In Book 11 Odysseus is in the Kingdom of the Dead, the “House of Death” (line 171) and finds the ghosts the greatest figures from his nation’s past. The ghosts seek answers from Odysseus. This section is significant today because it describes the afterlife and the torment of those within it.   This is powerful because it shows Odysseus speaking to Achilles (his ghost) and being in awe of him.   By the end of the passage it was Achilles who was attempting to make this once great man feel at peace by “lending him heart”.   Regret and uncertainty about his family have given him an aching curiosity about their fates.
Achilles, the “greatest of the Achaeans” (line 542) who was “honoured as a god” (p551) when he lived seeks answers that he cannot learn in this other world, where sunlight never penetrates.   The irony is that Odysseus recognises Achilles saying that “there’s not a man in the world more blest than you – there never has been, never will be one” (Lines 548-549).   Yet in death Achilles appears to be broken.   His strength is gone.   Once recognised as a superior warrior who had “invincible hands” (line 572) to now as he appeals to Odysseus for information about his own son and his father.  
Anyone listening to this section of The Odyssey could imagine that in life Achilles and Odysseus would never have met.   Their circumstances were too different.   Their places in the hierarchy of society were too distant.   However, it is Achilles who appeals to Odysseus for answers.   Achilles acknowledges that he was responsible ‘for killing the best fighters’ (line 568) but wants nothing more now than life. ‘”By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man ...than rule down here over all the breathless dead” (lines 556-558). Again this is ironic because, rather than being rewarded in eternity for his bravery and his loyalty, Achilles is suffering emotionally.   So while Odysseus sees Achilles as the leader in the Kingdom of the Dead, “You lord it over the dead in all your...