The Iliad

Word Count: 1124

Throughout The Iliad, the heroic characters make decisions based on a
definite set of principles, which are referred to as the "code of
honor." The heroic code that Homer presents to the reader is an
underlying cause for many of the events that take place, but many of the
characters have different perceptions of how highly the code should be
Hektor, the greatest of the Trojan warriors, begins the poem as the
model of a Homeric hero. His dedication and strict belief in the code of
honor is illustrated many times throughout the course of The Iliad. An
example of this is presented in book three of the poem, where Hektor
reprimands Paris for refusing to fight. He says to Paris, "Surely now
the flowing-haired Achains laugh at us, thinking you are our bravest
champion, only because your looks are handsome, but there is no strength
in your heart, or courage" (3:43). Hektor believes that it is against
the heroic code for a person to abstain from fighting when his fellow
men are in the battlefield. Hektor faces a moral dilemma when dealing
with Paris. By being Paris\' brother, Hektor is supposed to protect and
honor his decisions, but he believes that Paris is wrong in his actions,
and feels it necessary to make that known to him.
Another place where we see Hektor\'s strict belief in the code of honor
is in the events that take place during his return home in the sixth
book. Hector returns to Troy in order to have the queen and the other
women make a sacrifice to Athena, hoping that she will help the Trojans
in the war. After arranging that act he visits Paris, with the intention
of convincing him to fight. Visibly upset, Hektor scolds Paris, telling
him that "The people are dying around the city and around the steep wall
as they fight hard; it is for you that this war with its clamour has
flared up about our city. You yourself would fight with another whom you
saw anywhere hanging back from the hateful encounter," (6:327). Paris
agrees that he has been dishonoring himself, and tells Hektor he will
return with him to fight. Hektor then goes to find Andromache, who is
standing by the walls outlining the battlefield with Astanax, their son.
When Andromache pleads with Hektor to stay home and cease fighting,
Hektor refuses, telling her that he would feel deep shame in front of
the Trojans if he were to withdraw himself from the war. Hektor then
tells Andromache that the thought of her being dragged off by the
Achains troubles him, but he is relieved by the knowledge that she will
be looked at as "the wife of Hektor, who was ever the bravest fighter of
the Trojans, breakers of horses, in the days when they fought about
Ilion," (6:460). This causes Andromache to shed tears. On the one hand,
she understands Hektor\'s beliefs and deep sense of morality, but on the
other feels it is just as honorable to stay home and care for one\'s
family. This is a second place in which Hektor feels torn between two
conflicting responsibilities.
A character\'s social status was mainly based upon his performance in
the battlefield. Achilleus is a tragic figure who believes strongly in
social order, but questions the idea of fighting for glory. When Aias
and Odysseus are sent by Agamemnon to plead with Achilleus\' to fight for
the Greeks, Achilleus denies them, saying "There was no gratitude given
for fighting incessantly forever against your enemies. Fate is the same
for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard" (9:316). This
statement shows that Achilleus is an individual, and does not conform to
the ideas of the others. Achilleus is portrayed as a fatalist, believing
that there is no point in fighting, because the end is the same for
everyone. In book nine, when Agamemnon admits he is wrong and offers
gifts, Achilleus still refuses to join his army in battle. He does not
see Agamemnon\'s gifts as a reconciliation attempt, but rather as an
insult. Achilles believes that Agamemnon\'s offerings are selfish and
boastful, and he denies them to in order to show Agamemnon that his
loyalty cannot be bought.
Later in the poem, Achilleus revenges Patroklos\' death by killing
Hektor. It is customary and proper to return a dead body to its home so
it can be given a proper burial, and it is against the code of honor to
perform acts of excessive cruelty. Achilleus is so distraught by his
friends\' death that he contradicts both of these conditions. First,