From the outset, Homer concentrates his epic Iliad on the wrath of Achilles and probes the values and attitudes of him as a hero. Ìçíéí áåéäå, èåá, Ðçëçéáäåù Á÷éëçïò Sing, goddess, of the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus (BI.1). Homer first draws our attention to the heated dispute between two individuals, Achilles and Agamemnon, rather than the Trojan War itself in order to highlight their significance and also his focus. Achilles' anger has been ignited by his king who has deprived him of his legitimate reward of war ãåñáò åéëåôï êáé ì' áðáôçóå he has taken my prize and has deceived me (344) and thus has undermined the heroic code çôéìçóáò you have brought dishonour (111). The position of this verb at the start of its line but at the end of its sentence rests massive emphasis on the insensitivity of Agamemnon's actions. This is also reflected by Achilles' reaction as he feels greatly humiliated ùò åé ôéí' áôéìçôïí íåôáíáóôçí as if I were some migrant without rights (648) and believes he has lost his freedom.
In Book IX, Diomedes persuades Agamemnon to send an embassy to Achilles in an attempt to soothe his èõìïò áãçíùñ proud spirit (398). At a time when the Greeks are in great danger èåóðåóéç å÷å öõæá gripped by wondrous Panic (2), Achilles' presence is vital as both a killing warrior and for army morale. Although Achilles has not appeared since Book I, he has grown in stature by his absence. His decision to segregate himself and the Myrmidons from the rest of the army can be viewed as a political alienation which has left the Achaeans in ðåíèåé ä' áôëçôù unbearable sorrow (3). In his boycott, Achilles seeks both to prove to Agamemnon his invaluable worth to the Greeks and, more importantly, to force a meaningful apology out of him for his disgraceful and degrading dishonour. As a hero, he wants others to recognise his supremacy. As a hero, he wants his king to praise, reward and honour him. As a hero, he wants to be treated like a hero.
The heroic code was an unambiguous standard of living obeyed by heroes without flinching and without questioning in order to achieve greatness. The energies of the Iliad centre on this because Homeric man sought to make the most of his present existence in the material world. The code was simple: excel; surpass others; act with decorum (áéäïò); gain honour (ôéìç); be remembered. When heroes are propelled into action in accordance to this code, what motivates them is a feeling in the blood, a passion, èõìïò, which symbolises man's basic inner nature (which for Homer is physical). This èõìïò is exhibited on the battlefield where excellence is proved ìá÷ç êõäáéíåéñá battle where men win glory. Consequently and fundamentally, the implementation of the heroic code amounts to a simple yet impossible choice between a long life of inactivity and a short career of glory.
This option is put to Achilles. In Book I, his destiny is revealed to him ìçôçñ ãáñ ôå ìå öçóé èåá Èåôéò áñãõñïðåæá / äé÷èáäéáò êçñáò öåñåìåí èáíáôïéï ôåëïóäå For my mother the goddess, silver-footed Thetis, tells me that I have two fates that are bearing me towards the doom of death (410-1) and he has a heroic decision to make. Achilles has been instructed by his father, Peleus áéåí áñéóôåõåéí êáé õðåéñï÷ïí åììåíáé áëëùí always to excel and outstrip all others (BXI.784) which evidently leads him towards the glorious but brief life; however, given the dishonourable situation he has been forced into by Agamemnon, Achilles questions this choice éóç ìïéñá ìåíïíôé, êáé åé ìáëá ôéò ðïëåìéæïé Stay at home or fight your hardest your share will be the same (318) and leans towards the option of immortality. This comment is chillingly ironic because his ìïéñá fate rests on his refusal: if he had accepted the offer and fought for the Greeks against Hector, Patroclus would not have been killed. But ìåãáëçôùñ great-hearted Achilles is áéíáñåôçò one...