The Iliad Basic Human Nature Essay
, Research Paper
As humans we are gifted (or cursed depending on how you look at it) with certain inescapable traits. Homer does an excellent job showing the traits through the heroes of the Iliad. This essay will discuss how the basic human nature of a few of Homer s characters determines their fate.
Everybody knows that no one is perfect. Even the mythological men and women that Homer writes about make mistakes. In book one Agamemnon refuses to give Chryseis back to her father, a mistake that causes Apollo to kill a number of Achaian soldiers. To make matters worse Agamemnon then says to Achilleus, “Even as Phoibos Apollo is taking away my Chryseis. I shall convey her back in my own ship, with my own followers; but I shall take the fair-cheeked Bryseis, your prize, I myself going to your shelter, that you may learn well how much greater I am than you”. (Book one, 182-186) That alone is what set the whole tragedy of Achilleus in motion. Agamemnon s blaton disrespect of Achilleus is what causes the great warrior to withdraw from fighting until later on in the war, when Patroklos is killed.
In a lot of humans, especially males, passion can overcome most feelings, and lead to irrational thinking. The entire war that the Iliad revolves around is based on Paris s inability to overcome his love for Helen. Menalaos s love for his wife is what causes the Greeks to engage war against the Trojans. Achilleus is a great fighter but even he falls victim to the “love bug” when Briseis is abruptly taken from him by Agamemnon. Though God s are all-powerful even they can be blinded by love. In book 14 even the god of all god s Zeus lets his guard down because of the love he has for his wife, Hera. “Hera, there will be time afterwards when you can go there as well. But now let us go to bed and turn to love-making. For never before has love for any goddess or woman so melted about the heart inside me, broken it to submission, as now” (book 14, 313-317), Zeus says to his wife right before she uses the God of sleep to cast a spell on him so that she and the other Gods can aid in the war.
Humans today as well as the people in the Iliad have an overwhelming sense of pride. The poem is filled with actions done solely out of pride. The war begins because of Menaloas s pride, which is shattered as a result of his wife running away with Paris. Agamemnon s boastful pride is what causes him to take Brisies from Achilleus, just because he can. In book three Paris shows his pride when he steps out of rank and challenges any of the Achaian soldiers to a duel. Even though he is rather cowardly when he runs from Menalaos s excepting of the duel, it is Paris s pride that brings him back. Achilleus seems to be a model for all basic human traits, because he, above all others, turns out to have the most pride. Excessive pride is not always a good thing. In this case it is Achilleus s tragic flaw. In book nine when Agamemnon sends Aias and Odysseus to try and persuade Achilles to return, Achilleus puts his crushed pride above all else and returns with, “I will join with him in no counsel, and in no action. He cheated me and he did me hurt. Let him not beguile me with words again. This is enough for him. Let him of his own will be damned, since Zeus of his counsels has taken his wits away from him”.
Lastly of the traits that Homer describes is family values. The hero s in the poem put family above all else. Two sets of brothers are basically the ones responsible for the fighting; Paris, who took Helen, and his brother that leads the Trojan army, Hecktor, and Menalaos, Helen s husband, and the commander-in-chief of the Greeks Agamemnon. In book 6 Diomedes almost fights Glaukos. “High-hearted son of Tydeus, why ask my generation? See now, you are my guest friend from afar in the time of our fathers So they spoke, and both springing down from behind their horses gripped each other s hand s and exchanged the promise of friendship”. (Book six-231) These two men were about to take one another s lives but because they happened to have relatives that were friendly they decided not to fight and even swapped armor.
Homer does an excellent job in the Iliad of showing how certain human traits can carve out someone s future. Achilleus had the opportunity to be the greatest human that ever lived but his nature kept him in check. It is up to people to realize the characteristics they cannot escape and