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The Iliad by Homer is one of the greatest literature pieces about Western civilization and its values are still similar to what people experience in the contemporary times. Hector and Achilles are both prominent warriors in their respective societies, but their values vary widely. The two characters are termed as great men and heroics, but the battle between them brings instigates the reexamination of one key issue represented in the Iliad.
The issue to consider is the values advanced by the two warriors, which reflect their motives on the battlefield. In the Homeric culture, the honor for all people is fundamental, but it means much to a hero, as his honor is preeminent. Hector is a warrior who represents the Trojans in the fight for his people and family’s honor. On the other hand, Achilles leads the Greek army, he is alienated, and in many ways, he lies beyond the reader’s imagination. In a bid to expound this topic, this paper will argue that although respect among societies is earned on the battlefield, the quest for individual honor fuels wars coupled with magnifying the differences between Hector and Achilles. Acquiring glory and pride is magnified to the extent that men prepare for either life or death on the battlefield.
The individual and society
The differences between Hector and Achilles as transcribed in the Iliad show how Homer evaluates the conflict arising from personal and societal values. Achilles comes out as a controversial character because just as other epic heroes he seems to be driven by passion and emotions rather than reason. As the poem begins, Achilles is not ready to take orders from Agamemnon, the king of the Greeks, and he is agitated at losing argument to the king.
On the other hand, Hector acts in a humanistic manner and he appears to demonstrate reason as opposed to passion. Despite being moved by his desire to protect his wife and son, Hector, the great Trojan hero, fights to protect his city, but he understands that the grounds for the conflicts are not justifiable of the amounting damage (Hall 25). Hector is cautious, backs off at the time of an attack, and even hesitates to plan the next attack.
Despite Hector upholding the norms of the society and presenting the values of many, he does not hesitate to go to war to fight for individual honor. For Hector, achieving individual honor represents the values he is intimately fighting for in life. Society is bound by the strong bonds of love and unity and Hector represents such ties on the battlefield. Even though Hector does not want to widow his wife, he understands that fleeing the battlefield damages the societal values and it is better to fight and lose or even die.
Achilles has less to worry about as he is only focused on the prize. Achilles responds to his personal feelings without considering how his acts affect the entire society. He plays his role with respect to what is important to the larger community. For instance, when he is about to give into Achilles’ mercy in return for gifts, he quickly realizes that this act will be detrimental to society, since he is to be held responsible for giving out the treasures of Troy.
Book 22 displays how Hector demonstrates pride and honor as he refuses to refrain from confronting the approaching Greeks even after his father, Priam, warns him to get behind the walls for safety (Dué 287). As the other warriors go hiding behind the walls, Hector fearlessly confronts Achilles. His motive is clearly understandable, as he knows that he has an obligation to protect his land and people. Hector should have listened to his wife Andromache to remain in the city with their son Astyanax, but he is aware of the significance of his role in the war.
His drive for reason and sense of obligation help him to outdo the feelings of fear and defeat. In contrast, Achilles is idiosyncratic as he fights for personal reasons and other people’s concerns are secondary to his motives. This conflict between Hector and Achilles demonstrates the differences between the idiosyncratic and societal values. In Iliad, Homer shows the need for both individual and societal values, but he argues that individual skills and honor should be applied to attain societal values (Hall 51).
Predominance of glory
This text recognizes the social bonds of love and peace that tie the Homeric family, but it also acknowledges the need to pursue glory. Andromache keeps on asking Hector to withdraw from any activity that threatens the future of their son, but he has a strong belief that military glory is highly reckoned over family life. Achilles longs to return home, but the desire to win by remaining in Troy and avenging Patroklos suppresses this urge. Although the two warriors value the significance of the glory to the extent that they voluntarily risk death, the values that influence their quest for glory vary significantly.
Achilles proves the mightiest warrior in the Achaean army, but his misguided values prevent him from acting with humility and integrity. In many instances, he fails to manage his pride or the consequences that follow when his emotions are triggered. For instance, Achilles withdrawals from confronting the Trojans and as a result Patroklos dies in the hands of Hector. Achilles comes out as independent and domineering as he compels people to act in a manner that pleases him. Going to war is a mark of maturity and responsibility, while withdrawing underscores indolence and irresponsibility. Hector is aware that devoting to his family over warfare is a misguided priority and he has to go out and prove his worth on the battlefront.
The individual and family
Hector has a family, which he has an obligation to take care of, but Achilles does not have any family-related responsibilities. Some of the values that Hector depicts include sympathy and love, but the Iliad does not ignore the truth about warfare. Warriors like Hector and Achilles expect cruel deaths and they are not afraid of this fate (Adams 5). Women serve as slaves and concubines alienated from their families. Diseases breakout in the military camps and destroy the army.
The two warriors have diverse ways in the manner they perceive these issues. In terms of family, Hector seems to take time and stay with his wife and son whilst ensuring that his honor does not get lost. In spite of his bonding and compassion for his family, Hector is aware that he is a defender of the Trojan and nothing can stop him from going to war. On the other hand, Achilles has only his mother and a friend, Patroklos, but he does not demonstrate substantial attachment to them. Achilles only goes back to his mother to grieve a condition, which is not going well for him. Unlike Hector, Achilles does not seem to have a good understanding of his role as a warrior, as seeking to revenge on Hector for killing Patroklos does not symbolize his concern for humanity, but his growing anger to avenge (Dué 283).
The scene of the last confrontation of Hector with Achilles shows that Hector is highly civilized and human. This assertion holds because when Hector realizes that he has been purely left alone in the battle, his men have either died, or sought safety behind the walls, he quickly examines ways of evading the conflict. Hector decides to flee from Achilles and he is aware that he is betraying all he has lived for by defending the Trojans. This aspect illustrates that Hector has a notion of civilization since he has to weigh the consequences of the war. Hector decides to act from a humanistic perspective, and thus he flees from the battlefield.
Unfortunately, Athena, the goddess of the Achaean, disguises herself to appear as Hector’s friend. Hector thinks that he has the needed support and decides to fight Achilles and win his glory. Achilles is driven by the anger to avenge Patroklos by killing Hector. Before his last breath when Hector confronts Achilles, Hector appeals for an honorable burial from his community. This aspect shows the extent to which Hector is civilized as opposed to Achilles who objects this appeal and instead decides to torture the corpse, which depicts disrespect (Dué 280).
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Hector demonstrates strong human side and he takes time to decide the best option for himself, family, and society. Although both Hector and Achilles demonstrate significant desires for pride and honor, their motives for fighting are different. As shown in the essay, both warriors are great symbols in their armies and they value pride as they seek respect from all. However, the differences between Hector and Achilles emerge in the way they value this glory. For Hector, as much as he gains much respect from society, it is a pleasure for him to protect his community. In contrast, Achilles’ motives are individualistic and the needs of the society are secondary to his motives.
Adams, Jeff. “Greek and Roman Perceptions of the Afterlife in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid.” McNair Scholars Journal 11.1(2007): 5-11. Print.
Dué, Casey. “Agamemnon’s densely-Packed Sorrow in Iliad 10: A Hyper textual Reading of a Homeric Simile.” Trends in Classics 2.2 (2010): 277-299. Print.
Hall, Edith. The Return of Ulysses: A Cultural History of Homer’s Odyssey, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Print.