Monday, February 13, 2012

The Iliad 3: Achilles and Hector

So what is the Iliad about? It is called the greatest war story of all time. It is one of the first of the epics. The great epic, if you will. It has influenced on the western world is undeniable. There are many things that can be said. Today my last day for writing about the Iliad I want to focus on what I think is the core purpose of this book. and that is Honor and Heroism. See while many in a Judeo/christian world view may see the Greeks as well hedonists without morality they were very concerned with what the good life was, and what it meant to be a virtuous man. This is at the core of what Plato and Aristotle talk about, and I think it is also at the heart of what Homer is trying to tell his listeners.

So let us ask the question who is the hero? Who is it who lives the good life? who is the virtuous man? this is what I believe is the core and story behind this book. The main character of this book is Achilles. So we would think that the story is about how he is the greatest hero, the most virtuous man, and is most defiantly living the good life. 

we find out that Achilles knows that he will die in this war. He had the choice to stay and lead a long life but choice to go to war because that was the better thing to do. Here we get what is the first thing that may lead us to know what a virtuous man is. 1. The virtuous man is the one who will go to war for his fellows even if it means his death.  By going to war he has proved that he is courageous and willing to lay down his life for something bigger then himself. by this death he will be honored for his sacrifice.

---> but then, well Achilles falls to injured pride. see his prize for fighting well in battle is taken from him. he gets angry, and goes to have a talk with his mother. it just so happens that his mother is goddess, a goddess who has the ear of Lord Zeus.

Now I am actually going to give Achilles something here. see by taking his prize away Agamemnon was actually basically walking all over Achilles' honor, and that is not a nice thing to do. 2. the honor of a virtuous man is not to be shamed. So on the one hand Achilles has ever right to require an apology from Agamemnon before he will reenter the war.

But on the other hand because of Achilles' actions and the deal his mother makes with Zeus a lot of bad things happen. the deal his mother made? that the Greeks would lose so that Agamemnon would have to apologize to Achilles and by sitting out of the war Achilles wont miss out on any glory due him.

Then the death of his very good friend Patroclus happens. After morning the death of his friend he goes for revenge. he is going to kill Hector.

But now about Hector. Hector is the defender of the city, the crown prince. yes he killed Patroclus, he thought it was Achilles. and when he realized it wasn't Achilles he knew that he was a dead man. generally I am not a fan of the movie Troy, for a lot of reasons, but there is one scene I love. Hector is going to go out to war the next day, he knows Achilles is going to be looking for him, and he knows that he will not return. In the movie Hector takes his wife aside and shows her a secret way out of the city. it is a very touching scene and his wife begs him to stay behind, to stay safe. But Hector is a virtuous man. he is an honorable man. That means he must go out to battle and sacrifice his life even if he knows he will not return, even if he knows his city will not be saved by his sacrifice. His honor and virtue rely on the fact that he will go out to battle and meet his fate.
And Achilles does kill him, and drags the dead body of Hector around the city walls behind his chariot. Greeks defiantly knew how to get revenge. Yet despite the desecration of hectors body does not change the fact that he acted honorable and virtuously. Then something interesting happens. King Priam goes to the Greek camp to beg for his son's body. He puts the honor of his dead son above his own honor. So while Achilles's honor is disregarded by his piers, Hector's honor is revered even after his body is desecrated.

Achilles left home for war to live the virtuous life. He wanted fame glory and honor. Hector left the safety of his home and his loving wife because he is a virtuous man. Hector has what Achilles wants. So who is the hero? Who were the little Greek children supposed to be emulate.

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