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Iliad’s Analysis: Who the True Hero Was Two of the central characters in Homer’s Iliad, Achilles and Hector contrast very differently in many ways. Although they are both war heroes, they came from deviant sides of the battle and fought each other under dissimilar beliefs. These two courageous warriors fought to the death in Book 22, where Hector finally lost to Achilles. It is important to illustrate their similarities as well as differences in order to determine who the true hero is and to what extent the contemporary criticism of Homer’s Iliad is relevant or correct. Achilles and Hector were fighting in the same war and they were both male warriors. They were also very well known fighters for their troops, and proved to be very strong. These individuals also had very high confidence in themselves at the beginning of the fight; consciousness that they could both beat the other in a fight. This opinion changed, however, shortly into the battle, where Hector began to feel less and less confidant as he slowly lost. The fought for a just cause they both believed in, although their reasons were quite different. On the other hand, one of the most obvious differences is that one was fighting for the Troy, the other for Greece. Hector, the Trojan, not only had distinct reasons for fighting with Achilles; he was also very special in his personality and personal traits. The reason that Achilles was fighting was to retaliate on his friend (Patroclus) death, who was killed by Hector. Hector was not fighting back to empower the death, but only to defend his honor. What is more, Achilles and Hector contrast in the fact that Achilles was a lot more brutal and fiercer than Hector.
Achilles has no forgiveness for Hector even when he is told: “I see you now for what you are...iron...your heart is” (Homer 34). Hector did not seem quite as brutal or violent as Achilles, but he was not a agreeable, innocent man, either. Hector was also a barbarous killer, for he killed Patroclus. The two warrior’s strengths and weaknesses differ extremely also. Achilles infirmities are friendship that blinded him, extreme brutality, and no forgiveness. Although he won the fight, his attitude eventually brought an end to him. If it were not for his mighty friendship that he was battling for, he would not have came back to the war and ended up dying prematurely. At the same time, Hector’s weaknesses are mainly due to his mortality, his bravery and his relatively slow response to matters. If were not for his bravery, he would not have come out to fight in the first place. He could have stayed behind the palace walls and saved his own life. Achilles had the primary strength of being almost immortal, which greatly helped him win the fight. Hector’s principal strength was the ability to reason as opposed to Achilles who seamed to act on pure emotions very often. It is also important to mention the particular contribution that Odysseus has in developing Achilles’ personality, his strong and weak sides as a human and as warrior. “Think of the glory you will gather in their eyes! Now you can kill Hector-seized with the murderous frenzy, certain there’s not a single fighter his equal” (Homer). This is Odysseus’ attempt at the fighter in Achilles.
He knows that Achilles is the greatest warrior around and by appealing to that side of him it might allure him to fight. In brief, this is the best endeavor at getting Achilles back to the Achaeans. Such approach makes Achilles tell the tale of the first time he met Hector, and almost killed him. There are many arguments supporting Achilles as an epic hero. What is more The Iliad is titled as “The Story of Achilles” many find it right to believe that Achilles is an epic hero. Although most critics have names Achilles as having superhuman strength and various other physical attributes, he appears to be lacking the qualities of a real Homeric Epic Hero. A Homeric Epic Hero must show all of the following three prerequisites in order for them to truly be considered an Epic Hero. First a character must believe that men have to fight together in battle. Second, warriors have to respect each other. Third, they have to refrain from excessive barbarity. This last condition is considered to be especially important for the Epic Hero. A true Epic Hero hates deliberate acts of cruelty, slander, and unfairness. An Epic Hero believes that if they were to kill an enemy it must be done quickly and mercifully. There has to be no mutilation of any kind because it reflects poorly upon the winner and his community. The following paragraphs illustrate how Achilles breaks all three epic hero requirements, and upon doing so renounces any right he has to be called an Epic Hero. The first requirement of an Epic Hero is that he believes that warriors should stand together in fight. Achilles is a great man with superhuman strength, but when Briseis, Achilles war prize, is stripped from him by Agamemnon he overreacts greatly.
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Achilles cares no more fighting together with his fellow Greeks because he has been disrespected by Agamemnon. Homer performs an excellent job of making most readers sympathize with Achilles, until around book nine when Patroklos is murdered in battle. Not until the death of his beloved companion does he figure to return to the battlefield. Even his intentions to reconsider the matter of fighting again are not philanthropic in their nature. Achilles feels guilty about Patroklos’ death and wants to pay for his friend’s death more because of personal reasons than anything else. Achilles believes that by killing Hector he will enable Patroklos’ death to be justly avenged, and Achilles will not be required to bear such this heavy weight of guilt or responsibility for Patroklo’s death. What is more, Achilles decides not to fight for Agamemnon or the Greeks for all of the period when his fellow warrior were killed every instance. During that same time he breaks the second requirement of being an Epic Hero. After Agamemnon hurts Achilles by taking his war prize, Briseis, from him Achilles is filled with total anger. He even takes his sword out to take arms against Agamemnon, but is stopped short by a god who makes him reconsider the whole situation. The belligerent relationship between Agamemnon and Achilles appears to be on a subliminal level because both men are very proud and on a quest for being immortalized in history. Agamemnon does not seem to take Briseis in spite of Achilles.
Agamemnon believes that it is his lawful right to take Briseis because he is the commanding officer of the Greeks, and his war prize had to be returned. Furthermore, Achilles break the second rule of being an Epic Hero the moment he decides to draw his sword in hopes of regaining men’s respect by fighting Agamemnon. At this point the hostile relationship between Agamemnon and Achilles seizes to exist because Achilles consciously chooses to fight Agamemnon. The third requirement of being an Epic Hero is that the hero doesn’t show cruelty or injustice on the battlefield. Before Achilles and Hector start to fight Hector asks Achilles to send his body back to Troy in case he (Hector) is killed. Achilles in his fit of rage denies Hector of his last wish and therefore breaks the third rule. The battle ends with Achilles celebrating victory. Upon killing Hector he attaches his body to the back of his chariot and rides around the city of Troy with Hector’s frame dragging behind him. This is an obvious act of cruelty and deliberate mutilation of Hector’s body. There is not a clearer illustration of how Achilles breaks the third and most important rule of an Epic Hero; an Epic Hero was not to show cruelty or injustice on the battlefield. Achilles is by no means the Epic Hero due to the fact that he breaks all three requirements for being an Epic Hero. Achilles is not satisfied with merely avenging Patroklos’ death. It would be much more difficult to give Hector’s body up right away, but Achilles chooses to act differently because he is not an epic hero.
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