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The Purging Of Hubris In The Illiad

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The Purging of Hubris

In Homer’s epic, The Iliad, every character deals with some form of hubris, whether they are the main character or if they show up for one book. Throughout the epic Homer shows how people are blinded by hubris. Only through a loss of something dear will one purge themselves of hubris.

The characters in The Iliad deal with many different forms of pride. Paris deals with a pride that makes him think he’s better than everybody else. This pride comes from both getting his way all the time and the lovely gifts Aphrodite gave him; the very gifts that have brought the two nations to war. When Paris fights with Menelaus, “Aphrodite snatched Paris away,/easy work for a god, wrapped him in swirls of mist/ and set him down in his bedroom filled with scent.” (Book III. 439-441). It’s not Paris’ fault that Aphrodite saves him from death. His fault comes from how he deals with being saved. Paris doesn’t feel the need to go back to war right away, so he tells Helen, “But Come-/let’s go to bed, let’s lose ourselves in love!” (Book III. 516-517). Paris is blinded by his own hubris. His hubris blinds him of the fact that his people are dying for his pleasures, pleasures which they themselves have given up. Paris is way past the point where he can purge himself of hubris. The only thing he cares about is himself, so a loss of something or someone dear to him wouldn’t make him feel anything.

Agamemnon is the barbaric version of Paris. In the first nine years Agamemnon has sat back watching Achilles sack cities with his Myrmidons, reaping the benefits. One of the only things Agamemnon gives to Achilles is Briseis. The one thing he gives to Achilles is Briseis. So when the seer tells the Argives, “ The god’s enraged because Agamemnon spurned his priest,/ he refused to free his daughter, he refused the ransom.”(Book I. 111-112). Since Agamemnon is the king, he can’t be the one to suffer the loss of a slave girl. So when Achilles and Agamemnon get into a fight and Agamemnon says:

“…But let this be my warning on your way:

Since Apollo insists on taking my Chryseis,

I’ll send her back in my own ships with my crew

But I, I will be there in person at your tents

To take Briseis in all her beauty, your own prizeвЂ"

So you can learn just how much greater I am than youвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Book 1. 214-219).

Briseis is the one thing Agamemnon can take away from Achilles. Agamemnon has plenty of other slave girls for his pleasure and he can’t give up just one of them. His hubris blinds him of the harm he will cause to his people by sending Achilles into his temper tantrum. Unlike Paris, there is a small chance Agamemnon can rid himself of hubris, but it can only come through the loss of his brother, Menelaus.

The immaturity of Achilles is the reason for his pride. He was sent into battle around the age of fifteen and has been the best Argive warrior for several years. He has been looked up to like a god.



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