Personally I think that the greatest Homeric Warrior in the Iliad was Achilles.  Even when he was choosing to go home he still seems to be the strongest character throughout the whole tale.  His decisions as to why he wants to go home seem more admirable than most and when he is put into a position where honor is threatened as in his friend Patrolcus’s death, Achilles will fight to the last to gain that slight against him back.  He fights for honor in the face of death.  Also even though he makes taunts against his adversaries he still knows his own mortality and that there is an eventual end not far away for him.

Heroism in the ancient world is about fighting for honor and fighting to the death to gain that honor.  It would be called a ‘crime’ in the ancient world to be a coward and run away from battle.  There is no honor given to a man that runs away from a battle.  The most glorious thing in the ancient world is death.  As Dilios says in the movie 300, soldiers are “Taught never to retreat, never to surrender. Taught that death in the battlefield is the greatest glory he could achieve in his life.”  There has to be death to be glory for a Homeric hero.

When comparing Achilles to Hektor, especially during their fighting scene the gap between coward and hero is great.  Hektor has doubts before even going off to fight Achilles and when they both came face-to-face Hektor ran away from him straight off.  “’But once Achilles has met his death, his certain doom, take courage then, go fight on the front lines then – no other Achaean can bring you down in war.’  With that, with destiny made clear, he left him there on the spot and . . . face the rest of the Trojans, test them, fight them down”  (20:514).  Achilles still has the courage to stand up against everyone and fight even though he knows that he is going to die.

Also when Priam came to try and get Hektor’s body back from Achilles.  There is a humbling pity within Achilles but still an underlying strength, “Taking the old man’s hand he gently moved him back.  And overpowered by memory both men gave way to grief.  Priam wept freely for man-killing Hector, throbbing, crouching before Achilles’ feet as Achilles wept himself, now for his father, now for Patroclus once again” (24. 605).  There is a human quality seen in the fact that Achilles can still be sadness, which from a Homeric hero standpoint is not what a warrior is supposed to be like.  They are not supposed to show any weakness or lack of courage.

Achilles throughout the Iliad is a strong character and a Homeric hero in the ancient sense.  He only shows his own emotion in private and does what he can to win honor.  He is one of the best warriors of the time and has a reputation to lead up to it.  Achilles shows great power and skill in fighting and great strength of his own decision-making.


~ by wolfangel87 on November 18, 2010.

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