Homer illustrates the theme of honor throughout many instances in “The Iliad”. “The Iliad” is about the characters and events surrounding the Trojan War. In the war the Greek soldiers fought against the Trojan soldiers. The Greeks were retaliating against the Trojan prince Paris who stole the Greek king Menelaus’ wife Helen. Agamemnon the brave and supercilious brother of Menelaus is a prominent Greek leader in the war. Agamemnon demonstrates the theme of honor through his desire for most booty and the finest spoils gained in the war. Hektor is also a brave warrior, however; he is a Trojan Prince, the son of King Priam. Unlike Agamemnon, Hektor’s ambitions are not to seek honor through war plunder, but to remain an honorable and noble warrior and husband. Lastly, there is Achilles, a Greek warrior who also seeks to achieve honor from attaining booty and leadership. Each of these characters depicts the theme of honor in “the Iliad” in a distinct way.
Agamemnon demonstrates his thirst for honor when he plunders an enemy city and takes a girl named Chrysies as part of his loot. His relentless need for honor is shown once again when the father of Chrysies, a priest named Chryses humbly begs, pleads, and offers compensation to Agamemnon in return for his daughter. Yet, not willing to give up his prize Agamemnon blatantly refuses Chryses and offends him as well. Chryses prays to Apollo to bring punishment on Agamemnon and for 9 days many cattle and Greek people died as a result. Agamemnon only decides to give Chrysies back when he fears his honor will be lost if he does not help his people. Hektor is completely unlike Agamemnon because he is more concerned with acting virtuously for the good of his people, rather than only to gain honor. Hektor acts a foil to both Agamemnon and Achilles, because he is compassionate and loyal while they are selfish and stubborn. Hektor proves how truly honorable he is right before battle when his wife Andromache implores him to stay in the city and not fight. Andromache fears Hektor will die and leave her and their son Astyanax alone. Hektor refuses to stay for he would feel shameful if he did not fight for his people, and especially for his wife and his son. He declares that he is fighting so that Andromache will not end up a Greek slave and so that Astyanax can live out a full life in a free Troy. Achilles is unlike Hektor because he refuses to fight and to aid his people out of pure selfishness and obstinacy. Achilles became so outraged that he refused to fight when his booty, the Trojan woman Briseis was taken from him by Agamemnon. Achilles was so adamant on retaining his honor that he attempted to usurp the power of Agamemnon, his superior. As a result of his obstinate behavior Achille’s friend Patroklos decides to fight in battle impersonating Achilles, and ultimately dies. Achilles acted dishonorably and allowed his friend to die ironically while trying to gain honor. Homer illustrated the theme of honor many times throughout “the Iliad”. Various ways were used to exemplify this theme by including two similar characters in search of honor. Homer also employs a character so entirely opposite from the others, because he already had what they were struggling for. The theme is demonstrated with much irony, because the characters who sought only honor attempted to attain it in the most dishonorable of ways.