In Homer’s epic, the Iliad, the legendary, has no two characters that are so similar yet so different as Greek warrior, Achilles, and the Prince of Troy, Hector. Achilles is the strongest fighter in the Greek side, and Hector is the strongest Trojan. They are both put into the mold of a hero that their respective societies have put them into; however; it is evident that they are both extremely complex characters with different roles within their society and with their families, and with the gods.
In the Greek society, Achilles has the role of the aggressive soldier. From the very first lines of the epic, we are introduced to Achilles’ murderous rage:
“Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds” (Book 1, Line 1-5).
The fact that the opening lines of the epic are about Achilles’ power and the people he has killed as a soldier on the Greek side show the huge importance given to him and his power. In his confrontation with Agamemnon regarding Chryseis, he tells Agamemnon that the Greek people want him to give Chryseis back to her father, the priest. This is an example of his great status among his people – he represents them, the one that lets Agamemnon hear their voice.
Achilles is the son of Peleus and the goddess Thetis. It is evident that he loves his father and holds him dearly in the scene of Priam’s speech. Priam appeals to him as a father, and reminds Achilles of his own father:
“Remember your own father, great godlike Achilles –
As old as I am, past the threshold of deadly old age.”
His speech moves the ...
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...or’s body. Achilles drags his body behind his chariot whenever he is overcome by grief. Despite all they do to his body, Apollo protects it from all damages.
Achilles and Hector are both loved by Zeus, who has taken no side in this dispute.
Hector and Achilles, two outstanding warriors on opposing sides in a conflict, show that there is more to people than what meets the eye. Although they are seen as ultimately heroic and powerful, their weaknesses and inner conflicts are unmistakable. Their differences are larger and more significant than their similarities, and to think of them as interchangeable warriors diminishes their significance. Achilles is portrayed as a fierce fighter who is harsh on the battlefield, but cares about the ones he loves very deeply, whereas Achilles is shown as a strong fighter with a more sensitive heart and compassion for all people.
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