Themes of Self-Sacrifice and Love in the Iliad
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Easily seen is the strength that is given from Zeus to mortals
either in those into whose hands he gives the surpassing glory,
or those he diminishes and will not defend them
as now he diminishes the strength of the Argives, and helps us.
Fight on then by the ships together. He who among you
finds by spear thrown or spear thrust his death and destiny,
let him die. He has no dishonour when he dies defending
his country, for then his wife shall be saved and his children afterwards,
and his house and property shall not be damaged, if the Achaians
must go away with their ships to the beloved land of their fathers. (Lattimore, the Iliad of Homer, 490-499)
Ancient Greek myths are a reflection of the culture and moral principles that existed at that time. Despite bloody wars and violent conflicts, literary works also show interpersonal relationships based on love and respect. The Iliad is a legendary book that describes Achilles’ wrath and a quarrel with Agamemnon. Further social and divine separation shows people’s commitment to their communities and faith. This passage was chosen because it reveals the core of the ancient world’s culture and the moral rules of the time. It shows that death in the name of the welfare of loved ones, preservation of material values, and protecting the native land is not dishonorable.
Social traditions, religion, and family relationships characterize the well-being of communities. Ancient Greece is associated with violent games, wars, and idols who participate in people’s lives. Nevertheless, ancient Greek mythology allows one to analyze the actual reasons for adherence to the supernatural and what role fate plays in everyday activities. It is worth noting that the Iliad demonstrates people’s belief that their public, private, and career lives are god-determined, and no one can interfere with this process. This passage shows Zeus’s role in the war, who was able to control the balance of power, as seen in the first two lines (Lattimore 322). God influenced the Argives and played down their power while helping the opposite side. It is essential to understand that Zeus helped Achilles at the request of Thetis, which initially did not imply a desire to establish social justice. However, this passage is intriguing because the bloody war brought the love for relatives and self-sacrifice, representing a particular paradox.
Zeus ordered the soldiers to fight together and remember those who remained on land. The second part of the passage shows how family ties and loyalty to the community motivated people to fight. The conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon seems to be the spark that prompted the ancient Greeks to fight the Argives. In turn, it is an exciting part of the passage as it introduces the theme of honor and destiny as interrelated concepts. It is worth noting that family loyalty determines the strategy of action for people, mainly men, since protecting loved ones was a priority at the time. The risk of hostilities or attacks by opponents instilled fear in society, but the immediate response determined the willingness of the Greeks to fight for their fatherland. It is evident when studying the passage, as an unknown combatant may be killed with a spear, but it would be an honor to die for the family’s welfare. Thus, as a noble act, self-sacrifice characterizes the ancient Greeks and their belief in fate as a guiding light.
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Wives, children, and the elderly are left on the land and are regarded as defenseless people who need brave and courageous warriors to preserve the well-being of their homes. It is essential to understand that the Iliad is a book about war, but it is only the plot’s outer shell. At first glance, Achilles’ anger seems to be at the center of the narrative, but multiple supporting characters characterize this conflict. The unnamed warriors demonstrate courage in naval battles, and their feelings are the main elements of the plot. Besides, Achilles changed his rage to Agamemnon with a similar hatred to Hector over a close friend’s death. In this case, self-sacrifice and a reckless thirst for revenge are the engines to restore social justice. In turn, troops and ordinary people have their reasons for conflict and involvement in confrontation. Thus, this passage should deserve more public attention, as it demonstrates the social attitudes and moral principles of people in ancient Greece, even during times of war.
The selected passage is a demonstration of values and traditions in Ancient Greece. The Iliad is based on the history of war and justice, but this is transformed as the story progresses. An unknown warrior’s death is not dishonorable, but rather a tribute of respect and love to people on earth. Self-sacrifice is revealed as a critical personal characteristic of the minor characters, supported by Achilles’ desire to avenge a friend’s death. More broadly, the passage points to fate as the motivator of society and the primary decision-making tool. People are fighting for the freedom and safety of their native land, explaining this with divine protection and their sacred duty. Thus, the selected lines are intriguing and exciting because they show an unknown part of the poem and reveal the other side’s images.
Homer. The Iliad of Homer. Translated by Richmond Lattimore, University of Chicago Press, 2011, p. 322.