Essay about Iliad: Achilles Hero

1628 Words7 Pages
Mitchell Williams

TA: Kevin Lord

HIST 1010

Paper I: The Iliad and the World of the Ancient Greeks

To have the utmost strength and courage in times of adversity and despair is to possess the Greek ideal of arête. This is a notion of excellence ultimately connected with the fulfillment of purpose. In Homers epic, The Iliad, Achilles embodies the arête trait very well. Achilles is referred to as strong, swift and god like, he is the great runner and most powerful warrior of the Achaeans. Homer introduces his subject with the first word, in the first sentence, “Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, 
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
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Achilles challenges the Greek idea of arête through his pride. People who are seen as heroic in this Greek fashion are those who never back down they fulfill their purpose. Achilles backs down and goes against what a real Greek hero may do.

The almighty Achilles is a tremendous warrior however he is also seen as being self-conscious, he lacks integrity to his pride. Achilles is part of a raid on a Trojan allied town. He captures a woman named Briseis and Agamemnon, the army commander, captures Chryseis. After a plague on the Achaeans caused by the capturing of Chryseis, Agamemnon returns her and in return demands Briseis. Achilles becomes very upset and acts on his pride. He threatens to leave the army and not join in battle. Achilles decides to make a speech making his decision on going to battle. Before doing so he makes sure that it is known he is not making a decision just because of his business with Agamemnon. He says “Mother tells me,
 the immortal goddess Thetis with her glistening feet, 
that two fates bear me on to the day of death.
If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy,
my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies.
 If I voyage back to the fatherland I love,
 my pride, my glory dies.” (Bk. 9, lns, 498-505) Achilles has a lot to weigh out he has issues with Agamemnon and has his future foreseen. The decision he has to make is truly between life and glory. This is his true test of his arête. He is
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