The Role Of Achilles In The Illiad
Essay, Research Paper
In the epic poem, The Iliad, Homer describes a social occasion in which character s values, the values of that character s culture and the themes those values develop can be derived. The funeral games, held by Achilles in honor of his late friend Patroclus, is a perfect example of such an occasion. Achilles is the model for the Achaeans throughout the funeral games, and throughout the text. The way Achilles acts has an effect on the Trojan War and the survival of the Greek Culture. Achilles goal in holding the games was not only to honor his friend, but also to bring his army together so they could fight together and win. Thus, the Greek Culture that is determined by Achilles will live on. This displays that Achilles withholds the value of teamwork at first, then grants it to his benefit knowing that teamwork is necessary to win the war. Since Achilles knows he will die, his mother told him his fate, he is creating a way he can live on through the remembrance of others and achieve immortality by the survival of the Greek culture. Also, Achilles is holding the funeral games so that when he dies a glorious death, the Achaeans will remember him better by having funeral games in honor of him. The values and themes the reader can see from Achilles are the constant battle for glory and immortality. The chariot race, one of the many events during the funeral games, forces the reader to identify and apply these themes and ideas to the rest of the text. The reader has to realize that every time Achilles is taking control, praying to Zeus, fighting in the war, and bringing his troops together he is doing it for the benefit of himself. Because it is human nature to see everything in a lighter sense then is present, the reader may only think Achilles is stubborn. The reader sees a conspicuous change in the personalities of Achilles from the beginning of the poem and the funeral games. When the reader realizes this, he is forced to find out why, uncovering Achilles amoral plan to achieve immortality. Achilles is displaying the common human urge to establish his power and gain glory in everything that he does.
Achilles, being the model for Achaean culture, calls all of the Greek men together after the death of Patroclus and Hector to participate in funeral games. One of Achilles incentives was to honor his friend, Patroclus, but Achilles also wanted to bring the Greek army closer together. The reader can see Achilles plan of using the funeral games as a team building workshop activated during the chariot race. Antilochus cuts off Menelaus in a dangerous part of the race and Menelaus gets very upset(572). Antilochus ended up beating Menelaus by a short distance. Menelaus says to Antilochus, Now see what you have done! Disgraced my horsemanship-you ve fouled my horses, cutting before me, you with your far slower team. This shows that not just Achilles demonstrates the constant urge to establish power and authority, Menelaus does too. Then, they both make up and present each other with gifts (578), showing team-unity. Also, exhibiting that when Achilles portrays a value, the other men catch on quickly exhibiting that the rest of the Greek warriors all hold the same cultural values. Even though Achilles demonstrates the positive value of teamwork, he only uses it at strategically placed points during the war to benefit himself.
After examination of the situation, the reader can see Achilles is benefiting himself from not revealing to revealing the value of teamwork whenever he has planned, because he is trying to establish his power. He is establishing his power so that when he dies he will be immortal through the remembrance of the Greeks in his culture. By not following the value of teamwork at the beginning of the text, Achilles is creating circumstances in which the Achaeans will need him to win the war. Achilles fights with Agamemnon as an excuse to leave the war. Achilles is also fighting with Agamemnon because he wants to be greater then and actually be the leader, or the master of all the Achaeans. Then, he prays to his mother to have Zeus start killing his own people so they will need him even more to fight. At this point, Achilles is helping the Trojans more than his own team and also, portraying the idea of no teamwork. Once Achilles enters war again, the agreement was that Zeus would grant him glory. Achilles then calls the funeral games, which give the Greeks an opportunity to grasp teamwork from Achilles, and use it while fighting. At the same time, Achilles knows that he will die in the war because his mother told him that was his fate, but he wants to be immortal in the eyes of mortals. This gives Achilles an attribute of a god and that is what Achilles is essentially trying to accomplish. In order to be immortal to his culture he first has to make sure his culture will survive and also, everything Achilles does has to be establishing his power and thusly working toward getting great glory. In order for the Greek culture to live on, they must beat the Trojans and win the war, for the Achaean’s to win they must have teamwork. Achilles takes control of the funeral games to prove his power that he can actually control the Greeks so they will be able to win the war and give him glory.
Achilles holds funeral games so that when he dies he will get funeral games in his honor too. The funeral games consist of many events in which prizes are awarded to winners and losers. The prizes come from the deceased in which the games are in honor of. With all of the fun and action going on, it is an easy event to remember. Plus, the fact that prizes go to everyone who participates, gives the warriors a small momentum of the person in remembrance. Funeral games help the living commemorate the glorious dead, giving the dead immortality. Since Achilles is always struggling for glory so he can be immortal through the remembrance of others, funeral games makes it that much easier to ensure Achilles will be honored after he has passed on. To show he is powerful, Achilles takes charge at the games. He sends Agamemnon back to the ships with first prize and continues the games. Achilles calls the games, and hands out the prizes to all of the participants. Within this the reader can see how Achilles is trying to create a slave/owner relationship between him and the Achaean army. In controlling the games and getting great fun out of being the main attraction, he is giving himself power and authority within the ranks of the Greek infantry. Achilles is again using the funeral games to his own advantage and not just for the sake of his old friend Patroclus, or bringing his army together.
The most important part of the funeral games is how it forces the reader to really look at the text. When the reader first reads the text, it is hard to understand any true meaning behind it. The reader compensates for this by using his initial instinct to follow human nature and say that Achilles is just a stubborn man, or taking the less heavy and complex explanation. The funeral games forces the reader to change their mind because of the significant difference in personalities of Achilles from the beginning of the text to the games. In the beginning, Achilles is against Agamemnon and the war, he is stubborn and will not fight. During the funeral games, Achilles wants to go to battle and connect with the people of his culture. The reader realizes this and is forced to find out why Achilles has changed his mind. Going deeper and deeper into the text we see that Achilles is using others for the benefit of himself. Achilles used Agamemnon as an excuse to get out of the war. He called a meeting so that he could make Agamemnon look like a bad king when the seer told why Apollo was inflicting them with a plague. The seer told all the Greek men that it was Agamemnon s fault and he had to give his war prize of Chryses back, taking the prize of Achilles in return. Achilles leaves the war, saying he will never fight for Agamemnon again, but really he just wanted to wait for the right time to enter the war and win fast glory. Then, he used the Achaean fighters to make the Greeks need him back in the war. He prayed to Zeus to be on the Trojan s side, killing an abundant number of Greeks, making them need Achilles to fight again in the war. Achilles needed a better reason then just gifts from Agamemnon to return to war because that would make him seem selfish. Consequently, he sent Patroclus into war, knowing he would be killed. Achilles has created a way so he could go into war, saying he was avenging Patroclus death. He is using the funeral games to help the Greeks win the war. He is finally changing his whole adittude toward the idea of fighting for Agamemnon and the war. Everything Achilles has done has repeatedly displayed the desire to establish his power amongst the Greeks so he could be the master. The Achaean men Achilles is killing secondhand is all going toward his final goal, immortality. Now that the reader knows the Greek men are just pawns on a chessboard to him and he can move them whenever, and wherever he may choose in order to win himself glory the reader finds out another reason why Achilles wants power. Throughout the text, the reader also sees the gods moving the warriors around the battlefield according to what side they are on in order to benefit themselves. The side Achilles is on is himself and is moving people around to benefit him. Also, he is already half god and wants to fulfil his godlike lineage. He is showing a trait of the gods by continually using the Greek men to establish his pride and work for his ultimate goal of immortality, and basically be more like the gods. The reader is forced to apply this idea to the rest of the text. This brings new meaning to The Iliad, showing that power, glory and immortality are such important values to all men that Achilles has to kill his own to achieve it.
Achilles role in The Iliad is to display the values of his society. Achilles shows to the extreme measures in which he will take to achieve the dire goal of glory and immortality. Along the way, Achilles uses an important value in warfare, teamwork, to his advantage at any moment he sees fit. Achilles is always working toward accomplishing glory and immortality, therefore these values can be seen as an important part of life. The values can be described as a natural human urge, the need to establish power within a community. Achilles is a perfect example because the desire for glory comes naturally to him, he didn t have to be told to want it. Underneath every action of every man, there is a constant struggle for power and Achilles creates a vivid picture of this notion throughout the story. Achilles values and thus the values of the Achaean men have an important effect on the text. The funeral games is one of the first times in the text the reader sees an apparent cause to understand what the Greeks value most. When the reader discovers the value is the constant desire for glory, he can begin to connect with the story, and therefore the former western world.