From early on in our lives we listen to many stories, we watch a bunch of movies, and we read tons of stories. Most of these stories follow the events and actions our hero takes to become victorious in the end. However, in The Iliad, we follow an Anti-Hero. Achilles and Hector both have flaws, both have failures as many Epic Heros do, no one is perfect not even a true hero.
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But who is a truer hero for there people, who truly represents his men as a respectable leader. Hector. He truly is a lot more heroic than Achilles, he fits closer to the definition of an epic hero, and he’s a much more well rounded man, who nowadays would be considered a much more honorable man in our modern day and age taking into account his action and lifestyle. Hector is the true epic hero in the story.
Who would you give your respect to, A man who barely shows compassion and respect to you, or someone who respects you fully and equally? Achilles lets the achaeans down when he lets the conflict between him and agamemnon motivate him to quit fighting for the Greeks for a time period. Although he had a good reason to be mad at Agamemnon, letting down your whole side of the army over something as petty as that, is truly sad.
Both Achilles and Hector are amazing warriors, Achilles the being known as the deciding factor in the war, and Hector being known as the sole defense of Troy, they both had many qualities that fit the definition of an Epic Hero. However Achilles’ tragic flaw was what caused him to fall behind being a true hero in The Iliad.
His pride was everything, when stripped of his prize of war he gave up on everyone and withdrew from battle disregarding one of the key points of an epic hero ‘Loyalty” An epic hero stays true to his objective no matter the obstacle he may face. Achilles does not follow that rule, He is egotistical and would rather see the Achaeans be defeated then to be insulted by Agamemnon. A true good leader would always put his men before himself but that’s not the case with achilles.
“ Sail home? Is that what you’re turning over in your mind,my glorious one, Achilles? Have you no heart at all to fight the gutting fire from the fast trim ships? The spirit inside you overpowered by anger! […] I have no heart to be left behind, not even if Zeus himself would swear to scrape away the scurf of age and make me young again.” (Homer, Book 9, 527-530, 540-542)
On the other hand we have Hector who stays loyal to the trojans no matter what, when he makes a mistake he feels disgrace for betraying his people due to his pride, achilles shows no compassion for his comrades willing to send them into battle hungry because he was angry over something he wanted, his rage and passion overthrew everyone else’s desires and needs in his mind, he was the important one here, no one else mattered at this point since he felt hurt.
You and Odysseus urge us to a banquet! I, by god, I’d drive our Argives into battle now. starving, famished, and only then, when the sun goes down, lay on a handsome feast-once we’ve avenged our shame. Before then, for me at least, neither food nor drink will travel down my throat, not with my friend dead. (Homer, Book 19, 245-250)
Hector truly understands his responsibilities, even when he knows Troy is bound to fall he doesn’t give in, he fights to the bitter end, he fights for what he believes in and that is his people. He is a true hero or respects the rules of wars and wants to die with passion, he tries to make a formal agreement before his fight with Achilles that the body be returned because he was saying ti out of compassion for the other amazing warrior, but was denied because Achilles wanted to take out his revenge for his friend, whose body was returned. Mixed with his rage against agamemnon.
When it comes down to it as well, the respect of your companions on the battlefield is great. But the respect of the gods is a lot more. Achilles only ever appeals to the gods when he wants something, unlike Hector who gives full respect to the gods.
Don’t offer me mellow wine, mother. not now you’d sap my limbs, I’d lose my nerve for war. And I’d be ashamed to pour a glistening cup to Zeus with unwashed hands. I’m splattered with blood and filth how could I pray to the lord of storm and lightning? (Homer, Book 6 ,313-317)
Achilles only ever shows respect to people he fears, and he doesn’t fear the god, he clearly doesn’t he continuously provokes them does not show any compassion towards them and all around could just care less about them being there. He is more or less angry due to them for being immortal while he was stuck with the shortest life imaginable “doomed to the shortest life of any man on earth”(Homer, book 1, 603).
While on the other hand Hector doesn’t want to make the gods angry, he doesn’t want to pour a glass of wine in honour of zeus while his hands aren’t washed cause it isn’t truly enough respect for the gods in his eyes. When we look at these two men we are down to question it, they both get aid from the gods during battles, Achilles doesn’t truly appreciate the aid and tends to overlook it. Unlike Hector who continues to respect the gods even though they complete abandon him near the time of his death, he does with his dignity giving in to his fate and dying leaving Troy to be destroyed in battle.
Both of these men have one flaw. Honor, it’s what truly shows there true self, but the way they handle it is much different. Achilles honor is hurt over a war prize, he’s hurt because it was taken away from him unfairly as he would be led to believe, he lets his pride of the prize get in between him and the war damaging his honor. Hectors honor is damaged by the mistake he made deciding to do a different course of action that dishonoured his army.
In the end of the Iliad, as Hector faces Achilles, they both are representatives of their respective heroic failures, but these are failures that are brought about by the tensions within the heroic code itself. By angrily standing apart from battle to maintain his honor, and by allowing Patroclus to enter combat in his stead, Achilles has not been sufficiently sensitive to the shame that should come from neglecting one’s comrades-in-arms. Hector, in turn, chooses to face Achilles rather than risk the shame of the people of Troy (Warnick Achilles and Hector: The Homeric Hero (review) 118)
When we look at both of these men, Achilles truly could care less we see this when he returns to the war and tries to get the men to go into battle because he is mad over the death of Patroclus which HE sent into battle wearing HIS armour , so in reality it is truly Achilles fault for the passing of his closes companion, and as many believe, his lover. However Hector actually feels shame he knows he screwed up and he feels really bad for it. He feels the shame and goes into battle against Achilles to try to appeal to his faults, even if he knows he stands little to no chance.
Both men are heros to there nation, Both are incredible warriors, but one truly shines over the other and it is Hector. The man who mid war, visited his child and wife. He smiles, He laughs, He enjoys there company, but thats not heroly to leave battle, But it shows he is a much more well rounded man, who truly cares and has compassion for everyone around him. He knows his family matters, he knows his people matters. He truly cares, he is truly a hero.