World Lit 1
March 25, 2013
Hubris vs. Peace
Every epic has a theme for which it’s known by. In Homer’s epic, The Iliad, the theme is what is most important. The characters are made up of Greek gods, warriors, the warriors’ wives, and, many others, which Homer includes, and the events that follow amongst them are what make up the theme. As we learned in class, hubris is excessive pride or confidence in oneself. Hubris is what causes people to make decisions based off of their own ego. Homer’s The Iliad is a Greek war epic that wasn’t simply written to display interesting characters for us to read about. This epic will actually allow us to understand how hubris is the basis for war and conflict while on the other hand, metaphorically speaking, marriage and farming is the foundational building block for the arts of peace.
“Rage: Sing; Goddess, Achilles’ rage, Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls Of heroes into Hades’ dark, And left their bodies to rot as feasts For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done.” (page 107) The Iliad, in lines 1-8, begins its story with the word “rage.” Rage in this epic was the cause of pain to many Greeks and the reason why souls of heroes were sent to Hades. Now notice how the end of the quote says, “[…] as Zeus’ will was done.” It was specifically Achilles rage that caused this conflict. By reading the whole statement, we do understand by reading the end of it that it was Zeus’ will that the rage would result in the death of many Greeks and the reason why heroes were sent to Hades which means that when hubris arises, what results or in this case what Zeus’ will was that the people would break out in war and much conflict.
In The Iliad, Hector, a great warrior from the Trojan army, set out to fight against Achaean army. But before he set out to fight, his wife had told him, “Possessed is what you are, Hector. Your courage is going to kill you, and you have no feeling left for your little boy or for me, the luckless woman who will soon be your widow. It won’t be long before the whole Greek army swarms and kills you.” (Page 129 lines 427-431) And she also warned him say, “Station your men here by the fig tree, where the city is weakest because the wall can be scaled.” (Page 129 lines 455-456) In the quote from lines 427-431, Hector’s wife warned him that his “courage” would get him killed. She also suggested him to station his men by the fig tree since that was where the city is the weakest. Even hearing all this from his own wife, his ignorant response was, “Yes, Andromache, I worry about all this myself, but my shame before the Trojans and their wives, with their long robes trailing, would be too terrible if I hung back from battle like a coward.” Hector could have stayed and stationed his men where the city was weakest to protect it and also could have listened to his wife’s advice since she had a feeling that his “courage” would kill him but he worried about his reputation in front of the Trojans and this hubris of his wouldn’t even allow his wife to feel like he still has feeling for his family. Hector’s hubris was what got him killed in the end.
Now that we understand how hubris is the basis for conflict and war, we’ll look at some quotes on marriage and farming from book XVIII, Achilles shield, and discuss how these two things are the foundational building block for the arts of peace. Hephaestus made a shield and, “On it he made two cities, peopled and beautiful. Weddings in one, festivals, brides led from their rooms by torchlight up through the town, bridal song rising, young men reeling in dance to the tune of lyres and flutes, and the women standing in the doorways admiring them.” (Page 170, lines 528-534) And, “On it he put a soft field, rich farmland wide and thrice-tilled, with many plowmen driving their teams up and down rows. Whenever they came to the end of the field and turned, a man would run up and hand them a cup of sweet wine. Then they turned again back up the furrow pushing on through deep soil to reach the other end. The field was black behind them, just as if plowed, and yet it was gold, all gold, forged to a wonder.” (Page 171, lines 582-591)
Homer illustrates marriage as a big peaceful celebration with bridal song, dance, and music. Weddings were full of joy, as the people of the town would admire watching. It doesn’t seem like war would breakout through a wedding here. Farming wasn’t just a tedious job to the workers because as they worked, they would be refreshed by a cup of sweet wine every time they would reach the other end of the field. As the people were enjoying their lives in marriage and farming, they were living peaceful. There was no hubris to pay attention to because everyone was just too busy paying attention to fulfilling roles in society.
The court of law is significant in all of this because it deals with people trying to work something out inside of fighting. It deals with keeping the peace in society. Like for example, had the judicial system been strong in Greek and Trojan society, there might have not been so much war. Warriors would become civilized people, women wouldn’t have to suffer the loss of their husbands, and not so many children would be fatherless. The Greek’s society was underdeveloped concerning their court of law. Hubris was the cause of that went wrong but had there been a strong judicial structure, matters would be taken into the court of law rather than a crowd of angry Greek and Trojan warriors.
In this essay, we have discussed how hubris was the basis for conflict and war and the tragedies that incurred as a result. The death of many Greek heroes and warriors including Hector, who was warned beforehand but because of reputation decided to continue fighting. Metaphorically speaking, we now understand the significance of marriage and farming as the foundational building block for the arts of peace. Weddings were looked upon as a joyful beginning to a long-lasting marriage. And farming was not just as a task, but a pleasure to the farmers and workers. Although hubris was the cause of war breaking out, had their been a court of law, the outcome would have been different.