The Iliad By Homer Essay, Research Paper
He Wore Honor on His Sleeve
The poem The Iliad written by Homer is the story of the tenth year of the Trojan War. It depicts the nobility and honor given to a slayer in warfare and the humanity that warriors show to the slain. It also illustrates the Greek code of ethics, that was in that time honor. Warriors fought for honor to insure a reputation that would outlive them. Honor is given to the great warriors through gifts, rank, and valor. Ultimately, a hero’s honor depended not upon how he saw himself but on how the world saw him. Achilleus, being the important warrior that he was, lived his life only for glory as he tried to portray the hero mentality, as did all the other warriors. He has a need to be accredited as the best warrior. Through out the poem honor is shown and speaks about in different situations. The beginning is a good example of Achilleus’ need to be recognized and rewarded as the best.
Near the beginning of the poem Agamemnon speaks to Achilleus and tells him that if, the Achaians do not give him another prize that he will take one:
Either the greathearted Achaian shall give me
a new prize chosen according to my desire to
atone for the lost girl, or else?I myself shall
take her, your own prize, or that of Aias, or that
of Odysseus?(Homer, 339).
This angers Achilleus. Furious, Achilleus calls Agamemnon selfish. He claims that he fights more and yet still Agamemnon gets the greater prizes. In this scene, Achilleus shows jealousy mixed with anger because he feels dishonored. Stripping Achilleus of his prize is like stripping him of a medal and, in turn, threatens his identity as the greatest warrior. He wants to be remembered by having gotten the biggest prize. Achilleus’ complaint that his prize should be the same or greater than Agamemnon’s reveals his desire for power. Rather than accept his status as inferior in power, Achilleus withdraws from the war and tells Agamemnom:
Now I am returning to Phthia, since it is much
better to go home again with my ships, and I am
minded no longer to stay here dishonored and
pile up your wealth and your luxury (Homer, 340).
Achilleus knows that he can achieve fame and glory only through action, even as he sat by his ships feeling sorry for himself:
But that other still sat in anger besides his swift
ships, Peleus’ son divinely born, Achilleus of
swift feet. Never now would he go to assemblies
where men win glory, never more into battle, but
continued to waste his heart out sitting there,
though he longed always for the clamor and
fighting (Homer, 343).
Here he admits that he is longing to fight but can not because he does not want to be seen as a lesser of a warrior. He wants to be remembered as the warrior who would not take anything but the best when it comes to honor. Another example of honor happens before Achilleus kills Hector.
Athene goes to Peleion and stands by Achilleus:
Beloved of Zeus, shining Achilleus, I am hopeful
now that you and I will take back great glory to
the ships of the Achaians, after we have killed
Hektor, for all his slakeless fury for battle (Homer, 370).
She says this to him because Achilleus must kill Hektor or his reputation will be ruined. A man could not be seen as a hero if he did not avenge his best friend’s life.
This whole poem shows the need and use of glory, power, and honor. When Achilleus kills Hektor, he is doing it for the honor he will receive once, he is dead. In addition, in the beginning when Achilleus drops out of the war, it was because he felt dishonored. Athene speaks to Achilleus too, telling him about the glory that he would receive once Hektor was dead. The greatest example of honor in the poem, is when Achilleus transcends his hyper-masculine need for honor into the spiritual honor that involves taking care of the people around him. He realizes his whole potential to become a sensitive and caring person who can still be honored and looked up upon. At that moment, he is seen as an even greater warrior than before.