Achilles Versus Hector Essay, Research Paper
Achilles vs. Hector
The epic myth the Iliad, by Homer, portrayed the plight of a war between the Trojans and the Greeks. Achilles of Greece and Hector of Troy are the heroes that are crucial in the myth. The two main leaders of the war are Agamemnon and Paris who can be inadequate at times. Achilles and Hector have conflicts that progress during the myth, as the war around them rages. In the war the heroes have their fates sealed with prophecies and the underlying Homeric code. The Homeric code is a trend throughout Homer s myths and Greek society, in which the individual prefers having a short, but glorious life. An important fact on heroes is that they are individuals that are revered in their society and are seen as protectors of this society. That is why Heracles, Jason and the Argonauts, and Theseus were looked upon as great heroes, because they saved society from monsters and evil in their quests. The two heroes must decide if they will fight and uphold their societies or remain at home and not fight in the frivolous war. When the decisions are made the consequences unfold to effect the war, friends, and themselves. The Iliad concludes with the two meeting in a duel, which leads to the unfair death of Hector. As the myth unfolds the two great heroes Achilles and Hector share similarities and differences as Homeric heroes in the Iliad, but in the outcome it is Hector who should receive the respect.
The Iliad begins with a war fought between the Greeks and Trojans over a beautiful woman named Helen. In the beginning, Achilles disagrees with the king Agamemnon in his practices and it takes the goddess Athena to prevent bloodshed between them. The tension is so great between them that it leads to Achilles withdrawal from the war. At the time of the falling out, Achilles is not concerned for the fate of the Greeks, but for himself and his grudge with Agamemnon, My honors never equal yours, whenever we sack some wealthy Trojan stronghold-my arms bear the brunt of the raw, savage fighting, true, but when it comes to dividing up the plunder the lion s share is yours, and back I go (Iliad, I, 193ff.) . The great hero Achilles seems to shy away from his duty as a Greek with his conscience of what he understands as just. Unfortunately for the Greeks and Patroclus, it takes Achilles some time to realize his role as a Homeric hero. This particular role is a prevailing Greek theme to where it is better to die young with a great name versus living old and dying with little recognition. During Achilles whole life, he and those around him have struggled with this ideal because it was prophesized that he would die young.
Before the war began it was prophesized that Troy would eventually fall at the hands of the Greeks. The war could have been prevented if Paris had returned Menelaus wife Helen or fight Menelaus in fair duel. This solution did not occur and Troy s fate was sealed and Hector was forced to decide on his family s well being or fighting for glory and his people. Hector s decision is made difficult with Paris lack of discipline as king with his episodes with his new wife Helen. This angers Hector, Look, your people dying around the city, the steep walls, dying in arms-and all for you, the battle cries and the fighting flaring up around the citadel. You d be the first to lash out at another-anywhere-you saw hanging back from this, this hateful war (Iliad, VI, 386ff.). Hector was angry and knew of the danger that proceeded him. Helen tried to persuade Hector to stay with her, but he was true to the people of Troy, Love me as you do, you can t persuade me now. No time for rest. My heart races to help our Trojans-they long for me, sorely, whenever I am gone (Iliad, VI, 429ff.). Even when Hector s beautiful loving wife tries to convince him that he should stay with her and their beloved son he gives the same response. Hector is the true hero with his concerns for the people he fights for and who revere him as their protector.
Early in the Iliad Achilles made his decision not to fight for Agamemnon and he held true for almost the entire myth. Even when his Greek comrades were taking heavy losses at the hand of the Trojans Achilles felt no remorse. Agamemnon worried that the Greeks would be defeated at their ships, so he sent an envoy bearing gifts to persuade Achilles to rejoin the fight. Once again Achilles refused to fight even with his fatherly figure Phoenix, the wise Odysseus, and the great Ajax begging him to return. Achilles replies to their gifts and advice with hatred towards Agamemnon, I will say it outright. That seems best to me. Will Agamemnon win me over? Not for all the world, nor will all the rest of Achaea s armies (Iliad, IX, 380ff.). Even Achilles dear friend Patroclus feels remorse for the Greeks plight against the Trojans and decides to fight with them. Ironically it takes the death of Patroclus at the hands of Hector to convince Achilles for revenge. Achilles once again has little regard for his fellow Greeks and is only concerned with seeking revenge against Hector and the Trojans. Oddly, Achilles does not fulfill all his requirements as a present day hero, but he fits the structure of a Homeric hero. Even as a Homeric hero, he has to die young for the cause of his society and not for himself. Achilles seems to have accepted the fact that he will die young, but this thought does not effect him from fighting before or after his falling out with Agamemnon. In comparison to Hector, Achilles is not as honorable, but they both are similar as Homeric heroes.
The Iliad was a revered myth that all ancient Greeks had memorized and was a main stay in Greek culture. Present day scholars see the myth as link to the past culture with knowledge on ancient Greek beliefs, hopes, and dreams. It is interesting that Homer s use of the Greek Achilles as the struggling hero and Hector the Greeks adversary as the true grand hero. When Achilles and Hector do finally meet the dual is thwarted by Athena and her trickery leads to Hector s death. Achilles with his faults and consciousness is the true Athenian Greek. Hector did not like his situation anymore than Achilles, but he had to protect his city and family. He is seen as the protector of the city and was the Trojan s only hope against the Greeks. When Achilles kills Hector, he is not respected by Achilles and is dragged around Troy with his chariot. If the roles were reversed, Hector, being an honorable hero, would respect Achilles as a worthy opponent. It came to a point that Achilles own men wanted him to stop with the desecration of the body. Finally, it was Hector s father, who begged for Hector s body, so it could be properly buried. These actions are not representative of a heroic figure in ancient Greece nor the present time.
There are many similarities and differences concerning Achilles and Hector in the Iliad. They are different types of heroes, but they both fulfill the guidelines of a Homeric hero. The kings of Troy and Achaea are both incompetent, but only Hector stays true to his king and people. When Achilles does renter the war, it is because of Patroclus death and his guilty conscience. The two heroes do finally meet and it is Achilles who is victorious through the trickery and help of Athena. Achilles in the way he reacts afterward Hector s death is far from honorable. One can clearly see that Achilles and Hector are Homeric heroes, however it is Hector who deserves the respect and admiration of the hero status.