Is Achilles Treatment Of Hector's Body Conduct Unbecoming A Knight?
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Based on the text, I find it undeniable that Achilles' treatment of Hector's body was despicable. But the argument can be furthered with the question of Achilles' role in the story. Was Achilles a knight at all? Or was he simply a killer with an army? If Achilles can only be considered a knight technically, then can his actions really be measured by something he isn't truly? If it is assumed Achilles was a "knight" the argument will go one way. But if Achilles is viewed as a killer, all assumptions of proper action are dismissed, and therefore, his treatment of Hector's need find an alternative gauge.
To take it back ten steps, let's first discuss Achilles' treatment of Hector, before Hector was just a body to be discarded. In Homer's The Iliad, Hector, the son of King Priam and the heir to the Trojan throne, is faced in battle with Achilles, a Greek man made invulnerable to harm (and known for his number of killings), except for a bit of his heel that was not dipped (as he was, as a baby) in the river Styx. Their dual follows the wrongful death of Achilles' close friend Patroclus (who had dressed in Achilles' armor and entered battle) at the hands of Hector. Though Hector was mistaken, and Patroclus' death was arguably unnecessary, Achilles holds Hector accountable, and therefore they meet for battle outside the walls of Troy when Achilles comes seeking Hector, and Hector only.
It is important, still, to give clear impressions of these men, before their battle, and the aftermath of it, is analyzed. These are two men who represent very different backgrounds, coming together to fight in a battle that will test the strength of their fighting skills, and morality. Hector is the son of a king, and acts so. He expresses not only his fear of the fight with Achilles, but also of what will happen if he does not fight. "So now, better by far for me/To stand up to Achilles, kill him, come home alive/Or die at his hands in glory out before the walls. (Book XXII 124-131)" Hector embodies a sense of nobility that Achilles does not share. He fights for not only himself, but for the cause of protecting his country and its pride. Achilles fights Hector for revenge. Therefore, Hector enters the confrontation pursuing an obligation, and Achilles enters it hoping to pacify his pain in the loss of Patroclus.