"The Iliad" and the Pursuit of Honor and Glory Essay

"The Iliad" and the Pursuit of Honor and Glory Essay

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The Iliad, which is an epic poem written about the Trojan War, was the first thing written in the European tradition. Astonishingly, its quality and appeal have yet to be surpassed. This is a result of Homer's use of idealistic themes, many of which show up in many modern novels. One of the most dominant themes present in The Iliad is the pursuit of honor and glory. Even though the Achaeans and Trojans are in a violent battle with one another, both display a similar attitude: the acquisition of glory is more important than life itself.

The Achaeans are more concerned with personal glory and achievement rather than the well-being of the city. Two Characters who definitely display this characteristic are Agamemnon and Achilles. Agamemnon is selfish and is only concerned with his own honor. This is seen almost immediately in the poem. In book one, during the tenth year of battle, Chryses visits Agamemnon and offers ransom for his daughter, Chryseis who was taken as plunder early in the war. Although the ransom is attractive, Agamemnon refuses the money because the girl represents power and glory and that is far more important than wealth. Plunder represents victory; therefore, the more women Agamemnon possesses, the more glorified and powerful he feels. Eventually, Agamemnon returns the girl to her father; however, he insists that someone give him a female to compensate for his loss and restore his honor. He views the situation as a challenge to his authority and complains, "I alone of the Argives go without my honor. That would be a disgrace" (1.139-40). Agamemnon demands, the "Argives will give me a prize, a match for my desires, equal to what I have lost, well and good. But if they give me nothing I will take a p...


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...tle whereas the battle would have been over. Thus, like others in Homer's epic poem Pandarus lets the pursuit of glory interfere with life.

"The Iliad is a poem that celebrates the heroic values war imposes on its votaries (27)." Homer himself describes war as "bringing glory to man." War is a huge part of both the Achaeans and the Trojans' lives. Characters gain glory through their performances and bravery in battle. Furthermore, Homer persuades the reader that war is the glorious way to settle a dispute. For example, Hector and other Trojans scorn Paris for backing down from Menelaus. On the other hand, Achilles acquires glory by deferring the option of a long, peaceful life in order to fight and become an epic hero. The characters in The Iliad value honor and glory to such a degree that they are willing to give up life itself in order to possess it.

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