The Homeric Hero Of The Iliad Essay

The Homeric Hero Of The Iliad Essay

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The notion of personal honor is prevalent throughout the Iliad. The honor of every person in Homeric culture was important, but to the hero, his honor was paramount. He could not endure insults, and he felt that he had to protect his reputation — even unto death. The hero 's duty was to fight, and the only way he had of gaining glory and immortality was through heroic action on the battlefield; thus, he continually prepared his life for the life-and-death risks of battle. The Homeric hero believed that men had to stand together in battle; men had to respect each other; and they had to refrain from excessive cruelty. This last condition was critically important for the Homeric hero. He loathed deliberate acts of cruelty and injustice. If he were ready to kill a victim, he believed that he should do it quickly; he was not to mutilate him, as Achilles does with Hektor 's body. By following this code, a hero gained a sense of dignity and a reputation for honor that would ensure his place in the social memory of his community.
The Homeric hero lived by strict social and cultural norms that would guide his life at home and on the battlefield. His position as a hero depended upon understanding his place in society and performing in accordance with society 's expectations. He accepted the pattern of a hero, which included a hero 's suffering and a hero 's death. When the hero expressed himself in words, he believed that his thoughts were derived from either society or a god. Nothing came from within. (In his soliloquies, the hero speaks to "his own great-hearted spirit" as though it were another person helping him make the right decisions.)
Communal honor was vital to the Homeric hero 's status; his whole world revolved around his relatio...


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...he threat of others ' judgements, note the actions of both Agamemnon and Achilles during the quarrel in Book I. Both men are at fault. Agamemnon breaks the bond of hero and community by insulting Achilles and claiming Briseis in lieu of Chryseis. Likewise, Achilles ' threat to kill Agamemnon is a social act which, if carried out, would not only show disrespect for his superiors, but would force his Achaian community of soldiers to leave Troy. The disorder that is created by this crisis demands a restoration of order.
Heroes were constantly in fear of disgrace; they feared the judgement of their community. The hero did not distinguish between personal morals and conformity to the morals of the greater society; he concerned himself wholly with acceptance by the people, for if he failed to conform in any way, he risked the anger of his community and, consequently, shame.

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