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The Pursuit of Honor in Homer’s Iliad Essay

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The Pursuit of Honor in Homer’s Iliad


Throughout history, people have pondered the question of human mortality. In examining the issue, the Ancient Greeks, came to the conclusion that there are two spheres of immortality: that which is reserved for the Gods and that which can be attained by mere mortals. The Gods are destined to eternal youth and life; however, for humans who are predestined to die, this existence is impossible to attain. Rather, humans must strive to gain everlasting honor, the only form of immortality available to them.

It is this idea that Homer seeks to expound in his epic poem, "The Iliad." Throughout his poem, Homer depicts the degree to which honor plays a role in the lives of the Greeks, and the manner in which they are willing to sacrifice in order to reach their goal. This theme manifests itself from the outset of the work, as "The Iliad," is set during the Trojan war, a particularly long and bloody war, fought not over political differences, not over boundary disagreements and not to protect the nation. Rather, it was a war fought to defend and uphold the honor of one individual, Menelaous whose wife had been stolen from him by the Trojan prince, Paris.

This is the value that suffuses the narrative of "The Iliad." According to the axioms of Greek society, one must defend his status and prevent shame from being brought upon him, at all costs. "...[M]y father, he sent me to troy, and urged upon me repeated injunctions, to be always among the bravest and hold my head above others, not shaming the generation of my fathers..." (VI 206-9) This is the Greek bible, the guide to proper decorum. A man's honor, and the honor which he brings his father, is paramount.

Hektor, the bravest of the Troj...


... middle of paper ...


...: Hackett Publishing Co., 1994.

Richardson, Nicholas. 1993. The Iliad : A Commentary. Vol. VI: books 21-24. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schein, Seth L. The Mortal Hero: An Introduction to Homer's Iliad. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

Silk, M. S. Homer: The Iliad. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Stanford, W. B. The Ulysses Theme: A Study in the Adaptability of a Traditional Hero. Dallas, TX: Spring Publications, 1992.

Steiner, George, and Fagles, Robert, eds. Homer: A Collection of Critical Essays. Twentieth Century Views, ed. Maynard Mack. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1962.

Van Nortwick, Thomas. Somewhere I have travelled: the hero's journey. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Whitman, Cedric H. Homer and the Heroic Tradition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958.


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