The Iliad of Homer
Length: 1430 words (4.1 double-spaced pages)
Outline &explain the qualities of a “Homeric Hero”. Who best fits the bill? Why?
The Homeric hero strives to be the best among his peers. His goal is to achieve
the greatest glory in order to earn the highest honor from his peers, his commander, and
finally from his warrior society. He strives for excellence in particular areas of human
behavior, such behaviors are strength, skill, and determination. These are necessary on
the both the athletic and battlefields, it is known as the idea of arete.
The Homeric hero judges his own arete by what his warrior society thinks of him.
How well the Homeric hero will be remembered and honored is determined upon how
well he fights, how his heroic adversity is, and how well he faces death. He feels that
society’s attitude towards him is more important than is own attitude. He chooses to act
in a way that will make him acquire public approval that he needs in order to have self-
The greatest insult to a Homeric hero is to with hold the honor that he has earned.
He is completely shattered when honor is denied him. The honor that he would not have
received would be from a battle, not receiving an appropriate impressive prize, or being
judged a loser in a competition he should have won. The highest and most honored prize
is called the prize of honor. In the Iliad this prize is the most attractive, intelligent,
and skilled female captive. The most absolute honor is everlasting fame. It is the only
for of immortality that a mortal can acquire. This places the Homeric hero lower than the
gods, but higher than the ordinary man.
Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, and Patroclus are considered Homeric heroes.
Achilles acted childish when he did not receive the appropriate prize. He said, “you
threaten to take away my prize of honor, which I earned and which the Greeks gave to
me. Whenever I sack a town, my prize is never as great as yours, even though I am the
greatest Greek fighter. Even so, my small prize is my own. So now I will return to my
homeland. I refuse to stay here, dishonored, in order to win greater wealth for you!” He
is upset that he did not receive a great prize as Agamemnon did. Achilles had worked so
hard to earn a prize and Agamemnon had taken the credit for it and gotten the better
Hector is considered a Homeric hero because he chooses between life and death.
He chooses even though an honorable death will bring the immortality of everlasting
fame. His death is in the hands of Achilles. This shows that Achilles is the greater
warrior and Hector is the greater man.
Discuss the functions of the gods in the Iliad. Name several occurrences that are a direct or indirect result of the god’s wishes.
The functions of the gods were to participate in giving advice to mortals. The
advice was both good and bad. It supplied thoughts and ideas, strength and skill, courage
and determination, and by causing weapons to hit or miss their marks. The Homeric gods
certainly had favorites among the mortals and made an effort to help them. A mortal,
earned divine esteem and goodwill by the way he treats both the gods and other mortals.
The gods were partial to heroes because they appreciated and enjoyed heroic deeds.
His or her own personality and ability concluded a mortal’s actions. The gods
could not change a mortal’s life or death situation. If one was going to die, they could
not change their fate. The Homeric gods were ageless and immortal. The gods
possessed a great knowledge of the future. The gods are influenced by the request of
another and mortal’s prayers.
Achilles’ mother, the sea goddess Thetis, did not want to accept the fact that her
son Achilles was going to die someday because he was half mortal. When Achilles was
an infant, Thetis tried to burn away his mortality by secretly placing him in a fire. Peleus,
Achilles’ father found out about this and was outraged. Thetis was very upset and angry
at this so she left her husband to go back and live at her home in the sea. She had left
Achilles with his father until she would one day return.
One night, Thetis took Achilles down to the River Styx in the Underworld. She
then held him by his heel and dipped him into the water. Every part the river water
touched on his body, he would not be injured. The only way that Achilles could then be
killed was if he was wounded on the back of one heel. Due to Thetis doing this, other
warriors knew where Achilles’ weakness was and soon Achilles life was taken away.
Discuss the qualities of an epic poem and cite examples from the Iliad to prove it to be such a poem.
An epic poem often has repeated descriptions such as, ”Bronze coated Greeks”
“Strange man! Your countrymen are dying in battle upon the wall and within the city, and here you sit! And yet you are the person responsible for the raising of the war cry around Troy. You yourself would be very angry with any coward you caught shrinking away from this hateful war. So arise and help defend your city before it is burned to the ground!”
Sometimes the speeches were exactly and other times they had a slight change. The
poem was usually designed in the form of a tree. The principle plot formed the trunk of
the tree, with many stories branching off from the trunk. The poem would often include
some of the supporting stories in order to instruct particular characters in major plots.
The poem often started from the middle and moved in many directions to make the story
interesting. Sometimes it took months for one tale to be completed.
The poem would normally be a long narrative, generally about a particular person
important to a culture:
“Dearest wife, I too have thought of this, but our people would look upon me with shame if I were to shrink like a coward from battle. My own heart cannot tolerate such behavior. I was taught to be courageous always and to lead the Trojans into battle to win great glory for my father and myself.”
Hector is speaking there. He is considered a great person to the Trojans because he is
their hero. He chooses to leave his wife a widow and his son an orphan in order to save
his city. He wants to fight to save other, not only himself.
Discuss the quest for honor as evidence by Hector, Agamemnon, Achilles, & Paris.
Every hero wishes for honor because honor is the most extraordinary prize.
Hector looked for honor from his countrymen. He went to battle knowing that he was
going to die. He did not turn around and run away, he kept his promise to help them to
win the war. This was a sign of arete. Hector wanted to be honored by no one else
except his warrior society.
Paris looked for honor within hubris. The feeling of hubris would lead the hero to
think that he was greater than the heroes who were his peers and that he had the limitless
power that he attributed to the gods. On account of what Paris did for the goddess
Aphrodite, he thinks that he is a gift to the world. Paris thinks that he is better than
the other heroes. He causes trouble and doesn’t even have to fight his own battles,
he has his warriors there for that.
Agamemnon was interested in nothing but materialistic honor. He wanted the
best prizes, the best respect, the best of everything. His didn’t care much about anything.
That is what made him so different from all of the other heroes. He worshiped
materialistic things, and everyone else worshiped honor that you cannot see.
Achilles found honor within ate, which means blind, rash behavior. Ate
would eventually lead to retribution, or nemesis. The gods would sometimes punish the
hero directly; sometimes other human beings would punish him. He wanted the people
of Greece to bow down to him. He wanted to hear the people say that they needed his
help. He wanted to hear that they needed him, and that is why he stayed out of the war.
He wanted to hear that the people needed him. To Achilles that meant that his people