A forgotten Hero

From the very beginning of the poem, the character Achilles actions, or lack of actions, have enormous effects upon how the plot unfolds. Starting with the fight with Agamemnon and his withdrawal from the battle, to the death of Patroklos, and finally to the slaying of Hektor, Achilles and his emotions decide the fate of many Greek and Trojan warriors. It is his struggle against his anger, pride, loyalty, and love that make this poem one of a tragic nature, rather than just a gruesome account of a war. Although the reputation of Achilles claims him to be the perfect warrior, strongest of the Greeks, the poem doesnt explain if he is the true hero of these events. With all the things he went through, you might wonder why a warrior would take his sword and leave the battleground. Achilles is a true hero, he believes that the attributes of a hero are not warfare, but nobility, pride, fellowship, honor, and respect.

The acts that Achilles portrays seem to be childish. He is a man of noble principles throughout the poem. His argument with Agamemnon is a testament to that. When Achilles refuses the gifts of Agamemnon that are offered to him, Achilles shows that his principles rank higher than desire for fame on the battlefield.

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Achilles goes to Agamemnon and asks him to return the girl to her father so the plague will end. He agrees to return her, but he doesn’t want to be left empty-handed. He returns Chryseis to her home, and he takes Briseis, a war-prize of Achilles. Achilles is so angry with Agamemnon that he vows to stop helping him fight the Trojans. As the battle goes on, Agamemnon realizes how important Achilles and his Myrmidons are to the Achaean troops. The King of the Greeks then swallows his pride and offers gifts to Achilles if he will come back and help fight. Achilles, however, is so stubborn that he refuses all the gifts and will not allow his troops to fight. When he is offered the gifts he rudely responds, “I hate the man Agamemnon like the very gates of death who says one thing but hides another in his heart. This quote shows how much Achilles is hurt by what Agamemnon has done, and that Achilles took this very seriously toward his pride, that Agamemnon would just take someone away, that meant so much to him.

The only point at which I think he compromises his principles is when he allows Patroklos and his men to go off and fight and refuses to go himself. I think that, at that point in the story, he is putting foolish pride before his fellowship for his friend. This is the tragedy of human flaws and the shortsightedness that goes along with anger. This scene in the story is one of transition, not just in the turn of the war, but also in the maturing of Achilles as he finally begins to follow the path of his destiny.

Achilles understands that all these effects are derived from one episode of selfishness that took place in Book One with Agamemnon. This one occasion has a ripple effect on the lives of the Greeks. Achilles understands this, and changes his ways to avoid other conflicts with humans as well as with the gods.

After Achilles rejoins the battle and avenges his friend’s death by killing Hector, he tries to destroy the body by dragging it behind his chariot. Zeus notices this and protects the body from deterioration and physical destruction. He then sends Thetis, Achilles’ mother, down to tell the warrior to return the body to King Priam. He honors the wishes of his mother as well as the gods. This is one type of respect he shows, but he also shows respect to King Priam when he comes to retrieve his son’s corpse.

Achilles was the poster boy hero of Homers Iliad. This half human, half god warrior that fought against evil to save the day, but there were complications that Achilles went through, that it might have been Achilles being too full of himself, he stood by his word. When Achaeans desperately pleas with Achilles by offering gifts to persuade Achilles to return to battle, and his friend Patroclus pleas with Achilles, he still refused to return to battle. It took the drastic events of Patroclus death to get Achilles out on the battlefield again, not because of pride, but the true hero must always revenge his partners life, even if it means taking his in the end. He chooses a fate of death over dishonour, truly a heros decision. After he avenges his fallen companion and the blood lust has left his system, he shows his growth and new understanding of loss in the touching scene with Priam. The last book is not an all new Achilles, but instead the same Achilles who is perhaps wiser due to the lessons that only death can teach.

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