The Iliad Essay

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The Iliad is not about the Trojan War; that war lasted ten years and the central actions of the poem occupy only a few weeks. War brutalizes men and women, wounds their bodies and minds, enslaves and kills them. This is Homer's message as he focuses on one hero, Achilleus, to demonstrate wrath's destruction of self and others. Achilleus' moral journey in the Iliad brings him face to face with his own humanity, leading him to a startling and essentially unheroic act of generosity toward his enemy. When he gives Priam the dead and mutilated body of Hektor, Achilleus stands for a few moments on the threshold of a different civilization, as Homer shows wrath dissolved through compassion, and human feeling overcoming the stringent heroic code …show more content…
And so he has to sing of kleos: without exploits no poet is going to sing about him. In a pitiful and ultimately tragic attempt to regain arete, he sends Patroklos into battle as his therapon, a ritual substitute clad in the armor of Achilleus.

By permitting his beloved friend Patroklos, whom he knows to be a lesser warrior than himself, to reenter the battle, Achilleus is consequently responsible for the death of this gentle warrior.

However, according to a widely accepted theory, Achilleus feels no guilt, as this Homeric society is not a guilt-culture, but rather a shame-culture in which man does not consider himself responsible for his own behavior. Shame-cultures attribute human imperfection to external causes, such as failure to make proper sacrifices, or accidentally slighting the gods in some other way. These heroes do not yet understand that character is fate, and they project onto external forces whatever ills happen to them. Guilt and a sense of sin (a word not in the Homeric vocabulary) develop as societies grow older and men replace gods as the instruments of cause and effect.

But Achilleus is undoubtedly displaying all the signs of guilt in his behavior after the death of Patroklos, and he does feel responsible. Perhaps the most reasonable attitude to take is that shame-cultures and guilt-cultures are not mutually exclusive, and that it is possible for a Homeric hero, as well as for a contemporary person, to feel both shame and

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