Week Three The Iliad

1. Achilles and Hector are contrasted through their motivation of honor, not only in the eyes of those who follow them, but also in the eyes of the gods. Family proves to be a strong motivator for Hector as does the fact that he fights at home with his people defending their city. Briseis is to Achilles what Hectors family is to, because until Achilles got her back he refused to fight. Hector is blinded by the first battle’s glorious victory by the Trojans, seemingly by the will of Zeus himself. These two are the ideal champions of their people. Hector for honor and compassion towards his people and Achilles for his fierce fighting nature. Because of Achilles’ arrogance about his superiority, he finds himself in numerous dishonorable situations, which include leaving his men to fight without him, all because Agamemnon scratched his god-like ego. They both shared anger, but for different reasons. Hector was infuriated at Paris, who snuck Helen back, making Troy vulnerable to assault. Achilles, on the other hand, does not necessarily portray anger until the fateful battle when his dear friend Patroclus misleads Hector on the field armored as Achilles, and Hector kills Patroclus. They both came from honorable ancestry, but this story is about how they chose their own paths and if they would become honorable and worth remembering. In the end, both led honorable victories and fought for what they cared about most; for Achilles it was immortality, for Hector it was the love for his people and the responsibility he acted through valor.

2. Hectors father, King Priam, sought out Achilles and prayed to him to let him bury his son Hector. Achilles agreed, although why we are not fully detailed. In these ancient Greek conflicts, the honor and valor is with defeating an enemy and not in mutilating those corpses when they cannot fight back. It seems, as for the action of Achilles killing Hector during his rage, he may have realized the hurt it caused other innocent family members. Perhaps the matter was due to Priam pleading him for the body, but it is unclear. But whether or not it was the plea feeding Achilles’ power driven ego or his sadness, it was an honorable gesture returning the fallen Hector’s body to be buried as a Trojan. The fact that after such a sacrilegious display to both sides of the fighting and he chose to calm his rage and let peace be made with him and Hector’s remains changes the character’s moral figure in the story. Perhaps this whole scene is meant to testify how forgiveness is possible even when a situation seems unbearable to forgive, yet Achilles did forgive, or at least understand grief and loss.

3. I believe it is possible for these two codes to coexist, because without one there is often not the other. For Hector even though he was not totally sure if he would win, he believed he was the better man and perhaps the gods would favor his victory. Achilles did not wish to fight any longer, and contemplated a “domestic life,’ but honor in vengeance called him back to respect his “family,’ Patroclus. In this instance one sees the warrior and familial mesh together in an emotional fever pitch. Honor in Hectors case pulled harder than family, thus he thought more of victory than self-preservation. Through both of these codes, the characters here battled between what is expected of them and what the situation called for.

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