The Good in Achilles

The Good in Achilles

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Achilles was in search for glory. He wanted his name to last throughout the centuries. And his prayers to the mighty Olympus gods were answered. The evidence is that we strangers to him and to his world still chant his name. Previously, his name was preserved for the intellects, however with the 21st century technology the buzz of his name will be heard for many years to come. Now, step outside the York boundaries and ask any commoner be it a fifteen year old illiterate to classics and say who was Achilles and they will say he is the great Greek warrior portrayed by Brad Pitt. But I must ask, that was only a very basic thing to his identity, so what do we remember him as? He has achieved the immortality he was seeking, but what characteristics do we associate with him? I believe that Achilles was a trained killer, a warrior, and a Greek, but above all he was a son, a friend, and a lover. He did have many flaws in his character but who does not? He has come around for those he loved and was noble towards them even after he wronged them. His nobility costed him to lose them and his precious life.

I have heard countless times that the love story between Achilles and Briseis is weak or none existing in the Iliad. I have heard countless times that Briseis is not an important character in the Iliad. Even though she is hardly present on stage, Briseis is the reason of the death of many Danaans, is the cause of the death of Patroklos, Hector, Achilles, and eventually the destruction of the house of Priam. All of those disasters happen because of Achilles anger for his loss of her. Homer did not put this fact in the Iliad if Briseis did not have a value to Achilles. Achilles abandons his comrades and his dear friend Patroklos because of this woman. He states several times in the Iliad that he loves her or that she is dear to him, so how can that be ignored? "As in my heart I loved Briseis, though I won her by the spear."(9.418-419 Iliad) It could be argued that he abandoned his comrades because he was too proud but that could not be the only reason, it is part of the story though. Achilles became angry when his prize was taken from him and his pride forced him to reject to take her back home "he holds my bride, dear to my heart.

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Aye let him sleep with her and enjoy her!"(9.411-412 Iliad) If Briseis did not have any value to him Homer would not have had Achilles to call her his bride and dear to his heart.

In Troy the love story between Achilles and Briseis is the central subject. It is clear to see how dear she is. She is his equal intellectually, and he seems to be attracted to her because of that. He tells her that she is the only Trojan who should not fear him. After she is returned to him he tries to wash her with a towel but she refuses and he tries several times until he throws the towel at her and she retaliates by throwing the towel back. That incident proves how tolerant he is with her. The great, mighty Achilles hit by a woman? Even Agamemnon is surprised by Achilles affection towards Briseis when he says "mighty Achilles silenced by a slave girl?" Spoils of War, Troy. In Troy Achilles is more of a 21st century bachelor. According to our values he is nobler with his Girl in Troy then in the Iliad. However he never says as he does in the Iliad that he loves her or that she is dear to his heart. We see them having sex but the only true love-emotional scene is in the end before he dies. He kisses her hair and says "you gave me peace in a life time of war" Brought to Heel, Troy. Watching that scene made me cry even though I knew ahead of time what was to happen. That is the ultimate prove for their love for each other in Troy.

Patroklos had a great role in the life of Achilles. After his death Achilles becomes cynical. He loses his rationality. He kills many Trojans brutally. He disintegrates the body of Hector disrespectfully. When he is weeping for Patroklos' death his mother appears and asks him why is he crying, did not the gods answer his prayers and he replies "Mother, yes, the masters of high Olympus brought it all about, but how have I benefited? My greatest friend is gone: Patroklos, comrade in arms, whom I held dear above all others-dear as myself now gone, lost" (19.86-91 Iliad). Through the previous quote we can see how dear Patroklos was to Achilles over many of the things he was fighting for previously such as glory and his pride. In the next quote we will see that according to Homer Patroklos is the most important individual in Achilles' life "No burden like this grief will come a second time upon my heart, while I remain among the living" (22.55-57 Iliad).

Wolfgang Peterson kept the relationship between Achilles and Patroklos in Troy similar to that in the Iliad. Here Achilles is the older, watches Patroklos' back, and is worried for his well being. He becomes cynical when he loses him. When Achilles is about to take the beach of Troy he shows his concern for the safety of Patroklos by refusing him to fight and says "I can't fight the Trojans if I am concerned for you" Immortality at Troy's Shore, Troy. When Priam goes to Achilles to plead back his sons' body Achilles explains his rage by saying "he killed my cousin" A Father's Plea, Troy. Through those juxtapositions Peterson shows the mixture of good and bad in Achilles character, and his affection for his friend.

Peleus is never present personally, however, he is never absent from Achilles' mind. Peleus is the reason Achilles wants to go back home in the Iliad. The readers can sense a great deal of attachment from Achilles to his father. After Patroklos' death Achilles becomes very brutal, however, when Priam comes and pleads by comparing himself to Peleus Achilles grows soft. Priam claims that the parallel between himself and Peleus fails in only one aspect, Peleus is at least hoping to welcome his son to his halls some day. Achilles fells pity for his dear father since he knows his fate and that of his father. "Now in Achilles the evocation of his father stirred new longing and an ache of grief" (22.608-610 Iliad). Therefore, he becomes sympathetic with Priam and returns to him the body of his son. Achilles is regretful that he can not be there for his father and says remorsefully "Can I stand by him in his age? Far from my country I sit at Troy to grieve you and your children" (22.650-651 Iliad). Yes Achilles was brutal, but there was a softer side to him.

In Troy Peleus is dead but never the less when Priam comes imploring and compares himself to Peleus, Achilles becomes very emotional. His cold facial impressions change. He cannot look directly at Priam. Priam lists all that afflicted him by Achilles' hand, and he says "You have taken everything from me" A Father's Plea, Troy. Therefore, Achilles becomes emotional and admits that Priam is courages and that Hector was the best he has fought. By Priam losing everything he realizes that his father also has lost it all. He has raised an only son to take care of his Kingdome after him but now he knows that his father will not have his wish fulfilled. He realizes that his father will not have any grandchildren to carry out his name. Therefore, his father has lost all same as Priam, so he pities him and returns the body of Hector. Both in The Iliad and In Troy, Achilles respecting Priam represents Achilles' longing for his father, but also it represents Achilles respect for the elders. It is the same respect he has given his old uncle Phoenix, and Nester. Respect for the elders is one more good quality for Achilles.

There are many flaws suronding the character of Achilles, but so far in this paper I tried to present some good qualities of his. He is tolerant and loving for his Briseis. He cares and revenges for his friends' right. He loves and respects his father, and by that he respects the older characters he encounters in the epic and in the movie. In conclusion, there is no one person who is pure evil or pure good. We all have mixes and different colors, and Achilles is one more human.

Troy, Wolfgang Peterson

Iliad, Homer
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