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A Forgotten Hero

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From the very beginning of the poem, the character Achilles' actions, or lack of actions, have enormous effects upon how the plot unfolds. Starting with the fight with Agamemnon and his withdrawal from the battle, to the death of Patroklos, and finally to the slaying of Hektor, Achilles and his emotions decide the fate of many Greek and Trojan warriors. It is his struggle against his anger, pride, loyalty, and love that make this poem one of a tragic nature, rather than just a gruesome account of a war. Although the reputation of Achilles claims him to be the perfect warrior, strongest of the Greeks, the poem doesn't explain if he is the true hero of these events. With all the things he went through, you might wonder why a warrior would take his sword and leave the battleground. Achilles is a true hero, he believes that the attributes of a hero are not warfare, but nobility, pride, fellowship, honor, and respect.

The acts that Achilles portrays seem to be childish. He is a man of noble principles throughout the poem. His argument with Agamemnon is a testament to that. When Achilles refuses the gifts of Agamemnon that are offered to him, Achilles shows that his principles rank higher than desire for fame on the battlefield.

Achilles goes to Agamemnon and asks him to return the girl to her father so the plague will end. He agrees to return her, but he doesn't want to be left empty-handed. He returns Chryseis to her home, and he takes Briseis, a war-prize of Achilles. Achilles is so angry with Agamemnon that he vows to stop helping him fight the Trojans. As the battle goes on, Agamemnon realizes how important Achilles and his Myrmidons are to the Achaean troops. The King of the Greeks then swallows his pride and offers gifts to Achilles if he will come back and help fight. Achilles, however, is so stubborn that he refuses all the gifts and will not allow his troops to fight. When he is offered the gifts he rudely responds, "I hate the man [Agamemnon] like the very gates of death who says one thing but hides another in his heart". This quote shows how much Achilles is hurt by what Agamemnon has done, and that Achilles took this very seriously toward his pride, that Agamemnon would just take someone away, that meant so much to him.

The only point at which I think he compromises his principles is when he allows Patroklos and his men to go off and fight and refuses to go himself. I think that, at that point in the story, he is putting foolish pride before his fellowship for his friend. This is the tragedy of human flaws and the shortsightedness that goes along with anger. This scene in the story is one of transition, not just in the turn of the war, but also in the maturing of Achilles as he finally begins to follow the path of his destiny.




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