CLA 202: Classical Epic: Gods and Heroes
The heroic code in the Iliad is expressed by many characters throughout the book, whether it be through their actions, intentions, or teachings. The heroic code stems from the belief that honor is, above all, the most important virtue in life and all men must honor themselves, their families, and their fellow comrades through specific character traits and actions. This concept is the primary goal in a Homeric hero’s life. Specifically, courage in battle, even in the face of clear danger or death is an essential source of a man’s honor. Death, in the context of the heroic code, can be seen as a relief of the constant struggle these characters are up against in order to live up to the heroic code throughout their lives. The heroic code, as displayed through “The Iliad,” is displayed in many ways through different characters throughout the book. Some show great strengths and success in achieving the ultimate goal of honor, and some tremble at the face of danger and disgrace their honor. Successful displays of honor or not, I believe honor is a very multidimensional theme within this book. Besides the traditional definition of honor as courage in battle in the face of death; I believe physical abilities, social status, pride, material possessions, accountability, and respect are also contributors to one’s sense of honor. In this paper I will look primarily at three characters and examine the different ways that they approach the ultimate goal of honor.
Before analyzing a couple characters within the book, one must understand the context of the times that these characters were living in. Most modern people view the Homeric code as brutal, senseless, shallow, or even stupid. Modern cultures have found alternative motives for life; such as the pursuit for contemporary happiness, or living to raise a family and living a long prosperous life. But one cannot fathom or understand