The Iliad vs. Today’s Standards

Essay add: 2-10-2015, 19:23   /   Views: 183
In the Iliad, Homer’s heroes exhibit many symbolic attributes of heroism, maliciousness, and acquisition to the gods. To be a hero one has to be, quick in battle and always show courage. To honor the men who came before them and to keep his sons from being shamed by their father’s memory is to show true heroism. “ ‘What disgrace! Look at you, carrying on in the armies’ muster just like boys—fools!’ “(2.400-401) In their heroism they show how they are vengeful against any and all enemies who oppose their family or their lives. These heroes are very malicious in nature on the battlefield. They lack pity or mercy, and have a very vicious ill will for the man who begs for his life, leaving the victim helpless. When his aggressor does not grant him this request, the aggressor shows how he is savage and inhumane by today’s standards. By these means they are lacking in the restraints normal to civilized people. “ ‘So now let no man hurry to sail for home, not yet…payment in full for the groans and shocks of war we have all borne for Helen’ “(2.420-423). Acquisition to the gods is one obligation, which should have been easy to fulfill in Greek times. The hero has to be submissive to the demands of the gods, to do all that they demand of him and to fulfill his destiny according to their will.
A Greek hero is one who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and is favored by the gods. He is noted for his feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially if he has risked or sacrificed his life in battle. “The secret hero. Undeniable. Unbreakable. Beyond pain and suffering. Divine”(Rollins, 82). Heroes might actually be great men, although Homer treats his heroes as nobles and fighting men. Thus the noble characteristics of the hero are projected through his animal counterpart, as a man becomes as strong as a lion or as swift as a deer. To see error in their actions is to be a true hero.
Diomedes, also referred to as Tydides, is not considered a first class hero in the Iliad, but is a hero none the less. “So the great fighter would shine forth and tower over the Argives and win himself great glory”(5.2-3). He is gallant and loyal to the cause of the Greek camp. He struggles to some degree until aided by Athena. The fire blazing from his helmet indicates his unbelievable strength, “his shield and helmet flaming with tireless fire like the star that flames at harvest, bathed in the Ocean, rising up to outshine all other stars”(5.4-6). He is obedient to the advisors to the Greeks and to the will of the goddess Athena. His rational and controlled nature is clearly established early in the fighting when he remains silent under some rather unfair criticism from Agamemnon, “ ‘What’s this? – you, the son of Tydeus, that skilled breaker of horses? Why cringing here? Gazing out on the passageways of battle! That was never Tydeus’ way, shy behind the lines—he’d grapple enemies, bolting ahead of comrades’ “(4.430-34). “Taunting so, and steadfast Diomedes offered no reply… overawed by the king’s majestic scorn”(4.466-68). On the battlefield Diomedes performs nobly and views the battle at hand almost in a spirit of play. He also repeatedly shows his bravery and brilliance in the art and skill of war. “Long ablaze as he was to fight the Trojans, triple the fury seized him—claw-mad as a lion some shepherd tending woolly flocks in the field has just grazed, a lion leaping into the fold,”(5.150-53). Diomedes main purpose in the story is to fill the limelight while Achilles is gone from the fighting.
Then by these constituents one could say that Hector is a hero as well, however by different means. He is the leader and greatest hero on the Trojan side. He is generally portrayed as the courageous mainstay of Trojan resistance. Hector however does not display any true heroism, by definition, because Achilles easily overcame him on the battlefield. Hector feels he is bound by the duty he owes his city, “ ‘All this weighs on my mind too, dear woman. But I would die of shame to face the men of Troy and the Trojan women trailing their long robes if I would shrink from battle now, a coward.’ “(6.522-25), and his devoted wife and child. “ ‘My heart races to help our Trojans—they long for me, sorely, whenever I am gone.… For I must go home to see my people first, to visit my own dear wife and my baby son. Who knows if I will ever come back to them again? —or the deathless gods will strike me down at last at the hands of Argive fighters’ “(6.430-31 & 435-39). Usually mild mannered in fashion, except when he scolds his laggard brother, Paris:
“ ‘Ah Hector, you criticize me fairly, yes, nothing unfair, beyond what I deserve. The heart inside you is always tempered hard, like an ax that goes through wood when a shipwright cuts out ship timbers with every ounce of skill and the blade’s weight drives the man’s stroke. So the heart inside your chest is never daunted’ “(3.69-76).
Then again he is kind hearted by nature, with his extreme sensitivity to the women who surround him. His emotions usually getting in the way of his focus on battles. Then there is always his ever so present acquisition to the gods he wishes to favor him and his role in the war. He prays and sacrifices to the gods to sway them to the Trojan faction. Hector’s main purpose in the poem seems to be as the object of Achilles’ wrath.
To be heroic is said to be acting for the good of someone or something else without consequence or reward for oneself. To give of oneself for the good of his children, and their future, without reward or concern for consequence to his immediate self. Although the truly heroic people are the ones who give themselves to better the world for any and all others who come after them. “Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men. Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth, now the living timbers bursts with the new buds and spring comes around again… as one generation comes to life, another dies away”(6.171-75). They teach their children who they want to be like, how to read and write, and what is right and wrong in their society. They shape the childrens’ eyes of the world and they reap no rewards for all their work and dedication.

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