Characteristics of Greek Warriors

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What are the ideal characteristics of a Greek warrior in The Iliad? Compare and contrast the characters of Hector and Achilles. How are they alike and different? Do you favor one more than the other? Why?

As an ideal, the Greek warrior combined superhuman and human qualities. The ideal characteristics included such factors as bravery, honor, and glory. The aim of every hero is to achieve kleos, the “glory” or “renown” that one wins in the eyes of others by performing great deeds. Honor is essential to the Homer’s heroes, so much so that life would be meaningless without it. For a Greek warrior honor is more important than life itself. A hero's honor is determined primarily by his courage and physical abilities and to a lesser degree by his social status and possessions. The highest honor can only be won in battle. When a hero is advised to be careful to avoid a life-threatening situation in battle, his only choice is to ignore this warning. When Hector's wife urges him not to re-enter the war, he answers (6.441-443): “Yet I would feel deep shame before the Trojans, and the Trojan women with trailing garments, if like a coward I were to shrink aside from the fighting.”

Many Greek warriors were favored by the gods because they were most likely offspring or descendants of unions between gods and mortals, yet they maintained many human characteristics. Achilles was a great example of this because he was immortal except when he was injured in his “Achilles Heel”. When he was a child his mother dipped him in the river Styx so that he could have immortality, she held him by his heel making that part of him weak. In the Iliad, he is referred to as “swift-footed” (1.121) and is described as “lion-hearted who breaks men in battle” (7.228), which both suggest his physical superiority, as does the description of his being a “godlike” (1.131). He is often referred to as being the best of all warriors. Greek warriors were depicted as having weaknesses as...
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