Achilles: The Value Of Honor In Homer's Iliad

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The rage of Grecian hero Achilles stands at the forefront of the Homeric epic “Iliad.” During the tenth year of the Trojan War, Achilles must weigh his value of honor with his value of survival at four points throughout the epic; first when Agamemnon takes away Bryseis, second when Agamemnon tempts him into battle with gifts, third when Patroclus dies, and finally when King Priam attempts to ransom for Hector’s body back. The Iliad begins after Achilles has fought on behalf of the Greeks for ten years, trying to earn glory for himself and the entirety of the Grecian army. When Agamemnon must return his war prize, the priest’s daughter, Chryseis, Agamemnon takes Achilles’ war prize, Bryseis, in return. For Achilles, taking his prize away was…show more content…
Agamemnon offers Achilles an enormous sum of gifts, including the girl who started the feud in the first place. Instead of appeasing Achilles, it only enrages him more that Bryseis was so carelessly taken away and offered back to him. To Achilles, Agamemnon “took her right out of my hands, cheated me, and now he thinks he’s going to win me back?” (Iliad, pg. 169) Achilles’ decision is being swayed by more than just his feeling of being insulted. He is also contemplating the words of his mother’s prophecy: “"If I stay here and fight, I 'll never return home, but my glory will be undying forever. If I return home to my dear fatherland my glory is lost but my life will be long, and death that ends all will not catch me soon." (Iliad, pg. 171) When Phoenix emphasizes the honor attached to the pile of gifts, Achilles responds saying “I don 't need that kind of honor, Phoenix, my honor comes from Zeus, and I will have it among these beaked ships as long as my breath still remains and my knees still move." (Iliad, pg. 176) Achilles is now grappling with a certainty of death if he decides to go and fight the Trojans, which means the honor that is attached to the gifts sent by Agamemnon is trivial when weighed against a long and healthy life. Achilles makes the decision: “Nothing is worth my life, not all the riches,” and not the honor that comes with them. (Iliad,…show more content…
As Patroclus leaves the epic, so does Achilles’ “will to remain alive among men.” (Iliad, pg. 358) Patroclus was Achilles’ one friend from home who had been with him for most of his life and was the only person who could remind Achilles of home. In the hero’s words, “My friend is dead, Patroclus, my dearest friend of all. I loved him.” (Iliad, pg. 357) With Patroclus gone, Achilles’ grief was great enough to cause him to be indifferent toward his own life. Even as his mother reminds him of the prophecy that caused him to remain outside of the fighting in the first place, Achilles’ response is “then let me die now…But now, to glory.” (Iliad, pg. 358) Achilles immediately turns and thinks only of how to gain the honor that was promised him in return for his life. “Nothing matters to me now but killing, blood, and men in agony,” in order to regain his own honor and that which was taken from his dearest friend, Achilles chooses honor over survival for the first time in the epic. (Iliad, pg.

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