The Price of Immortality - an Analysis of Homer's the Iliad

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Through The Iliad, Homer explores the ancient Greek struggle for mortal men to attain immortality through glory in battle, and even death. Those who achieve great kleos, honor and courage in battle, are respected and loved by their families and kinsmen, while those who turn away from it are scorned and disparaged. Even faced with inevitable death, the epic heroes of The Iliad choose to war so they may overcome the impermanence of mortality and realize immortality in their remembrance.

The idea that kleos is such an integral part of ancient Greek culture can be shown through a comparison of the young Trojan princes, Hector and Paris. Paris, who is essentially blamed for the instigation of the Trojan- Greek war, fails to appear on the battlefield to defend his home. Paris has chosen instead to stay at home with his bride Helen, for whom the Trojan armies fight. However, as Helen describes to Paris’ brother, Hector, “I wish I had been the wife of a better man, someone alive to outrage, with withering scorn of men” (Book VI, 281-282) that even she finds herself disgusted In Paris’ cowardice. Conversely, Hector is honored and loved by his family as he wars with the Greek armies and attains glory, not only for himself, but for all of Troy. Hector, who has achieved a great deal of kleos in battle, is described by Helen far differently than she speaks of her own husband. “But come in, rest on this seat with me, dear brother, you are the one hit hardest by the fighting, Hector, you more than all – and all for me, slut that I am, and this blind mad Paris” (Book VI, 286-289). Helen embraces Hector for his bravery and honor, and asks even that he rest from battle. Her polar opinion between the two brothers serves as an important facet for dissecting the importance of kleos even within a family. Homer shows Helen’s shame and contempt for her husband as he does nothing to defend her or his home against her love for Hector as he fights so gloriously for Troy. Her...
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