I think I may have discovered the first regretitation mentioned in the history of Western Civilization.

As you may remember, in the Illiad, Alexandros (Paris) and his brother Hektor visit Sparta and are treated hospitably. When they leave, Alexandros takes Helen (Menelaus’s wife) back to Troy. Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon raise a 1,000-ship fleet and descend on Troy to take Helen back.

Agamemnon makes a proposal to save thousands of lives by letting Alexandro fight for Troy and Menelaus fight for Sparta. If Alexandros wins, he keeps Helen and all her possessions. If, however, Menelaus wins, Helen is returned

then let the Trojans give back Helen and all her possessions,
and pay also a price to give the Argives (all those who traveled to Troy to fight) which will be fitting,
which among people yet to come shall be as a standard.1

This regretitation is instructive because it recognizes an injustice beyond the mere taking of Helen. It seeks to restore not just Menelaus whose wife was taken. Not just the country of Sparta who was humiliated by her taking. But all of the soldiers who left their families and endured the sea-voyage (the Argives) to retrieve Helen.

To qualify as a regretitation, however, the intention informing the restitution must be restorative. Restitution is merely disgorging something from someone which was improperly taken or compensation for an injury done. Restorative intentions are multifaceted and, in part, seek to restore justice, properly ordered stakeholders and communities, global healing, and so forth. Unfortunately, it does not seem that that Agamemnon intended this offer to be restorative. I think he intended not just to restore the Argives. I think he intended to punish Troy with a regretitation so large it would be “fitting” for a nation, like Troy, who would give safe harbor to someone that took another person’s wife. It seems that Agamemnon intended the restitution to be large enough to humiliate Troy and therefore a “standard” to warn all future nations. The intentions informing restorative action may have a humiliating or punitive impact (even with the best intentions, we cannot control how they are received), but the intentions are overwhelmingly restorative.


Brandon Blankenship
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  1. From Richard Lattimore’s translation of the Iliad.