The heroes Achilles and Hector were both headstrong warriors, fighting for honor in the epic The Iliad. Achilles born with an unbridled rage and super human strength is the Hero of the Achaeans. But his pride and arrogance leaves him unable to act. Achilles even curses his own allies out of rage for a slight of honor committed against him by his own commander. Achilles is a prideful and selfish hero, leaving little thought of the Achaeans that fight for life around him. Achilles, being born half-god heeds his own call to glory, giving up on hope of a simple life for one of honor.
The hero Hector on the other hand heads a call to duty. Hector fights for Troy out of love of his people and desire to protect his family. Hector is such a hero to his people he inspires them to fight, and leads them through a gruesome war for survival. But, Hector has his own flaws. Filled with a bloodlust of his own and desire to win Hector becomes reckless. Causing him to disregard the risk to his men and lead them to doom. Hector cannot live with himself after his loss at battle, and soon becomes victim to Achilles. Hector was defeated by his own arrogance when he decided not to heed the omens sent by the gods. It’s these flaws that relate Hector and Achilles together. Both of them share in the arrogance that ultimately leads to their demise.
What brings Achilles back from his rage after disgracing Hectors body is not Priam himself, but Priams plea for Achilles to think of his own father. Achilles is doomed to die in distant enemy lands, far from his own father. The thought that Peleus, much like Priam, would suffer if Achilles were not returned brings our hero to his senses. It is at this point that Achilles has matured. He realizes he’s destined to die and learns to accept it. This acceptance leads Achilles to strife for honor above glory. As he, like Hector, will die someday too.
I believe The Iliad at its core is a story about two men trying to balance the code of the warrior with the code of family. Achilles, a born warrior destined to walk the path of the warrior, longs for a peaceful life where he may life many years. Very similar to Hector, who is forced by fate to walk the warriors path, wants nothing more than to be a father to his son. The largest difference is how the two characters try to balance both codes. Hector tries and tried and tried to be the best warrior he can be to protect his family, but is weighed down by this burden. In the end Hector is ashamed and refuses to retreat to the safety of Troy and instead waits for Achilles where in his final moments, he decides to run again. Hector cannot let go of his family and still refuses to accept death running till he is tricked by the Gods to stand and fight. Achilles on the other hand spends most the war deciding if he should in fact take part of the war and seal his fate; to die an early death on the battlefield. Ultimately it takes the death of Achilles dear friend Patroclus to force Achilles to action. Achilles learns that he must accept death if he wishes save the people around him. Admitting during his ride to battle that he knows what is at stake and is ready to accept his fate. I believe that The Iliad shows that neither these characters could walk both paths. Hector strives to be the warrior to save his family, but is blinded by the warrior’s code and refuses to retreat; failing his family. Achilles eventually gives up on his desire to lead a long life and accepts his fate; failing his family, but winning the greatest honor.