Family Dynamics in Homer's Iliad

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The relationships between parents and their sons in the Iliad are not relationships we expect to see in today’s society. The Iliad portrays the relationships between fathers and sons as something more than just physical and emotional. It is based on pride and respect for one another. The expectations of their son are more so to pass on their fathers reputable name and to follow in their father’s footsteps of being noble warriors. These relationships are the driving forces in the Iliad, making each son in the Iliad identifiable first by their father’s name. An outcome of the father–son relationships is ancestral loyalty among the characters which play a prominent role in war. Therefore, not only does the Iliad share a major war story, but the strong relationships among fathers and sons, ancestral loyalty among characters, and relationships between mothers and sons.

Among the many father and son relationships in the Iliad, the first relationship to analyze is between Priam and Hector. Priam is a dignified warrior who fathered fifty sons. Hector, being one of fifty, is a warrior who is earning the respect to be as righteous as his father. As with most father and son relationships portrayed, Priam barely had any physical interaction with Hector. Therefore, when Hector died it was very touching to hear Priam make such a compelling and fervent request to Achilles to have Hector’s body returned to him.

“ My Hector. It is for him I have come to the Greek ships, to get him back from you. I’ve brought a fortune in ransom. Respect the gods, Achilles. Think of your own father, and pity me. I am more pitiable. I have born what no man who has walked this earth has ever yet borne. I have kissed the hand of the man who killed my son” ( Book 2...

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...go now to see and hear my dear son, since he is suffering while he waits out the war…child, why are you crying? What pain has come to your heart? Speak, don’t hide it’ (Book 18, Lines 66-81). Thetis here is provoking the emotional bond between mother and son, she wants her son to speak of his feelings and allow her to comfort him while he is in sorrow. This would not be seen between a father and son because they would be viewed as weak.

The Iliad is not only a story of war, but a story of relationships and family connections through respect and honor. Sons don’t seem to question their duties to their family. They go to battle and fight until the end, maybe even until their death. They do not search for love from their fathers, but for the respect and desire to follow just as their fathers did, to be dignified warriors and proud of their ancestral accomplishments.

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