Revenge and Justice in the Iliad and Second Treatise of Government

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Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, and John Locke’s political philosophy essay, Second Treatise of Government, are two different types of literary works with different purposes, but they both strongly touch upon the themes of vengeance and justice. The nature of revenge is agreed upon, but its role in each of the two works is different. Locke implies absolute justice whereas Homer implies both absolute justice and subjective justice that is seen by different individual people, gods, and cultures, but they both agree that governance is the remedy to revenge. Homer and Locke also claim different exceptions for when revenge is acceptable or at least understandable. The Iliad and Second Treatise use the topic of revenge for two different purposes: the former for a plot driver and to inspire reflective thought on human nature, the latter for making a philosophical argument. Regardless, they each make clear a shared belief about the nature of revenge. Homer states through characters (Agamemnon in particular) that desires like that of revenge are natural and inescapable. John Locke states this directly in his Second Treatise, calling it part of the “state of nature” (2TG), the state the world of man would be in without government. They both say the same thing in two different ways. “What could I do? it is God who accomplisheth all. Eldest daughter of Zeus is Ate who blindeth all, a power of bane: delicate are her feet, for not upon the earth she goeth, but walketh over the heads of men, making men fall; and entangleth this one or that.” - Agamemnon, in the Iliad. Both the Iliad and Second Treatise teach a lesson in revenge: it causes problems when unchecked. The Iliad tells of a hero, Achilles, whom tragically causes the death and/or ... ... middle of paper ... ... we defined earlier, for his actions against them, for the sake of defending themselves from further mistreatment. He makes it clear that the mistreatment should be severe and against the people, and that revenge is not justified for one individual against the king for any misdeeds the king does against him. This is supported by his statement that everyone has the right to self-defense, and contrasted by Achilles seeking revenge against his leader for insulting him (which is proven by Homer to be an unjust and tragedy inducing decision). Homer makes the gods the exception; they can do whatever they want and as they please. He also sometimes makes his attitude for revenge unclear at some points in the Iliad with the way he glorifies the violence of the war and Achilles enraged slaughtering of thousands, but of course glorifying war and warriors is part of the culture.

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