The Importance Of Death In Homer's The Iliad And The Odyssey

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In Homer’s, The Iliad and The Odyssey, death is used to emphasize the importance of people’s actions on earth and the pressure that they face to achieve honor and glory through triumphs while still alive. The underworld and everything that death brings serves to end the heroes quest towards eminence and relegate them to a life of anonymity and solitude, thus forcing them to understand what was genuinely important during life.

Death is the antithesis of victory in Homer’s poems, yet so often, great heroes end their quests vying for fame and kleos, the greek word for glory, with complete disregard for the dangers that lie ahead of them. For example, after Patrocles’s death, Achilles set off in a fit of rage to slay Hector of Troy. Achilles
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The emphasis placed on the proper burial and preservation of the body further shows the Greek idea that respect and honor continue even after death, and therefore affirm the value of the struggle in life to obtain kleos. Achilles goes to extreme lengths and trials to have the body of his loved one, Patrocles, returned to him. Achilles had to face a death in battle, where his “glory shall be everlasting (Homer 9.412)”, against an anonymous and modest, yet long life. At first, Achilles refrains from battle, believing that because Agamemnon hurt his pride, it was no longer worth it to fight, but he later returns to fight, despite facing certain death, to avenge his best friend Patroclus. He also decides to not only kill Hektor, but also to get his revenge by mutilating Hektor’s body, while Hektor himself begs him to stop and asks that he, “let not dogs devour me at the ships of the Achaeans, but accept the rich treasure of gold and bronze which my father and mother will offer you, and send my body home, that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire when I am dead” (Homer 22.338). Achilles ignores his wishes and carries on in his ruthless fighting. The mutilation of the body is an attempt to dishonor the deceased, and this demonstrates how important the concept of glory is to the Greek heroes, as well as how their pursuit of glory can extend even into …show more content…
Odysseus risks his own safety and the safety of his crew in order to taunt Polyphemos by saying, “ 'So they spoke, but could not persuade the great heart in me, but once again in the anger of my heart I cried to him: "Cyclops, if any mortal man ever asks you who it was that inflicted upon your eye this shameful blinding, tell him that you were blinded by Odysseus, sacker of cities. Laertes is his father, and he makes his home on Ithaka.” (Homer 9.6) This boast was completely unnecessary and almost cost Odysseus and his crew their lives, yet it was important for him to say because life, for Greek heroes, was about the accumulation of glory without care for death. They strove to have their names and stories welded into the fabric of history, and to become almost godlike in their pursuits. By setting aside the very human fear of death, Homer’s heroes attempted to move past their humanity and towards unwavering, immortal state where they would be remembered and revered by others, even after they passed on. Life was about achieving enough to be remembered, and in that way, Greek heroes would almost evade death and put themselves on equal footing with the

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