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Achilles' Hero Behavior Cycle in the Iliad Essay

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The Ancient Greeks admired their heroes and tried to learn from both their achievements and their mistakes. They believed that most great leaders and warriors followed a predictable behavior cycle, which often ended tragically. In Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad, Achilles is a great warrior who traces the stages of the behavior cycle twice, from arete to hubris to ate and then to nemesis. Achilles is a highly skilled warrior and a great leader who becomes a narcissist and an arrogant person, which leads to selfish and childish behavior resulting in the death of his best friend. Following Patroclus’ death, Achilles repeats the behavior cycle by regaining his courage and motivation, and goes back to battle against Hector. The pride he feels in killing Hector and his overpowering hatred for him, leads Achilles to another bad decision: disrespecting the body of his enemy. This foolish choice leads directly to Achilles death. Although The Iliad is mainly known as a story about the Trojan War, it is understood as a story about Achilles and his struggle to be a hero.
Achilles’ behavior starts out with arete, or someone’s great qualities. Achilles is a highly gifted warrior who is a combination of strength, skill, courage, and determination. Achilles earned his prize of honor, Briseis, for being a great warrior and leader. Achilles explains, “my prize of honor, which I earned and which the Greeks gave to me”(129). Many people know Achilles for these qualities and look up to him for that reason. Later after Patroclus’ death, Achilles goes through the behavior cycle for the second time, starting with arete, summoning his anger and courage, and gets back on the battlefield. Achilles explains his reason for going back to war by saying, “I now ...


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...ector. Afterwards Hector has been killed and have been dragged around the Trojan Walls, His second nemesis occurs when Paris gets back at him for killing one of the Trojan’s best warriors and leaders by killing Achilles with arrow right into his heel, the only place where Achilles can be killed. Achilles being killed is the end of Achilles’ two behavior cycles.
The behavior cycle is well known by Ancient Greeks who have followed some of their heroes through the stages of the behavior cycle. One of the heroes that they followed was Achilles. Achilles started his behavior cycle in The Iliad, in the first stage, arete, as a great leader and warrior, and finished his final behavior cycle tragically, with his death. People mainly know The Iliad as the story of the Trojan War, but really, it is an unfortunate story of a well known hero who goes through a behavior cycle.


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