A hero is one who willingly and eagerly confronts death, and three Greek words embody the heroic code: aristos, arete, and aristeia. Aristos is being the best at whatever is called for by the situation: in wartime, killing; in peacetime, husbandry; in seamanship, steering. To be known as the best requires aristeia--exploits which gain for the warrior the prestige of having comrades consider him possessed of arete, merit. Arete can only be bestowed by others, not by self. In the world of the Iliad what the world thinks of you is far more important than what you think of yourself. Indeed, it is what you think of yourself. Fame and glroy, kleos, can only be achieved through action. This is why the withdrawal of Achilleus from the battle is such a devastating decision: without exploits he has no identity and can only sit in his shelter singing about fame and glory instead of achieving it. Achilleus is no longer aristos, the best of the Achaians, when Agamemnon succeeds in depriving ...
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...symbolic King of Hades.
Priam enters alone, falls to the ground, clasps the knees and kisses the hands of Achilleus. Moved by the tears of the groaning father, the hero of the Iliad weeps at the thought of his own father's devastation had the body of Achilleus lain on a battlefield to be ravaged by wild dogs and vultures. As Priam and Achilleus shed tears of sadness and loss in recognition of their common human condition, Achilleus, in a heroic thrust through the heroic code, agrees to return the body of Hektor, slayer of his dear friend and companion Patroklos. The days of wrath thus end with a compassionate human rather than heroic gesture.
Source Citation: Gray, Wallace, "Homer: `Iliad'," in his Homer to Joyce, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1985, pp. 1-16. DISCovering Authors. Online Edition. Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. Thomson Gale. 24 October 2005
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