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Achilles Vs. Hector Essay, Research Paper

Achilles vs. Hector: The Climax of the Iliad the meeting of two unique warriors.

In the Iliad is a very interesting epic with features two main central characters that are similar in some ways but totally different in other ways. In this epic you will be introduced to Hector and Achilles. Two men from each side in the great Trojan-Greek war. They were both heroes to their people despite their clearly different contrast in their personalities. In this paper I will highlight the life of both of these two leaders of the Greek and Trojans in this epic the Iliad. Also a little will be shed of how Homer portrays the characters deeper then an average thought. I will attempt to show the complexity of his thought process in forming the climax of these two characters coming to battle.

Hector, one of the noblest characters painted by heathen antiquity in the epic of the Iliad by Homer. He felt, from the first, a presentiment of the fall of his country, but still persevered in his heroic resistance. He was a man who was willing to fight till the end. Hector’s union in marriage was with the beautiful Andromache. His traits and character as a husband and father was no less admirable than that as his as a warrior. Even though Hector was the best known, there were other principal leaders on the side of the Trojans. Besides Hector other Trojan leaders were Aeneas and Deiphobus, Glaucus and Sarpedon. If you read the Iliad you would see even in death Hector was a man who life was celebrated.

Achilles the most well- known Greek hero in the Iliad was a man of many facets. Achilles was the son of Peleus, and also served as the King of the Myrmidons in Thessaly where he lived most of his lifetime. Also Achilles was rendered invulnerable, except for the heel by which the sea nymph Thetis held him by when dipping him in the river of Styx. This is when Achilles tried to render himself immortal when bathing in the river of Styx. Educated by Phoenix and the centaur Chiron, Achilles led the Myrmidons in 50 ships to Troy, and during the first nine years of the Trojan War was responsible for the capture of 12 Trojan cities.

In the tenth year Agamemnon, being obliged to surrender his captive Chryseis, made good his loss by depriving Achilles of a favorite slave girl, Briseis. Achilles withdrew from active service to sulk in his quarters, and the Greeks were so hard pressed in consequence that they sent a deputation proposing to restore Briseis with additional rewards. Achilles rejected their offer. At length, however, he agreed to lend his arms and armor to Patroclus, who was killed by Hector in the ensuing fight. Moved to fury by the death of his friend, Achilles made peace with Agamemnon, obtained new armor from Hephaestus, and eventually killed Hector. In the Iliad Achilles is already doomed to die before the Scaean Gate of Troy, and in the Odyssey there is a reference to his funeral. According to subsequent Greek legends Achilles was killed by Paris, who shot a poisoned arrow into Achilles’ heel.

When you read the Iliad you really can notice the contrast between Hector and Achilles. Hector is a man who loves his child and wife and who can forget war when a little child cries. Andromache and Hector are instantly humanized in a way that no other character is in the Iliad except Achilles throughout and Priam at the very end. Their personalities and how they live their life is in complete contrast. Hector is the family man of the two, while also being the defender of the city. Perhaps that may be the reason why he has always been a much more sympathetic character than Achilles. While on the hand you look at Achilles who in contrast, is more of a “loner,” save his close friendship with Patroclus. Achilles is in today’s terms what you would refer to as a Momma’s Boy. When he is hurt, he goes running to his mother. His mother is the only special woman in his life. As for marriage, it has no weight in his consciousness. He seems more the estranged youth than the manly defender represented by Hector. But, as you read the epic the Iliad you will see that this is a necessary part of his role as “Questor”. With a “Questor” defined as being a searcher after truth.

Another thing to note is Hector’s statement that “Deep in my heart I know the day is coming when holy Ilium will be destroyed . . .” We here can see his battle with irrevocable destiny that Hector has to fight. Hector knows Troy cannot possibly win, but chooses never to act on that knowledge. Caught in the turmoil of war, fooled by his temporary victories, he acts and later talks as if Troy will win. But in this instance, Homer lets us into his sub – conscious, so to speak. He knows the truth but his commitment to his social order and his sense of honor force him to fly in the face of it.

Homer does this to create a hero worthy and complex enough to be balanced against Achilles. These two heroes together represent two types of tragedy. With Hector, bearing the tragedy of a man who has all the good things in life but must lose them in the very act of defending them; and Achilles, the tragedy of the alienated hero, the man searching for everything, who, in finding it, as we shall later see, perceives that it was not worth the suffering.

1. “Achilles.” Columbia Encyclopedia 5th ed. 1993.

2. Bulfinch, Thomas Age of Fable or Beauties of Mythology: The Trojan War Chapter XXVII History of the World, 1992

3. “Achilles.” Hutchinson Dictionary of Arts 1st ed. 1998

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