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In the Iliad, defeated foes plead for mercy on six occasions. Since these appeals are all unsuccessful, many modern scholars believe this lack of quarter indicates that the protracted Trojan War grew more brutal over time. Nowhere, however, does the text suggest a preexisting custom of mercy that has lapsed, or that the refusal to spare a surrendering enemy was ever considered unethical. Rather, the scenes of battlefield supplication have a literary function and serve to characterize the supplicated warriors, since the decision to grant or refuse mercy was at the whim of the victor.