"Of Bravery, Cowardice, and Death."
A Greek warrior who is born mortal faces the unfortunate reality that someday he will die. Regardless of whether he lived bravely or as a coward, he will still die. A mortal by definition is fated to do so.While it may seem self-evident that living a life of courage is more fulfilling than living a life of cowardice, to the Greeks, there existed well defined incentives to live bravely, and conversely, great drawbacks to living as a coward. The behavior of the god-fearing Greeks in the Iliad was strongly influenced by the notion of a completely undesirable, and inevitable, afterlife, and the belief that living a life of courage leads to the fundamental betterment of life and the preservation of a character's memory.
Upon death, the Greeks enter the kingdom of Hades. Hades is a place that is forever apart from the world of mortals, and entirely inescapable. To the Greeks, death was far from a desirable conclusion from the pains of life's struggle. Rather, death is a profoundly awful thing that is very much worth avoiding if at all possible. Sappho makes the excellent point that if death were a good thing, then everyone, even the gods, would die. [Sappho, 87] But they do not.They are the immortals. This negative image of death is reinforced in The Iliad for instance, as Deiphobus jeers over the enemy corpse of Hypsenor: "Down to the god of death goes… but thrilled at heart – look at the escort I have sent him for the journey!" [Book XIII. 482-484] He revels in the death of the enemy and he takes pleasure in the fact that Hypsenor will suffer alongside Asius.
Death is the ultimate fate of every mortal, and is inescapable. The method by which that fate is fulfilled is not. It is clear that the Greeks did not desire death, and they were not above fleeing to save their skins. If they felt they were outmatched, or at a disadvantage, they generally retreated. I…