Tragic Heroes of the Iliad
The Iliad, an epic poem by Homer, focuses on Achilles' wrath and its consequences:
That cursed wrath, which caused numberless pains to Achaeans;
Many mighty spirits it sent to Hades
of heroes, and turned them into prey to dogs
And feast to birds.(1.2-5)
Although Achilles and Hector are both mighty warriors who share the same values, they have different backgrounds, personalities, and reasons for fighting.
Homer presents Achilles, the son of Peleus, a mortal, and of Thetis, a sea nymph, as a hero with almost supernatural characteristics. Achilles' statue is godlike, his strength is superior, and his powers with a spear unsurpassed. He wears immortal armor and has talking horses. While Achilles is superhuman, Hector is completely human surrounded by his wife and child. As the eldest son of Priam and Hekuba, king and queen of Troy, Hector is the commander of the Trojan army. Hector has strong feelings of responsibility for his community. Troy is a center of culture with elaborate palaces and surrounds Hector and his family with stability.
Achilles is a young, complex warrior capable of great cruelty and kindness. Homer always portrays him in extreme passion. He comes to Troy, knowing he will die because he wants honor and glory. He chooses glory and an early death, rather than a long, inglorious life. When Achilles argues with Agamemnon, Achilles' reaction is deadly anger (1.190). Although he wants to fight, his stubborn pride compels him to sulk. He rejects pleas to return to the battle. In order to please Patroklos, Achilles finally compromises and allows Patroklos to return to battle wearing Achilles' armor. Achilles allows Patroklos to go to his death. Only after Patroklos' death does Achilles see that his sitting by his ships is "a useless weight on the good land" (18.104) which sacrificed many of his men's lives. Achilles is angrier than ever. He "tears at his hair with his hands, and...
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