Homer's Iliad enthralls readers with its’ valiant heroes who fight for the glory of Greece. The Iliad, however, is not just a story of war; it is also a story of individuals. Through the characters' words and actions, Homer paints portraits of petulant Achilles and vain Agamemnon, doomed Paris and Helen, loyal Patroclus, tragic Priam, versatile Odysseus, and the whole cast of Gods. Ironically, the most complete character in the epic is Hector, enemy hero, and Prince of Troy. Hector is in many ways the ideal Homeric man: he is a man of compassion and piety, a man of integrity and bravery, a man who loves his family, and above all, a man who understands and fulfills his social obligations under the stringent rules of the heroic code.
Hector, returning to the city from a series of ferocious setbacks at the hands of the Acheans, is introduced as a man of compassion and piety. His behavior as a hero and as a son is markedly different from the behavior exhibited by Agamemnon and Achilles. When he enters the Scaean Gates, he is immediately surrounded by "the wives and daughters of Troy...asking about their sons, brothers, friends and husbands" (VI, 150-151). The very fact that the women approach Hector, intimidating as he must be in his bloodstained armor, is revealing. Up to this point, the women in the story have been silent victims of the raging tempers of the men around them. In contrast, the women of Troy display confidence in Hector's character by approaching him without fear. Though he himself is exhausted and discouraged, Hector patiently responds to the anguished women, demonstrating the compassion he feels for his fighting men and their families. So many ...
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...ties serve as a foil against the cruelty, arrogance, and self-indulgence that cripples some of the other heroes in the Iliad. To the Greeks of Homer's time, Hector stands out as a symbol of what might have been... and a model for what could be.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Clarke, Howard. Homer's Readers: A Historical Introduction to the Iliad and the Odyssey. Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 1981.
Goodrich, Norma. Myths of the hero. New York: Orion Press, 1962.
Homer: Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.
Nagy, Gregory. Concepts of the Greek Hero. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979.
Richardson, Nicholas. The Iliad : A Commentary. Vol. VI: books 21-24. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1993.
Segal, Charles. Heroes and Gods in the Odyssey. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994.
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