Achilles, the famous mythological war hero, is the central character in The Iliad. It is his storyline that creates the essence of the epic war written by Homer. Although it may seem that the main theme is about the dominance, gruesomeness, and destruction of Troy when the poem is first read, this is not the main focus. It is in The Iliad, that we see how Achilles transforms from youth to maturity; and grows through undergoing permanent and fundamental personality changes from a ferocious warrior in the beginning to a more reserved and hospitable man by the end of the poem.
Homer constructed the epic story of Troy as a representation of proper behavior. As a result, he wrote and composed the type of literature where people could refer back to the history of Greece with respect. As Homer strongly focuses on the realm of heroes, he introduces the main and forceful character Achilles. Though there is no actual chronological order while reading the books in The Iliad, it is evident in book nine that Achilles' true rage comes into light.
"Many a sleepless night I've bivouacked in harness,
Day after bloody day I've hacked my passage through,
fighting other soldiers to win their wives as prizes.
Twelve cities of men I've stormed and sacked from shipboard,
eleven I claim by land, on the fertile earth of Troy." (9.395-9) Even though his mother, Thetis is a goddess and his father, Peleus is a mere mortal, Achilles shows the greatest military skill and true passion of killing of any Achaean. He possessed the supreme fighting ability of all Trojan and Achaean warriors. On the battle field, he is known for his ruthless strategies of killing and his persona throughout warfare is interpreted as an unstoppable killing force filled with pride because he allowed no one to come in his way.
Because he longed for glory so he would be remembered by people in the future, he agreed to join the forces of Agamemnon to swiftly fulfill his own desires. Achilles' selfish persona creates a violent man with no remorse for those he killed in battle. He would brutally and single-handedly murder the Trojans or hold them captive on his ship. Achilles' passion was to massively slaughter people without guilt or shame because he knew such an act would lead to his infinite glory. "What a worthless, burnt-coward I'd be called/ if I would submit to you [Agamemnon] and all your orders,/ whatever you blurt out. Fling them at others,/ don't give me commands!" (1.343-346) Thus, Achilles becomes Agamemnon's most important fighting force and pride but refuses to take orders from anyone except himself. However, when Agamemnon betrays Achilles by taking away his prized possession, Briseis, since Agamemnon had to return Chrysies to her father, Achilles retaliates in an unimagined manner.
After being hurt by Agamemnon, Achilles decides to get even with Agamemnon for taking his prize so he cries and prays to his mother, Thetis whom goes to Zeus, the god of gods, since he owes her a favor. This particular scene illustrates a naive mentality where an adolescent would go to his mother when in urgent need of something in life. Achilles fervently requests his mother to ask the god of gods, Zeus to make the Trojans begin winning the war since he stopped helping the Argives in their battle against Troy because he is furious at Agamemnon. Upon Thetis warning Achilles that if he returns to the battle instead of going home, he could possibly die under Troy's walls. With the big decision at hand, Achilles chooses to ignore his mother and her guidance and rejoins the battle instead of changing his attitude and possibly respect life.
During Achilles' and Agamemnon's personal brawl, it is apparent that a glimpse of humility shined through from Achilles' personality because he sought after help from his mother and Zeus. His pleading and self-less sympathy, at that moment, marked the beginning of a somewhat reserved and thoughtful man despite the fact...
Bibliography: Homer, The Iliad, translated by R. Fagles (New York, 1990)
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