Achilles:Hero Or Coward Essay

1899 words - 8 pages

The Heroic Age is the age of a kind of militaristic and noble society, whose leaders are enclosed by rigid code of personal honour and confidence and by the adoration of physical ability and personal belongings. This is the materialistic society that relates to the heroes in Homer's epic works. The hero is the main subject matter of most epic poems, the life of the hero is told throughout. The whole story is centered on a great man who does many deeds, however not necessarily heroic ones. In the poem The Iliad written by Homer, Achilleus is named the hero of the story, though, in measure he does not depict the personality and qualities of a modern day hero. In most cases a hero is defined as ...view middle of the document...

However, although he displays this act of unselfishness, the fury within Achilleus causes him to remain the unchanging, selfish warrior that he truly is.The poem begins as Agamemnon has just insulted Achilleus in front of all the Achaians, Agamemnon has stolen away from Achilleus his war prize, Briseis. Achilleus becomes upset and decides to return home rather than stay and fight with his own people, the Acheans. Returning to his tent, Achilleus calls upon his mother, Thetis, a goddess, to ask Zeus for one favor:Sit beside him and take his knees and remind him of these things / now, if perhaps he might be willing to help the Trojans, / and pin the Achaians back against their ships and the water, / dying, so that thus they may all have profit of their own king, / that Atreus' son wide-ruling Agamemnon may recognize / his madness, that he did no honour to the best of the Achaians. (9.407-12)Rather than put his fury aside and continue to fight in the battle, Achilleus, being the best warrior, not only refuses to continue fighting in the battle against the Trojans, he summons his mother to ask Zeus to make his people suffer giving the Trojans power to destroy the Achaians. His pride and arrogance overrun his rational thinking, and his attempt to make his own people suffer as he watches makes his disgusting behavior incomprehensible.Zeus complies with Thetis' request, and the Trojans eventually force the Achaians back to their ships. After many great losses, Agamemnon sends messengers Odysseus, Aias, and Phoenix to Achilleus to ask the great warrior to rejoin the battle. Reviewing the gifts of Agamemnon, Achilleus replies:Do you go back to him, and take him this message: / that I shall not think again of the bloody fighting / until such time as the son of wise Priam, Hektor the brilliant, / comes all the way to the ships of the Myrmidons, and their shelters, slaughtering the Argives, and shall darken with the fire of our vessels. / But around my own shelter, I think, and beside my black ship / Hektor will be held, though he be very hungry for battle. (9.649-55)Although this is a noble statement, Achilleus answers more out of anger and haste. His inability to listen to reason and understand the full scope of the Achaian's dreadful situation allows a transparent look inside the workings of a mind consumed with revenge. Achilleus begins The Iliad with anger, and that anger within him never ceases.After hearing Achilleus' pitiful excuses for not returning to battle, Aias replies angrily and the three warriors go back to Agamemnon and tell him the dire news. Aias's words spoken back to Achilleus represent the solidity of Achilleus' ways. Due to his stubbornness, Achilleus has now lost the respect of the men that once worshipped him like a god. This is extremely important because Achilleus is the offspring of the immortal goddess, Thetis. Although Achilleus is mortal he exudes god-like qualities that are envied and worshipped by his friends and enemies....

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