Heroes of Homer's Great Work, the Illiad, Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

heroes of Homer's great work, The Illiad, is Achilles. Achilles, known for his handsome appearance and physical invulnerability, is driven by his compelling need and desire to have his memory preserved in history. Although such need and desire is expressed as Achilles' personal compulsion, the author Homer certainly intended that it was reflective of human kind in general. This desire and need for everlasting immortality remains an important part of western culture even today.

The real question is whether Achilles' actions in the Iliad qualify him as a real hero. Most readers of the epic tale view Achilles as a hero but a more careful reading may raise doubts as to his status as such. Part of Achilles' appeal is based on his described appearance and charm. He has the traditional earmarks of a hero such as a muscular build denoting extreme strength, handsome, masculine features, and an apparent close relationship with the various Greek gods. In battle, he is apparently fearless and stands out as the bravest member of the army. These are attributes that society would expect to find in its heroes but there are some other aspects of Achilles' character that are less than heroic.

The great dilemma for Achilles is presented to him by his mother, Thetis. Simply, Thetis points out to Achilles, as Achilles is deciding whether to go to battle on behalf of the Achaean army, that his option is to fight in the war and thus become a hero and be remembered forever or can stay home from the war and live his live happily and die at an old age. In reflecting on this advice, Achilles states: "My mother… tells me that there are two ways in which I might may meet my end. If I stay and fight, I shall not return alive but name will live for ever; whereas if I go homemy name will die, but it will be lone ere death shall take me (Illiad, p. 51)." In the end, Achilles weighs his options and decides to fight but his decision to fight is not based on altruism but, instead, on selfishness.

As indicated earlier, Achilles' compelling need was to ensure his immortality. Such need is grounded in selfishness and Achilles is determined to do whatever is necessary to accomplish his goal. Achilles seeks glory and honor. His every motivation is based on his need to be considered a hero. There is little concern expressed by Achilles as to the fate of his country or the protection of its territory. He is guided by his need to be considered a hero. The net result is the same as Achilles leads the Achaean army to victory and, in the process, saves his people but his motivation is suspect and, therefore, so is his status as a hero.

The true hero of the Illiad may be Achilles' nemesis, Hector. Although Hector and his Trojan army eventually lose the battle with Achilles and his Achaean army, his actions are admirable throughout the epic story and his actions make it possible for the Trojans to eventually win the War against the Achaeans. Hector's heroism does not arise from his actions in battle but from…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Illiad, The. Samuel Butler. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2010.

Heroes Classical Western world

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