Heroism in Homer's Iliad

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Every civilization throughout history has had its heroes, those who represent the values of their society to the highest degree. In today’s society, we think of heroes as super-humans who run faster than a speeding train and leap over buildings in a single bound. In ancient Greece, heroes were people who demonstrated great feats of strength and tremendous courage in battle. Greek heroes possessed wealth, power, and courage which earned them respect and honor in the community. In the Iliad, Homer tells the story of two warriors, Achilleus and Hektor, both of whom exhibit many of the qualities of a Greek hero. Although Hektor fights against the Greeks, Homer expounds on his good qualities and even makes him more heroic than Achilleus.
Hektor’s shows his heroism in Homer’s description of him as the greatest of the Trojans. Homer describes Hektor’s strength and greatness several times in the epic. In Helen’s conversation with Hektor in Book VI, she appeals to Hektor and makes several statements about him being the best man among the Trojans, much better than her husband Paris. Helen says, “I wish I had been the wife of a better man than this is';(book VI, ll. 26). The “better man'; to whom she refers is Hektor. Hektor also receives praised at his burial ceremony when the women of Troy speak in his honor. Here, his wife, Andromache, says, “There were so many Achaians/whose teeth bit the vast earth, beaten down by the hands of/Hektor';(book XXIV ll. 286-289). Andromache makes it very clear that Hektor fought bravely and dominated the Greek forces. Even the gods concede Hektor’s greatness in their speeches. In book XVIII, Thetis warns Achilleus that Hektor has great strength and that Achilleus should not go to fight him without divine armor. Homer’s description of Hektor’s power and strength lays a solid foundation for proving that Hektor’s heroism exceeds that of Achilleus because he is the greatest of the Trojans. Priam does not fight due to his age and Paris does not help the Trojan forces, so Hektor burdens the entire weight of the war on his own shoulders. He gives his help for the good of his city. Hektor shows his love for his community several times in his speeches to fellow Trojans. In his talk with Paris, ...

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...Homer describes the heroic acts of Achilleus. For example, Achilleus wins the battle and kills Hektor, therefore, one can argue about Achilleus’ superiority over Hektor in battle. Achilleus’ devotion to his friend, Patrokolos, who died in battle demonstrates another one of his heroic qualities. Achilleus stays loyal to his friend even after he accepts the ransom and then asks for Patrokolos’ forgiveness. Lastly, Achilleus shows a human side that eluded him throughout most of the epic. He gives back Hektor’s body to Priam and even praises Priam for his bravery. After all his hate and anger, Achilleus shows compassion, although not nearly as much as Hektor. Despite these facts, Hektor surpasses Achilleus as the greater hero of the Iliad.
In the Iliad, Homer brilliantly shows the heroism of two opposing warriors. The contrasting heroes themselves become a major theme and add an interesting element of contrast to the story. Fascinatingly, Homer makes Hektor, a Trojan, the greater hero of the Greek epic, the Iliad. The contrasting heroism between Hektor and Achilleus is one reason we are still reading the Iliad over 2000 years after its creation.
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