Gods among Men: Pride Goes before Destruction

June 30, 2021

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Epic poem The Iliad written by Homer depicts the story of two heroes Hector of the Trojans and Achilles of the Greeks. At the start of the poem, Achilles joins the fight to make certain that his name will perpetually be remembered. In his turn, Hector joins the fight to protect his mother country Troy. The two characters develop in the course of events of the poem that take place by their own actions and by the actions of those who surround them. As a result of everything that happens to both heroes, one of them becomes a better person.


Achilles is one of the leading characters of the poem; therefore, there is a need to understand his character completely, which requires examining his family tree. Zeus, who was a king of the gods, fell in love with the sea-goddess Thetis many years prior to the Trojan War. This event becomes the turning point of the poem because this is when Achilles gets to know of a prophecy that the sea-goddess would give birth to a son that will have more power than his father. Hence, Zeus decides to marry Thetis to Peleus who is mortal; as a result of this wedlock Achilles was born (Yilmaz, 1-13).

Achilles has much more power than any other typical mortal person due to the fact that his mother is a goddess. This fact gives him more opportunities to get what he wants; (Champagne, 65). The only thing that the man does not inherit from Thetis is immortality. The only vulnerable part of Achilles’ body is in his heel. However, this is only a part of a belief, which is not mentioned in the epic poem. Achilles has an atypical double fate and he realizes he will have a rather long life without fame if he comes back home from Troy. On the other hands, if he stays, he will lose his life but have great glory.

Regarding the adult personality of Achilles, one can state that at the beginning of The Iliad, he has already shown himself as a thriving warrior. Various sources show that Achilles has killed many Trojans and taken a lot of their women captive. From Hector?s wife Andromache, the readers get to know that during this period, the man was generally on his best performance. For instance, when he killed the father of Andromache, he made his best to provide him with a proper funeral. Besides, Achilles has even created an authoritative attachment for one of the women that he has imprisoned, Briseis.. As one can see from the Book 19 of the poem, Achilles hopes that, if he passes away at Troy, his friend Patroklos will bring him back to Phthia and take care of his son (Book 19, 12-21).

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Nevertheless, the course of events does not turn that way. Obviously, a main cause of Achilles? problems is the fact that he is full of pride and emotionally unstable. In the opening line of The Iliad, the author explains that he is going to talk about the “anger of Peleus’ son, Achilles” (Book 1, 1-5). The readers can see the first burst of his anger in Book 1, when the character starts a serious fight with Agamemnon because the latter threatens to take Achilles’ girlfriend away. Achilles, indeed, was ready to kill Agamemnon at that moment but the goddess Athene had stopped him. Nonetheless, Achilles makes Zeus to lend a hand to the Trojans. Deaths of a lot of his friends does not seem to worry Achilles since rather enhances his self-esteem.

However, when Achilles learns about Patroklos? death, he experiences a deep sorrow. He even swears to hit back and realizes that it may result to his own death. This time, he loses control when he starts a battle and acts impulsively: kills the men who surround him, fights with rivers, etc. (Kelly, 147); Achilles is in such pain that seeing Hector dead is not enough for him, and he repeatedly abuses Hector?s corpse. In fact, these vicious actions show the way for Achilles slow coming back to civilized manners, starting with Achilles hosting the interment games and ending up with his compromise with King Priam followed by giving back Hector’s body.


The conflict between Hector and Achilles has a number of reasons; Achilles entered the fight because his pride dictated him to do this, while Hector’s reason was more elevated. He fought to protect his city; he had a duty to his family and those people in Troy. Hector’s parents are the king and the queen of Troy; thus, he had no other choice but to protect his city. He was raised as a future king and his sense of devotion to his people as well as to his family was very strong. Despite the fact that Hector was a warrior, he was also an affectionate husband and loving father. In the end of Book 6, Hector tells loving words to his wife and his son (Book 6, 35-44). This fact indicates that Trojan warriors could show humanity and were dedicated to their families and their duty as citizens of Troy.

Hector’s sense of duty forces him to make a choice which is higher than his own desires. His duty to his brother Paris makes him start a war against Greeks. After the battle, his mother always tries to convince him to relax, but Hector believes that it would be a wrong decision because he should be on a battlefield together with his soldiers. Helen wants to talk to him, but Hector prefers the company of his wife and son rather than a Greek princess.

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Hector is a warrior and the biggest weakness of any warrior is his pride. However, it is his pride that makes Hector to be honest, loyal and brave; though his pride also leads to his downfalls as well as to the downfall of the city. Hector decides to fight Achilles on his own despite the fact that Achilles is a better warrior than Hector. Nonetheless, Hector cannot ignore the call of his pride and does what he is dedicated to. When Hector realizes that he cannot defeat Achilles, he runs. Despite the fact that this action contradicts to his earlier intentions, the readers sympathize the character because they view it as a sign of Hector’s human weaknesses. When Hector regains his courage and leads his troops in a battle, being aware beforehand that they cannot win in it. This action makes readers understand the true bravery of Hector and his decent character.

The Comparison of Two Heroes

The two heroes of The Iliad, are rather different in their worldviews, characters, values and life goals. Achilles was full of pride and ready to fight and kill only for the sake of his own ego and glory, while Hector’s actions were driven by his desire to defend his homeland. As a consequence, the readers may see that Hector is a better person than Achilles who sacrifices people’s lives only in order to gain fame and make his name remembered. However, by the end of the epic poem by Homer, the readers have an opportunity to see how all the actions and events in the poem change Achilles for better. In one of the last scenes he fights in commemoration of his close friend. This fight is only a revenge for the death of his comrade but not an attempt to gain glory and become more famous and successful.

To conclude, the poem The Iliad by Homer is real historical treasure. The poem depicts two different individuals, their values, worldviews, goals and ways to achieve them. The Iliad reveals such themes as free will and fate, pride, mortality, competition, forgiveness and compassion, friendship, love, hate, warfare and religion.

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