Essay by OAR May 2004

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From the initial callousness and stubborn temper of Achilles in the first books of the Iliad to the eventual 'humanization' of Achilles in his interaction with the grieving father of Hector, whom Achilles himself slew, the Iliad can be seen to chronicle the maturation of the Greek hero during the terrible battles of the Trojan War. Achilles is a hero in the epic sense, complete with flaws and bad qualities that round out the character, but with passions and convictions that any reader can relate to. Throughout the course of the Iliad, Homer creates the character of Achilles to be that kind of hero in every sense of the word. As the novel begins, we first meet with Achilles in his interaction with the great king, Agamemnon. It may be said that Achilles shows himself to be a horribly hard-headed individual, and this is obviously true. But, in this encounter with the powerful king, Achilles also shows some of his more respectable qualities; such as courage, honor, and a sense of justice.

Achilles does not feel that it is right that he or the rest of the soldiers should be punished for the brashness of their commander. So, as the epic starts to unwind, Achilles is described as a strong-willed, though a bit hot tempered, man. It is in the following books that Achilles shows some of his not to desirable qualities, yet in these qualities the character of Achilles is ultimately developed. Homer describes the plot of Achilles to avenge his disgrace at the hand of Agamemnon. He has his mother, the goddess Thetis, ask Zeus to punish the Achaeans on behalf of her and Achilles. Zeus reluctantly agrees to this, and Achilles success in having the whole of his people subjected to a brutal and...