Iliad Essay Fate

In particular this is exhibited by the events that surround Patroclus’ death, not only is their a fight over his corpse but a whole book of the poem is needed to do justice to the funeral games that Achilles’ holds in his honour.The funeral games are of deep significance not only in their commemoration of the dead but also due to the choice of ritual.The heroes of the Iliad live in a world influenced by shame culture; they are not driven to action by guilt or morals, but by the need for honour in the eyes of other men.Homeric warriors strive for social validation, mostly through success in battle which will earn them status, respect and public esteem.It seems then that heroism and death go hand in hand.There can be no heroism without glory, and the only way to achieve real glory is through death.This choice that Achilles faces is at the centre of the poem as the whole story rests upon his decision, the fate of two whole armies is essentially placed in his hands, although he may be unaware of this.The issue of the worth of life in comparison with glory is one that is a key theme to the poem, not only in the terms of the ultimate cost of war but also more particularly in terms of what Achilles is willing to sacrifice in order to be remembered.

Inevitably in a poem that is so concerned with war, the Iliad contains a huge amount of death and therefore provides a great deal of insight into way in which the dead were commemorated.Once Hector knows that he is defeated and is facing death, another issue that is considered of high importance is brought to light.Of all the things Hector could say to Achilles before he dies, he chooses to plead for the proper treatment of his corpse (22.338-342).This demonstrates just how highly the idea of remembrance was placed within the world of Homeric epic.Achilles is not the only character in the Iliad to possess this radical view of honour.Achilles initially withdraws from the battle due to a slight to his honour and pride by Agamemnon, but returns in order to win his eternal glory; therefore he leaves over an insult to his ‘time’ but returns to gain what is ultimately more important: ‘kleos’.Achilles is presented with a choice of two destinies; either live a long life but be forgotten when he dies or to die young and achieve eternal glory.In the Iliad at least six funeral rites or cremations are mentioned; Andromache tells of Achilles cremating her father, Eetion (6.416), a group burial of Greeks and of Trojans (7.422), Sarpedon is carried to the underworld by Apollo(16.678), Patroclus’ funeral rites and games (taking up almost the entirety of book 23) and the cremation of Hector (24.785).The sheer volume of the Iliad given over to description of funerary rites emphasises that this was clearly a key part of Homeric culture.This is seen in the case of Hector, although he initially flees from the intimidating sight of Achilles, when he stops he is ready to die.He must meet the requirements that his heroic status demands by transforming his death into a path to eternal glory: “Let me at least sell my life dearly and not without glory, after some great deed for future generations to hear of”(22.305).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One thought on “Iliad Essay Fate”