- Achilles was revered and feared by his fellow Achaeans. They saw him as favored son, a child of man and goddess. One who the gods cherish. They celebrated in his swiftness of foot, prowess in war, and god like attributes. But Achilles was fearsome, wild at heart, and easy to anger. They feared his wrath as they feared the enemy, for each could bring a swift death. The Greeks honored Achilles but few followed out of love, more out of awe or for favor. He was a chieftain and ruler in his own right as are all of the leaders in the Greek army. An assembly more than a singular fighting group. Anger, pain, and grief drive his actions. He is the ugly side of war.
Hector was also favored by the gods, though born of human lines only, and revered by his fellow Trojans. He was renowned for his prowess in war, level headedness, full of honor and virtue. Hector is loved by those who follow him, and he gave all for home and country. Even in the gravest of situations he has kind words for Helen who with Paris is the reason behind the war. He is not shown to ever be harsh or demeaning. A statesman and family man, he fights out of obligation to home and family as son of the ruler Priam. Driving his actions are the welfare of others, honor, and security of those he treasures. Hector was the only force that had a chance to save Troy. He was the bright side of war.
Both men are the stars of each side. Both are the epitome of what a warrior should be, with strength and success on the battle field. Both are blessed and cursed with a short but legendary life. Both are victims of someone else’s action. Paris’s actions draw Hector and Troy in to the war, Patroclus’ decision to ignore Achilles and pursue the Trojans brought about his death and drew Achilles back into the war, ending with the death of Hector. Ultimately you could not have one without the other, for they each play a major role in the story. In another world they could have been fast friends like Gilgamesh and Enkidu, but not in the Iliad. Here they are drawn together, caught up in conflict and war, till one stands alone if only for a short time.
- Achilles is consumed with grief and anger, his heart turned to unmoving iron. He is blinded to the religious observances and standards of the time, and only wants revenge and with it pain for those around him so they too can share in his sorrow. With the death of his friend and the slight of Agamemnon, Achilles sinks into madness and spreads his wraith to Hector the culmination of his hate. Try as he might he cannot despoil the body, for the gods have preserved it. So his grief and hate find not comfort in the sacrilegious actions he has taken. It takes words from his goddess mother, Thetis from the mouth of Zeus, to open his heart to hear out Priam and save the honor of both. Priam asks Achilles to think on his own father and in doing so humbles himself before the great runner. Priam kisses the hand of the man who killed his son, it humbles the king who came to Achilles, as a father, but also shows great honor and that he will not seek to avenge his son Hector’s death. This humbling act opens Achilles heart to find sympathy for someone other than himself. He finally sees that he is not alone in his sorrow and grief. Both find the common bond of humanity in each other. In Priam, Achilles sees his own father and what he will go through. They mourn together and Achilles’ wrath becomes sorrow, and Priam’s grief becomes forgiveness. They both gain a better understanding of humanity. Achilles begins to heal. The transformation from seething madness to purification of self opens Achilles’ mind to the aspect of our oneness with each others. We all share the same emotions and are all part of the human race whether king, farmer, or runner. It opens the door toward empathy which can lead to peace, if only for a short time.
- The warrior code and the familial code are not mutually exclusive. They can overlap. Any warrior who protects his home and is victorious, brings honor to his family with his great deeds. In the Iliad, some drew lots to see which member of a house would represent that family and fight at Troy. It was an honor to be chosen by some and a curse for others, but either way their actions could bring honor to their respective family. In being chosen they protected those who stay behind, so they can have a spouse and offspring and carry on the line. Their sacrifice was for the better good of the family. The tributes they bring home support their families. The divide happens when a warrior has to choose between country and family. When he has to choose between his own glory or the simple life of father/husband/friend. When he opens his heart and realizes that his victory means the other man’s defeat and loss. Can he turn his back on those who depend on him in battle to be with those who depend on him at home? A man cannot fight on two fronts and win both battles. Each man has to choose their path, each holding its own reward. What is hard is finding a balance between the two. Depending on the culture and society, the warrior class is often set apart from the familial group. This making them seem exclusive. Those a warrior fights with become their family winning honor, victory, and a sense of belonging. A sense of home. These two codes can work together, though more often than not they are at war with each other.