Iliad 2 Essay

This essay has a total of 1316 words and 5 pages.

Iliad 2


Hector vs Achilles

In The Iliad, many of the male characters display heroic characteristics consistent with
the heroic warrior code of ancient Greece. They try to win glory in battle, yet are often
characterized as having a distinctly human side. They each have certain strengths and
weaknesses, which are evident at many times throughout the conflicts described in The
Iliad. Prime examples of such characters are Achilles and Hector. These two characters
have obvious differences in their approaches to fitting the heroic mold to which they both
try to conform. However, despite their differences and the fact that they are fighting for
opposing armies and meet each other with hatred in battle, they also have numerous similar
traits that logically lend themselves to a comparison between the two men. They both
display behavior that could be described as heroism. The first way in which Achilles, who
fights for the Greeks, and Hector, who fights for the Trojans, act differently is how they
approach war and the inevitable violence and death that accompany it. Although Achilles
knows that he is fated to be killed in battle, when his faithful and devoted friend
Patroclus is mercilessly and dishonorably cut down in combat, he puts aside his pride and
chooses to temporarily forget about his previous feuds with Agamemnon that have, up until
now, prevented him from participating in the war. He joins the fighting with a deadly and
vengeful mindset that will likely play a major factor in the outcome of the war. Today,
this lust for revenge might be considered a glaring character flaw. However, this passion
for retribution undoubtedly conforms to the heroic code of Greek society. Meanwhile,
Hector is full of indecision and reluctance about whether to take part in the war. He too
believes that fate has dictated that he will be killed in battle. He spends much time with
his pleading wife Andromache, who begs him not to go to war, both for his sake and for his
family's. He does not want to die and thus widow Andromache, leaving her "at the loom of
another man." Indeed, when he bids farewell to his young son Astyanax, clothed in his
shining war gear with gleaming helmet complete with plume crest (the quintessential
picture of a bold Greek soldier going off to battle, which today is a symbol of courage,
bravery, and true heroism), Astyanax cries with fright, showing that bravery and heroism
in war cannot coexist with the care and love that a father shows to his son. Thus, while
Hector is indeed heroic is his departure for the war, his human side is overshadowed by
this. Another situation in which Hector and Achilles use different approaches to behave as
heroes is in Book Twenty-Two, the main section in which Hector and Achilles and their
separate personalities and character traits interact. Hector, now courageous as ever and
boldly confronting his fate, decides to remain outside the ramparts of the fortified city,
within which the rest of his supporters that might defend him are safely secure. Priam,
Hector's father, upon seeing the advancing Achilles, implores Hector to retreat behind the
safety of the walls, but to no avail. Pride and honor play a role in preventing Hector
from backing down. Hector's fearless confrontation of his destiny is an extremely heroic
action. However, then Hector flees from Achilles, behavior quite unlike that of a hero.
One might infer that now Hector's human instinct of survival is playing a role. This
illustrates a seemingly-common conflict among characters who might be considered heroes:
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