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Hector v. Achilles In Homers Iliad many of the male characters display characteristics that define the heroic warrior code of ancient Greece. They try to obtain glory and power through victories in war; yet still have a distinct human side. Throughout many conflicts described in the Iliad their weaknesses and strengths appear evident.
Two examples of this are Achilles and Hector. Both of these men try to uphold the warrior code but with distinctly different approaches in war, relationships and devotion to their country.
Despite the differences and the opposing sides; they also have numerous similar traits which logically lead to a comparison between the two men. They both display behavior that could be described as heroic. The first way in which Achilles and Hector act differently is how they approach war.
Achilles knows that he is destined to die in battle. Yet he still fights for his honor and glory. Achilles is known for his fierce and brutal antics in war. Many would come to think that he is not very heroic. He demonstrates the cold and brutal nature of war.
When Agamemnon takes Brises, Achilles war prize, he refrains from fighting in battle. Achilles approach to war is primarily for the glory of his own name. His motives are purely aimed at the remembrance of his name, not the success of his country.
All that he does in war is purely for personal gain. While his strength and courage in war is very heroic, his motives behind it are not so. One of Achilles only reason for fighting that could be honorable is when he fights for the death of Patrucles. His approach to war otherwise is purely for personal gain. Hector on the other hand has many reasons to fight in the battle.
Hector is an honorable man who is loved by his country and family. He is an honorable warrior and his human morals are those considered of a hero. His approach to war is honor and glory for his country. He fights to keep his family and country safe. While some of Hectors actions seem un-heroic, he always seems to fight for the good of Troy. But although Hector may prove overly impulsive and insufficiently prudent, he does not come across as arrogant or overbearing. Moreover, the fact that Hector fights in his homeland, unlike any of the Achaean commanders, develop him as a tender, family-oriented man.
Hector shows deep, sincere love for his wife and children. Hector loves his family; he never loses sight of his responsibility to Troy. Admittedly, he runs from Achilles at first and briefly entertains the hope of negotiating his way out of a duel. However, in the end he stands up to the mighty warrior, even when he realizes that the gods have abandoned him. His refusal to flee even in the face of vastly superior forces makes him the most heroic figures in the story. This is what makes a true hero stand out. His motives towards war are that of the hero.
One of the characteristics of a hero is the relationships that they keep. Hector is the ideal hero in this since. He is a loving family man and a devoted leader. Hector shows deep love for his wife and children. He even treats his brother Paris with forgiveness and indulgence, despite the man’s lack of spirit and preference for lovemaking over military duty. Hector never turns violent with him, merely aiming frustrated words at his cowardly brother. Although Hector loves his family, he never loses sight of his responsibility to Troy. Achilles however does not develop over the course of the story.
Although the death of Patroclus prompts him to seek reconciliation with Agamemnon, it does not alleviate his rage. Instead redirects it toward Hector. The event does not make Achilles a more heroic character. Bloodlust, wrath, and pride continue to consume him. He mercilessly kills his opponents, takes on the river Xanthus, desecrates the body of Hector, and sacrifices twelve Trojan men at the funeral of Patroclus. He does not show any compaction until the final book of the story, when King Priam came begging for the return of Hector’s desecrated corpse. This action seems to appeal to Achilles’ memory of his father, Peleus.
Yet it remains unclear whether a father’s heartbroken pleas really have transformed Achilles, or whether this scene merely testifies to Achilles’ capacity for grief, which was already proven in his mourning of Patroclus. Another way that these two heroes differ is in their reasons for fighting. Hectors reasons for fighting are very clear and noble. He is the future leader and protector of Troy. All that he does in war and battle is to further the existence of Troy. The noble prince fights to uphold his country and family. Never are his actions aimed towards personal gain.
In this aspect it makes Hector the ideal warrior. He upholds the heroic warrior code. Achilles on the other hand is a great warrior with many dishonorable reasons. While in battle Achilles worries only about his own honor and glory. Any time it comes for Achilles to fight it is either out of selfish reasons or anger. One of the few times that he fights honorably is when he fights for the honor of Patroclus. Even when he shows this moment of honor he then turns and desecrates the body of Hector. He had already won the fight yet instead of leaving with his victory he insists on proving his brutality.
This is one of the actions that display Achilles true warrior nature. One of the most common standards of a hero is their devotion to their country. The perfect example of this is Hector. He knows his place in Troy and the role he must play. While still a prince of Troy he shows the most discipline and devotion when it comes to his role as protector of Troy. No matter what the outcome may look like, Hector knows he must face it for the good of his country. There is never any confusion as to where his true devotion lies. Most of Hectors actions are to further the existence of his country.
While Hectors motives and devotion are clear it is not so with Achilles. As seen in many of Achilles fights, he is no patriot. Never does he ever show any true commitment of devotion to his country. Achilles thinks of himself as a God or a gift from the gods. He acts as though they should be worshiping and following him. He shows constant lack of respect for authority. When he refuses to fight of the slave girl, it almost resembles a child throwing a tantrum. In some cases he does show devotion to his warriors and his close friends and family. His brotherly love for Patriclus is an example of this.
Thus both Hector and Achilles behave as heroes throughout the Iliad. While they both try to win glory in war for their families, their country, and themselves, they both have certain strengths and weaknesses in their character which dictate their very different courses of actions. They are both presented with conflicts and dilemmas throughout the story, the results of which must be made using both their human side and their heroic side. Both of these men try to uphold the warrior code but with distinctly different approaches in war, relationships and devotion to their country. All things that are considered of a true warrior