In his poem Iliad, Homer talks about the war between the Trojans and the Achaians in their ten-year siege of Troy city. It discusses in detail the events and battles that happen after the quarrel between the Achaian's greatest warrior Achilles and their King, Agamemnon. It brings out the heroes of the war and their greatest achievements during the war. In the ancient myths of the Greek, heroes were people either male or female with superhuman abilities who descended from the immortal gods. They were defenders of the Greek people. In the Iliad, there were heroes who dedicated their lives to protecting their territories and people.
Achilles was the most heroic character in the Iliad. He was the son of Thetis, a divine mother goddess of the sea who had cosmic powers and Peleus, king of Pythia and a foremost warrior. He performed many wondrous deeds for his people by being a warrior. These deeds include the killing of Hektor who was the lead hero in the Trojan army. His heroic deeds aroused a sense of marvel and celebration from his people. He would be worshiped as the greatest warrior. A hero had to defend his honor to the death, so does Achilles. He says
If ... I remain to fight around Troy town,
I lose all hope of home but gain unfading glory
He becomes angry after king Agamemnon take his wife as a replacement for the kings wife. He declares not to fight for Agamemnon and retrieves his army to the ships. So much is his anger towards his people that he begs his mother to pray to Zeus to direct his anger towards his people. This led to the countless woes of the Greeks in the battlefield striving to ward off Hektors onslaught fury. Even the gods listen to a heros anger and do as requested. This shows the level of respect a hero was accorded. So unblended is his principles that he is willing to watch as his people being killed. However, after his dearest and nearest friend Patroklos is killed he decides to avenge his friend by killing Hektor, Trojans army leader which led to the victory of the Achaians.
Patroclus, Achilles closest companion was also a hero. He portrayed dedication to his army. After realizing that the Achaians were losing a lot in the battles with the Trojans, he would not stand to watch any longer. He begs Achilles to let him defend his people and the ships (Homer 18.40-47). Achilles, although reluctantly, lends Patroclus his most valued armor. However, he warns him not pursue the Trojans so that he would not take Achilles glory. But, Patroclus does exactly the opposite by moving forward towards gates of Troy. Even Apollo himself stops him but adamant in his quest, he proceeds, leading to his death at the hands of Hektor and the acquisition of Achilles armor by Hektor. This brings out the hero in him. He is willing to die doing a heroic act. A character that was evident in most Greek heroes. He portrays courage by disguising himself as Achilles. Although he faces the most difficult of the situations he pursues the Trojans. He is also accorded a heroic burial upon his death.
Although in the Trojan army, Hektor, the son of King Priam was a hero to his people. He led his army to victory in many of the battles between them and the Achaians. He courageously takes on Patroclus though wearing Achilles armor and kills him. He does not relent when he is faced with the difficult task of fighting Achilles, the greatest warrior. According to Homer, he contemplates his options
I take cover within the gates and suffer the censure of Poulydamas for not killing Achilles in combat; or shed his armor, approach him and talk thing out
But, he determines that he must fight to maintain his honor and acquire the respect of Achilles leaving his fate the gods hand. Unlike, Achilles who was self-endowed in his own heroic acts, hector was a family man who acted to protect his family in addition to seeking honor.
It is evident from Iliad that the essentials to the status of a hero in the Ancient Greek were Courage, honor above death, superhuman abilities and descends of the immortal gods. The heroes had to display courage in facing difficult situations. They placed honor above death as they believed immortal status would be acquired if one died a hero. They could have superhuman abilities acquired from their gods like Achilles and would ask for favors from gods and they would get them. Lastly, some of the heroes descended from immortal gods for instance Achilles. However, although they descended from immortal gods, they were mortal and would die
In conclusion, Homer brings out the heroic acts that most of Iliad character had. Taken together, most of them displayed heroic characteristics. The main one being fighting to the death to retain their honor. He presents their courage, determination, and veal in defending their armies. It is understood that from these heroes the people were able to hope for a protector and defender. Therefore, their deeds present a grasp of the Greeks ancient concept of a hero bringing a sense of marvel and wonder.
Homer: The Iliad. (2009). doi:10.1017/cbo9780511711626
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