Achilles As Hero

Despite the grand scope of Homer’s epics–which present warfare, heroism, adventure and divinity as forces that shape human destiny—The Iliad may be seen as an account of the circumstances that irrevocably alter the life of one man: Achilles, greatest of warriors. Through the course of the poem, Achilles goes through many ordeals, which changes his character immensely. One example of such a character change is when he is quarreling with Agamemnon. Achilles and Agamemnon have an extreme amount of tension building between the both of them.

Apollo has been wiping out the Achaean army for nine days (years) because of a priest’s daughter who has been kidnapped. Through some questioning, it is derived that the only way Apollo will stop killing the Achaean army is if Agamemnon returns Chryseis. In addition, the only way Agamemnon will return Chryseis is if he can have Achilles’ own mistress, Briseis. When they finally came face to face, there was a large battle of words and threats. Achilles and Agamemnon are on the threshold of killing each other.

As Achilles begins to become completely enraged, Athena was sent down by Hera to calm the raging Achilles and urge him not to fight Agamemnon. Not able to act against the will of the gods, Achilles sheathed his sword and only verbally badgered Agamemnon. After the verbal abuse continued for a while, Agamemnon finally got fed up and ordered Briseis to be taken from Achilles. Achilles lets the two messengers take Briseis away; although he mourns every step she takes away from him, he reluctantly lets her go.

Before Briseis was taken away, Achilles states that But let them both bear witness to my loss…in the face of that unbending, ruthless king-if the day should come when the armies need me to save their ranks from ignominious, stark defeat. ‘; This last outburst indicates a change in thinking for Achilles. He is essentially resigning his position in the army because of the incident. Achilles, making an incredible sacrifice, had made the decision to settle the dispute so Apollo would stop killing of the Achaean army. I am a slacker. Though this decision cost Achilles greatly, he acted as the best man of all.

Shortly after Briseis left, Achilles cries and prays to his mother, Thetis. Achilles is mourning for his honor and for Briseis. The thought that Agamemnon took his most cherished ‘prize’;, as he calls her, tears away at the depths of his soul, eating away at his pride and testicles. The last thing he says to his mother while mourning is ‘So all can reap the benefits of their king-so even mighty Atrides can see how mad he was to disgrace Achilles, the best of the Achaeans! ‘; This one event, in no way insignificant, is the beginning of Achilles rite of passage into a newer, arguable better man or warrior.

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