In his last moments, Hektor realizes he can never persuade Achilles because "in his breast is a heart of iron" (XXII.357). Achilles reveals his cold nature when he says, "Die: and I will take my own death at whatever time" (XXII.364) moments after Hektor dies. Again, we see the stark contrast between these two heroes.
Achilles is another face Homer attaches to the notion of war and kleos. Achilles is noble and popular for his "swift feet" (I.148). he is swift on his feet and he is swift to anger and this anger will surface to be the one thing that plagues him through The Iliad. It drives him through most of the plot and it is the bane of his existence. However, this flaw does not prevent Achilles from seeking glory or reaching fame. He experiences a different kind of kleos than Hektor does primarily because he becomes an enraged, bloodthirsty warrior. He seeks glory through this rage and earns a reputation for his superb fighting skills in the meantime. He becomes prideful of his abilities and this, too becomes a flaw. Again, Homer is exposing these heroes in a fashion that makes them realistic. They are not perfect by any means but they are still worthy of glory. Achilles is no Hektor when it comes to compassion; he is a man of anger instead. He allows his anger to influence his logic when it should not and, as a result, he makes serious mistakes. For example, he loses his temper with Agamemnon when he does not form an alliance with the Trojans. Many suffer as the result of this mistake. Many Achaeans die because of Achilles' mistake. Achilles cannot control his temper after Patroklos is killed. In a fir of anger, he says:
All these things the Olympian brought to accomplishment
But what pleasure is this to me, since my dear companion has perished . . .
that Hector first be beaten down under my spear, lose his life and pay the price for stripping Patroklos. (XVIII.79-80, 91-2).
Achilles loses sight of his glory and fame in this scene. He is lost in his anger and while this is unbecoming, it is very human....
War takes a back set from this scene forward and, again, Homer shows us the nature of man through Achilles. He becomes a tragic hero from this point on and he shows us the dangerous side of seeking glory for the sake of self. Critic James Redfield claims both heroes descend "together into an impure world . . . For Hector this descent has been into powerlessness, for Achilles into power, mere power without meaning" (Redfield 80). These men are "locked together in an everlasting dance of hatred -- despoiler and victim, predator and prey" (80) with Achilles as "transgressor" (82). The striking difference between these two men allows us to understand the complex nature of humanity and fame.
Even the Homeric code is one that cannot be narrowly painted. Heroes do carry certain characteristics and kleos is a significant aspect of that. Fame and glory only come to those willing to make certain sacrifices but their sacrifices do not always make them better men. Even heroes are judged and this judgment relates to their fighting prowess, their general ability and demeanor. With all of this, we can look at Homer's heroes and know with certainty they are not always good. The glory and the fame do not always reach the most deserving man and the most deserving man is a matter of opinion. Fame and glory are big when it comes to the idea of a hero and what catapulted him to the top of the list of men in line for the honor. They are to be recognized but they are not meant to be simplified. It may be easy for may to think all heroes in The Iliad were good-hearted, compassionate men with the purest of intensions but Homer was intent to demonstrate how this could never be true in an authentic story. We might like more if our stories were filled with heroes that were perfect but the truth is that those men might actually bore us to death. Hektor and Achilles demonstrate the variety of humanity. Even when it comes to heroes, there is room for failure and while we might like this idea at first, we should realize that these imperfections are what make their successes so much better. Homer knew this when he gave us these two different, but equally driven heroes, thirsting for fame and glory
Bloom, Harold. Introduction. Homer's The Iliad. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. 1987.
Homer. "The Iliad." Mack, Maynard, ed. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Vol. I.
5th ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. 1985. pp. 106-208.
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