Jan 16, 2020 in Literature

Homer's Iliad

Homer’s Iliad has certainly promoted the values of the Greeks which were inserted in the main characters. In particular, the value of respect, service, and reverence can be observed on how Achilles handled the conflicting situations that led to the Trojan War. Basically, Iliad is an ancient epic poem that centers on the rage of Achilles, its evolution from the beginning, how it destroys the Achaean army, and how the anger was diverted to the Trojans. Though, readers may interpret the Trojan War as the center of the epic poem because of its magnified portion in the work, it is more of a background than the main theme. The story basically evolves from the entry of Achilles and how the wrath of the said character ended. Instead of focusing on the whole war, the author reduced the epic poem into the quarrels of the individual characters that enlarged their values as heroes or foes of the story. Indeed, Iliad has showcased how the main characters particularly Achilles respond to difficult situations without losing their dignity, honor, and respect to oneself. For that matter, most readers may view Achilles as either a hero or a foe. His values as a hero have been very questionable to some critics because some of his decisions have led to the destruction of lives and property. In that sense, it is the thesis of this paper that Achilleus has been depicted as more of a hero than a foe through his strong adherence to respect and honor.

Consequently, the poem has become more interesting with the participation of the gods in the story. Though the anger of the mortals is the central theme, the epic poem is also presenting the actions of the gods that has added to the conflicts of the mortals. For instance, the conflict of Achilles and Agamemnon started because of the intrusion of Apollo. Apollo sent the plague on the Achaean army that made the conflict more severed. In that context, the gods in the said epic poem have become the external forces that stirred the events that led to the quarrels of the mortal characters. Interestingly, the gods also interfered in the conflicts of the mortals by acting as internal forces upon the individuals. This could be noticed in the actions of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, on Achilles when the latter withheld his ability to be reasonable and just merely shouted on Agamemnon instead of using his sword.

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Moreover, the gods have also exhibited some indications of humanity through their actions and decisions. They provide a twist and humor in the epic poem because they seem to react like ordinary mortals with their bickering, envious acts, and their intrigues with one another. They tend to intervene in human affairs because of their petty emotional responses on the situations of the main characters.   For example, the argument of Achilles and Agamemnon was  also a result of the quarrel between Zeus and Hera. The two gods have toyed with the feelings and situations of the two mortals because of their own personal stake on the matter.

The gods tend to succumb to their appetites and petty grudges that highlighted the greatness of the mortals as compared to them. For one thing, Zeus, as the god of all the gods and goddesses, has been projected to be selfish and less dignified as compared with Achilles. Zeus’ decisions are not really godlike but more of a selfish actions of an envious father. In other words, Zeus has no moral ascendancy over the mortals in the story. For example, he helped the Trojans not because it was the right thing to do but mainly because he merely returned a favor from a mortal. Aside from that, Zeus also tried to silence Hera, his wife, by a threat to strangler the latter. Definitely, this is not an action of a god. 

Achilles’ Emphasis on Respect and Honor

Respect for others has been clearly portrayed through the mortal characters rather than the gods in the Iliad. Achilles has specifically exhibited this moral value in many instances in the story.  For instance, though Achilles is a great warrior, he still respect the decision and blessing of his mother,  the sea-nymph Thetis.  He still prays and asks permission from his mother to guide him in every decision that he makes. As Achilles quarrels with Agamemnon, he respects the power of his mother to mediate between him and Zeus in defeating the Achaeans.

Respect is also observed on how the gods and goddesses treat the human characters. Although they are more divine and powerful than the mortal characters, they have high respect on the ability to decide and act amidst any conflicts. Zeus, in particular, makes careful thinking before intervening in human affairs because he knows that humans have the enormous capacity to discern whether the situation is caused by gods or just natural occurrences. Zeus doesn’t want the human characters to notice that he is one of the major causes of conflicts in the world. His reluctant to interfere in some events would indicate that he respects the humans in their ability to analyze and retaliate in the end.

Basically, the Iliad is epic poem that is centered on the value of respect. Respect can be viewed from the way the human characters look up to gods as their saviors. They know that the gods have the power over them as mere mortals. Of course, this is a two way process with the gods and goddesses respecting the mortals. The fear of the gods and goddesses about the potentials of man to overcome any difficulties that they injected in many events would show that they have high respect to man. In this context, respect tends to prevent the gods and goddesses to blatantly interfere with human affairs. Thus, respect is an internal force that compels every being to think about every action that one must take.

Ironically, though Achilles carries the moral values of honor and dignity, he can be misconstrued as a foe in some situations. With his obsession with honor and dignity that leads to respect to oneself and others, he tends to take actions that may be interpreted as a result of selfishness. For instance, Achilles has been firmed that his victories in battles are evidences of his honor while his losses are consequences of Agamemnon’s actions to dishonor him. This is why Achilles did not hesitate to pray for the destruction of many people, the Army of Agamemnon. In this context, Achilles has succumbed to his obsession with honor that can magnified as a form of greediness. Of course, this is not heroism but Achilles has proved to the readers that he has more heroic actions than disgraceful ones. 

For instance, Achilles has taken action because of Hera’s interference. In this context, Achilles has surrendered to his weakness as a human being by following the ungodly intervention of Hera. In many situations, Achilles has also expressed his wraths beyond what is morally accepted. His expression of rage usually results to the deaths of many, his enemies. Though this is justifiable in a war, it is not good to kill. In such actions, Achilles is portrayed as a violator of human rights. 

However, Achilles is more of a hero than a foe despite such depictions in the epic poem. He has exhibited heroism in most scenes than villainous actions.  Achilles’ rage, for one thing, is brought about by his utmost concern to serve his people. He became a great warrior because he wanted to protect his people from their enemies, the Achaeans. In another situation, instead of accepting Agamemnon’s gifts that would make Achilles wealthier, the latter rejected them because he knew that it would result to disgrace and loss of respect to himself. Thus, although Achilles is also serving his interest or personal grudge against Agamemnon, he has done courageous acts in service for his people. 


Definitely, respect has been emphasized in Homer’s Iliad books 1 and 2. This paper has cited various points and themes where the said value has become integral part of the said epic poem. In particular, respect has been demonstrated in the actions and decisions taken by the main character Achilles. With his tremendous inclination to protect his honor, Achilles has been depicted as more of a hero than a villain, which is the thesis of this paper.


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