Hector's Legacy In The Iliad

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A common assumption is that the Iliad is merely a tale that celebrates the conquests of great warriors who create legacies for themselves and their families. In reality, beneath the idea of a legacy is a negative side. The epic poem is written so that the famous are the ones who experience the greatest misery because they are trapped by public opinion. In the Iliad, Homer subverts the ancient Greek trope that legacies are crucial to a fulfilling life.
One of the most complex characters in the novel, Hector is at first a man of honor and nobility, but eventually gives way to his dark legacy. One of the first glimpses Homer gives of Hector is when he chastises Paris and declares him a “curse to your father, your city, and all your people” (130).
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From the very beginning, Achilles has sought any path other than the bloody one laid out for him. When Agamemnon steals Briseis from Achilles, it sparks an idea in him. Achilles promises “my hands will never do battle for that girl, neither with you, King, nor any man alive”, effectively abandoning his position as a soldier (87). Despite this newfound freedom, he still lingers with the army, the iron thread of legacy tethering him to the conflict. In this scene, Homer makes Achilles’ two paths clear. To his friends, but mostly to himself, Achilles reveals his first option: “If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy, my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies” (265). The Greeks value nothing more than prowess on the battlefield and subsequently making a name for one’s self and family. Therefore, not only is Achilles fighting the desires of the entire Achaean army, he is struggling against the whole of society. This brings Achilles to his second possibility: “If I voyage back to the fatherland I love, my pride, my glory dies, true, but the life that’s left me will be long, the stroke of death will not come on me quickly” (265). Some may argue that Achilles deserts the army out of a sense of revenge and that he takes joy in witnessing the butchery of those who wronged him. However, this is but a superficial observation and if one reads below the surface content, it becomes clear that Achilles is deeply afraid. He is neither a cunning man of twists and turns, nor a virtuous prince fighting for his kingdom. He is simply a man who wants to live and to become more than “murderous, doomed”, a collection of limbs forged for violence that “made their bodies carrion” (77). The most tragic part of Achilles’ narrative is that he almost achieves his goal. So deeply does Achilles believe that each man can subvert his predestined path that he

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