Free Essays - Achilles' Moral Dilemma in Homer's Iliad


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Achilles' Moral Dilemma in Homer's Iliad


The question "was Achilles' anger justified" brings up issues that seem to have little or no relevance to the war. In time of war I would expect the leaders to prioritize the groups interest for the sake of unity and cooperation rather than being entrenched in achieving their own personal goals. But my expectations are those of a modern day literature student, I'm inclined to think that the Greeks who first read this epic valued different things than myself. Another relevant question might be "were Achilles' actions justified". Anger can be easily justified, but the actions that anger might lead you to take are not as easily justified. Again I am not an ancient Greek and my opinions are irrelevant unless I open my mind to different viewpoints. Therefore I am striving to look into this issue through ancient Greek eyes where the principle of sacrificing ones own interests was apparently not valued, but maintaining ones honor, on the other hand, was greatly valued. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to answer these two aforementioned questions.

The facts of this conflict are all pretty straight forward and by recounting the facts I hope to bring to light the truths that justify Achilles' anger. First off Agamemnon had distributed the booty fairly and all the more powerful Achaeans had gotten a concubine, Agamemnon just happened to choose the daughter of one of Apollo's priest. When Apollo sends a plague to the Achaean camp Achilles' concern for his comrades leads him to call an assembly with the purpose of interpreting the plague and taking necessary action. Agamemnon reluctantly agrees to return his concubine to her father if he is repaid another concubine by one of the other powerful Achaeans. At this Achilles stands up for himself and the other Achaeans, he insults Agamemnon by saying that Agamemnon claims his greatness. When Agamemnon takes Achilles' concubine, Achilles probably expected the other Achaeans to stand up for him as he had done for them earlier. But he is left alone. His honor insulted by a man that he had served loyally. Humiliated, by a group of people to whom he owed nothing. A great sense of betrayal overcame Achilles.

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All these events lead Achilles to withdraw his forces from the Achaean army, when he does this Agamemnon, convinced that he is the greatest of the Achaeans, professes that Zeus will support his cause. This further angers Achilles who decides to plead his mother, Thetis, to influence Zeus to make the Trojans successful.

The facts speak for themselves and what they show us is that Achilles' honor had been insulted; he had been betrayed, left alone, and humiliated. Although a hero in my eyes would look over all these things and, not only accept to put the group's interest ahead of his own, but strive to do this. Achilles' anger was justified, justified in ancient Greek society as well as in modern day society. Achilles' anger might not have been justified if I were applying moral values to analyze the situation, but since morality is not an issue here but achieving ones goals instead; Achilles' actions were indeed also justified.


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