The story of Iliad is that of honor through vengeance and victory. The distinctive element from the beginning to the end of the epic is the concept of honor as held by the Greeks and the Greek gods. Honor in “The Iliad” is viewed differently from the western society; honor is gained via victory in the battlefield and vengeance. While this might not be the only theme in “The Iliad”, it is a prevalent concept in the whole story. Honor is placed high among the mortals than when compared to the gods (Fox, 112). Notably, the gods appear to constantly interrupt the lives of warriors, which seem to take the honor out of the war, but to the victors. Achieving their aims of destroying or killing their enemies appears to be more valued than fighting fairly. This is evident in a statement voiced by Nestor, an Achaean commander. He stated that no one should leave the war until they have avenged the sorrow and the toil that he has gone through for the sake of Helen. He commands his army to sleep with some of the Trojan women (Powell, 23). Ulysses echoes the same sentiments when he states that they will be ashamed if they went home empty handed. According to Ulysses, dishonor comes from ending the war prematurely, which clearly shows the idea of honor through vengeance and victory. Achilles source of honor and glory comes from the demise of the Trojans.
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Heroism appears to be an inspirational degree of courage, which differentiates the main actor from the rest of his courageous comrades. This is seen in the scene where the Trojans drive the Greeks back to the ship’s sterns. While all the Greeks retreat, Ajax leaps from ship to ship while thrusting a pike. This is another stance of Heroism. The vengeance shown by Achilles leads Homer to develop and present the ideas of alienation, strife, and reconciliation within the cultural framework of honor within the heroes. Achilles’ wrath is seen by his sense of honor because of discord or Eris, which then alienates the warrior from the Greeks and society at large. Achilles’ wrath and victory differentiates him from Hektor, his great counterpart from Trojan. Furthermore, the assuaging of Achilles’ victory finally leads to the reintegration and reconciliation of the warrior into his community. Without these victories, Achilles would have been forgotten. Considering all of the above ideas that come after Achilles honor and wrath, readers can view an impressive design in the work by Homer.
Achilles anger is trigged by his sense of honor, which appears to be the same in the whole of Greek. Honor for heroes among the Greeks, as seen by readers, existed on different platforms (Lefkowitz, 72). The first is seen in Arête’s pursuit of excellence. Secondly, men had to treat each other appropriately on a personal level; personal honor from heroes’ peers was required for the society to function properly. Thirdly, a warrior would obtain valor from his accomplishments and victories in the battle field. Finally, the Greeks could gain everlasting glory and fame for their life accomplishments. The rage of Achilles is based on all of the above concepts. Strife, as personified by Eris, the goddess, is another concept that underlies honor. The Greeks believed that life was based on the idea of turmoil and strife. To avoid strife was to shun life. A good life will only be achieved by reconciling all the factors that produced discord.
Personally, Achilles is shown to be an embodiment of two opposites. One parent is a goddess while the other is mortal; therefore, he clearly understands about mortality and immortality. He understands that he has to die, but he somehow possesses some sense of eternity. He clearly understands that he will live for long if he avoids war, but that if he fights he will be honored but die young. Furthermore, he understands that honor or glory can be achieved only after dying in war, but long life can be a reality by giving up the ultimate victory a Greek tries to find. At first, Achilles tries to stay away from the Trojan War by dressing himself as a woman, but he fails. In “The Iliad” story, Achilles first becomes angry after what he perceives to be an attack on his pride and honor. Achilles pulls out from the war after Agamemnon takes Briseis away from him. His fury with Agamemnon withholds him from fighting honorably in the war. As a result, he sends Patroklos, his companion, to fight on his behalf as an alter ego (Powell, 54). However, Patroklos dies in battle, which magnifies the fury in Achilles. All these events increase the rage and dislike that Achilles portrays as a warrior toward the Greeks.
Arguably, “The Iliad” appears to celebrate and glorify war. Characters in the story can only become worthy or despicable based on their bravery or degree of competence in war. For instance, Paris receives the scorn of his lover and family because he shuns war and does not like to fight. On the other hand, Achilles wins honor and eternal glory by shunning the option of a comfortable and long life at home and opting for war. Homer’s text seems to uphold this means of judgment and even takes it further to the gods. The epic upholds deities such as Athena for the admiration of readers and makes fun of the gods who shy away from aggression. This is done using the nervousness portrayed by Artemis and Aphrodite to depict a scene of comic relief. It appears that fighting proves an individual’s honor and integrity in the society, while shying away from warfare demonstrates ignorable fear, laziness, and misaligned priorities.
In fact, The Iliad pinpoints the realities associated with war. Men die horribly while women become enslaved and estranged from their sorrowful parents. Furthermore, a plague breaks out in one of the Achaean camps and finishes off the army. Even the bravest of the warriors sometimes feel fear in the face of all these atrocities. According to the poet, both armies feel sorry that the war ever started. Though Achilles states that all men die in the end, whether brave or coward, the poem does not ask the reader about the legality of the continuing struggle in war. Homer never points out that the war is a waste of human life and time. Rather, he pinpoints that each side has a justified reason to engage in the war. Furthermore, he depicts warfare as a glorious and respectable manner of settling whatever dispute they have between themselves.
“The Iliad” also portrays military glory as something noble over family life. The text admires the bonds of obligation and deference that bind all the families together, but respects more the pursuit of renown and glory that an individual wins in the eyes of the community by performing immense deeds. Homer appears to force most of his characters to choose between their families or loved ones and the quest for honor and glory. The most gallant characters constantly choose the latter. Andromache advises Hector to avoid orphaning his son, but Hector understands that fighting on the front is the only way to reclaim his father’s great glory. On the other hand, Paris chooses to be with Helen and not fight in the war; consequently, the text, as well as, other characters treats him with disdain. Achilles contemplates to return home and care for his ageing father, but chooses to remain fighting at Troy in order to win honor and glory by avenging Patroklos by killing Hector (Powell, 45). The seriousness of the decisions made by Achilles and Hector is shown by the fact that they both know their fates and what lies ahead of them. The characters prefer the martial values that come with honor, glory, and noble bravery that they are ready to sacrifice the chance of living a long life with their loved ones. “The Iliad” describe the amour and battle dress worn by the hero, which shows their enthusiasm as they go to the battlefield. They use chariots to enter into enemy territory before dismounting for hand-to-hand combat. Although the poet’s description of war is graphic, readers can see in the end that victory in war brings honor in the end, where all that is lost is clearly obvious. Furthermore, the funeral games are not sad; people celebrate the life of the dead man with joy.
In conclusion, honor in “The Iliad” is gained via victory in the battlefield and vengeance. The story appears to celebrate and glorify war. Characters can only become worthy or despicable based on their bravery or degree of competence in war. Homer never points out that the war is a waste of human life and time. Rather, he pinpoints that each side has a justified reason to engage in the war. Furthermore, he depicts warfare as a glorious and respectable manner of settling whatever dispute they have between themselves. Homer appears to force most of his characters to choose between their families or loved ones and the quest for honor and glory. The most gallant characters constantly choose the latter.
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