Achilles: God or Beast?

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Joel Abudarham

World Views-Ancient Greek Civilization
Marie Michelle Wilband

“He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.” -Aristotle

Tuesday October 2nd, 2012

Achilles is the main character, and, without doubt, the most complex character in Homer’s famous poem, The Iliad. Son of the goddess nymph Thetis and the king of the Myrmidons, Peleus, Achilles is a semi-god, known throughout and beyond Greece for his strength and fighting abilities. Stories on the epic hero Achilles are numerous, like the legend of Prometheus’, the fore thinker, prophecy regarding the birth of Thetis’ son, or the legend of Achilles bathing in the Styx River. However, Achilles name was made immortal with the tale of the Trojan War in Homer’s Iliad. In fact, the major theme in Homer’s poem is the uncontrollable rage and wrath of Achilles. In the following character analysis, I will examine Achilles’ personal traits and behavior, and express whether the character has gone through changes at the end of the poem.

Leading his nation the Myrmidons, Achilles and the rest of the Greek army are laying siege on the city of Troy and parked on its shore. Inside the Greek camp, there is no doubt that the semi-god Achilles is the greatest warrior. No other king or hero can pretend to be a greater hero than Achilles. His excellence in the battlefield and his godly strength, his arête, is recognized by the Greeks, the Trojans and even the Olympian gods. Achilles possesses superhuman strength and abilities, and share a close relationship with the gods. This makes him what Greeks call ‘epic hero’ and these abilities are his arête. However, Achilles many flaws have a central part in the poem. In the beginning, we realize that Achilles has a strong sense of social order and is an important figure in the Greek camp. In fact, as a deadly plague sent by Apollo is decimating the Greeks, Achilles is the...
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