Achilles in the Iliad

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 17:58   /   Views: 217
From the very beginning of The Iliad, the character Achilles becomes one of the major foci of the story. His actions of 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 Patroclus, and finally to the slaying of Hector, the wrath of Achilles decided the fate of many Greek and Trojan warriors. Although the reputation of Achilles claims him to be the perfect warrior, strongest of the Greeks, the poem spends more time on the man than on his reputation.

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. Achilles shed light on the fact that all the Greeks are at Troy to fight over the pride and honor of Agamemnon’s brother and is brave enough to stand up to the king and call him greedy and selfish. His lack of hatred towards the Trojans as a people is easily seen in his statements about how the people of Troy had never wronged him prior to the conflict. 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. Such is shown when he tells 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.)….” 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. Even Achilles dear friend Patroclus feels remorse for the Greeks plight against the Trojans and decides to fight with them. Achilles’ pride forced the other heroes to beg for his help in the war. Ironically it takes the death of Patroclus at the hands of Hector to convince Achilles for revenge.

As the epic moves on, Achilles’ wrath goes as well, to invoke fear into Hector. Achilles continues to refrain from directly engaging in the fight until his best friend, Patroclus, was killed in battle by the mighty Hector. Hector found himself not leading a charge this time, but hiding for his life. After a certain amount of fighting and a spear bouncing off Achilles’ chest, Hector realizes what kind of warrior Achilles is and begins to fear for his life. This shows when he admits his inevitable death to Achilles by saying, “No more fleeing from you, O great Achaean. We have come to face to face. Kill or be killed. Swear with me that if I die, you will give my body to my parents.”

The wrath of Achilles again affects another character. Priam, once hearing that Achilles has and is desecrating Hector’s body, decides to beg and pay a ransom for the body to Achilles. Priam is so desperate to retrieve Hector’s body that he ends up begging on his knees in front of Achilles. Achilles’ anger over Patroclus’ death coerced Priam to the point where he turned a king into a groveling beggar. Achilles then agreed to Priam’s request, which leads on to show more of Achilles’ influence in that he was able to stop an entire war for twelve days.

Through pride, fear, and anger, the wrath of Achilles has been able to force an entire army to beg for his help, invoke fear into one of the greatest Trojan heroes, and belittle a Trojan king. Achilles’ wrath, alone, is enough to create its own epic.

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