Iliad: Achilles Hero

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Mitchell Williams

TA: Kevin Lord

HIST 1010

Paper I: The Iliad and the World of the Ancient Greeks

To have the utmost strength and courage in times of adversity and despair is to possess the Greek ideal of arête. This is a notion of excellence ultimately connected with the fulfillment of purpose. In Homers epic, The Iliad, Achilles embodies the arête trait very well. Achilles is referred to as strong, swift and god like, he is the great runner and most powerful warrior of the Achaeans. Homer introduces his subject with the first word, in the first sentence, “Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, 
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end. Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed, Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.”  (Bk 1, lns, 1-8) He references this subject of rage towards Achilles and you can predict from this quote that Achilles has done something drastic. Achilles, a great symbol of arête, challenges the Greeks ideal meaning of this heroic trait causing much controversy but is still intended to be a hero.

Achilles is presented at the very beginning as a brilliant warrior and the greatest Greek hero to fight in the Trojan War. The Iliad celebrates war and characters in this are relevant based on heroism. Heroism is seen through those who are viewed as worthy or someone who is treated with respect. In addition, to be seen with respect you must show great competence on the battlefield. You must be a leader and motivate your men to fight when they have thoughts of giving up. Achilles is mentioned a lot in this epic poem and therefore he is a true warrior and can symbolize all these traits. Most men during this time have the purpose of fighting so to fashion the Greek ideal of arête one must fight till death....
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