴν
ἐκ θυμοῦ φίλεον δουρικτητήν περ ἐοῦσαν.
Still, Achilles later refers again to Briseis as the prize and symbol of his honor, or geras (367). He does speak of marriage, that is, when he rejects the offer of marriage to one of Agamemnon’s daughters and, thus, a political alliance with powerful Agamemnon himself. In rejecting this offer, Achilles uses several terms that refer to a legitimate wife. Such a wife, however, would not be a daughter of Agamemnon, much less Briseis, who as a captive taken in war had no political benefit to confer. If he returns home, Achilles declares, his father Peleus would find him a wife (gynaika). There are many women, he says, daughters of leading men in Greece or Phthia. He would make one of them his dear wife (philen akoitin) (9.388–397). It is from there, Achilles declares, in concluding his rejection of the marriage offer, that his heart was eager to take a lawfully wedded wife (mnesten alochon), a fitting spouse (eikuian akoitin), and to enjoy his inheritance from Peleus:
ἔνθα δέ μοι μάλα πολλὸν ἐπέσσυτο θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ
γήμαντα μνηστὴν ἄλοχον, ἐϊκυῖαν ἄκοιτιν,
κτήμασι τέρπεσθαι τὰ γέρων ἐκτήσατο Πηλεύς·
The direct declaration of love here is posturing rather than an expression of sincere feeling. In the context of rhetorical engagement with Odysseus, Achilles finds it useful to equate Briseis, a slave concubine, with Helen, a wedded wife, in order to depict Agamemnon as another Paris, a man who steals other men’s wives. Later, in rejecting marriage to one of Agamemnon’s daughters, a marriage that would constitute a political alliance, Achilles notes his preference for a daughter of (and alliance with) another Achaean strongman over hated Agamemnon. Nagy notes a tradition that emphasized the rivalry between Achilles and Odysseus as respective representatives of the opposed concepts force and guile, bie and metis. Nagy remarks on the irony of the embassy episode in that Odysseus, famed for his metis, implores Achilles to return with his bie to the fight. But there is a corresponding irony: Achilles’ words to Odysseus, an artful display of rhetorical metis rather than a sincere declaration of love for Briseis, push Odysseus back on his own turf, rhetorical guile.  It is also relevant to this reading that in Book 1, when Achilles complains to Thetis that Agamemnon had dishonored him by taking his prize, his geras (1.355–356, ἦ γάρ μ’ Ἀτρεΐδης εὐρὺ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων / ἠτίμησεν· ἑλὼν γὰρ ἔχει γέρας αὐτὸς ἀπούρας), he does not complain to his mother that Agamemnon had taken away the woman he loved, still less, the woman he wanted to marry. It would be curious if Achilles bares his heart in this matter not to his mother, but to Odysseus, a traditional antagonist. Granted, Briseis is important to Achilles as a geras, a symbol of his honor. Whatever his feelings are for her, in the embassy episode they appear subordinated to this.
Indirect evidence for Achilles’ feelings appears in his own lament for Patroclus, which formally aligns with that of Briseis.  After refusing to eat and drink, Achilles addresses his comrade in the presence of the Achaean leaders and, presumably, Briseis and the other enslaved women. He remembers how Patroclus used to prepare the meal before the battle—but now he is dead, “pierced through by the sharp bronze” (19.319, δεδαϊγμένος), a formulaic observation of the fact of death that connects Achilles’ lament to that of Briseis. He tells Patroclus that it is harder to bear his death than it would be to bear the death of his father or even his son. For he had always wished that he alone would die at Troy, but that Patroclus would retrieve Neoptolemus from Skyros and present him with his inheritance, his slaves and his great house.
πρὶν μὲν γάρ μοι θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσιν ἐόλπει
οἶον ἐμὲ φθίσεσθαι ἀπ᾿ Ἄργεος ἱπποβότοιο
330 αὐτοῦ ἐνὶ Τροίῃ, σὲ δέ τε Φθίηνδε νέεσθαι,
ὡς ἄν μοι τὸν παῖδα θοῇ ἐνὶ νηὶ μελαίνῃ
Σκυρόθεν ἐξαγάγοις καί οἱ δείξειας ἕκαστα,
κτῆσιν ἐμὴν δμῶάς τε καὶ ὑψερεφὲς μέγα δῶμα.
Pucci suggests that Achilles’ declaration here is a response to Briseis’ reference to the marriage Patroclus told her he would arrange. The bereaved hero declares that he never intended to return to Achaia, much less (by implication) to marry Briseis.  Briseis would indeed be taken to Phthia, but not as his wife, rather as a slave inherited by his son along with his other possessions. He never intended to marry her as a legitimate wife.