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Heroic Code in the Iliad and the Odyssey

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Heroic Code in the Iliad and the Odyssey

In Webster’s Dictionary, a hero is defined as a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of purpose, especially if this individual has risked or sacrificed his life. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, the code which administers the conduct of the Homeric heroes is a straightforward idea. The aim of every hero is to achieve honor. Throughout the Iliad and the Odyssey, different characters take on the role of a hero. Honor is essential to the Homeric heroes, so much that life would be meaningless without it. Thus, honor is more important than life itself.

Throughout the Iliad, heroic characters make decisions based on a specific set of principles, which are referred to as the “code of honor.” The heroic code that Homer presents to readers is easy to recognize because the heroic code is the cause for many of the events that take place, but many of the characters have different perceptions of how highly the code should be regarded. Hector, the greatest of the Trojan warriors, begins the poem as a model for a hero. His dedication and firm belief in the code of honor is described many times throughout the course of the Iliad. As a reward for heroic traits in battle, prizes were sometimes awarded to victors of war. In Book 1 Achilles receives Chryseis as a prize and a symbol of honor. Heroism had its rewards and its setbacks which ultimately was the backbone of the Illiad in the case of Achilles prize. Hector, arguably the greatest Trojan warrior or even the bravest of the Homeric heroes is very fierce and fights for what he believes is his destiny. In book VI Hector expresses his bravery when Andromache pleads with Hector not to fight when Hector says, “But I would die of shame to face the men of Troy and the Trojan woman trailing their long robes if I would shrink from battle now, a coward. Nor does the sprit urge me on that way. I’ve learned it all too well. To stand up bravely, always to fight in the front ranks of Trojan soldiers, winning my father great glory, glory for myself” (VI, 387).

Achilles, the greatest of the Greek warriors, is portrayed as a hero in some ways but, on the other hand, performs some controversial acts in the Iliad. Throughout the entire Trojan war, Achilles spent most of his time pouting in his tent after Agamemnon kidnapped his prized maiden, Chryseis. He also lets his best friend, Patroclus, go into battle alone only to die when Hector kills him with his spear. Achilles joins the war when he hears of Patrclus death, but it was not out of bravery; out of guilt, revenge and anger, when he hears of his friend’s death. When Achilles kills Hector, he binds his feet to his chariot and drags his body around the walls of Troy. In my opinion this was not an act of heroism. But in the Iliad the Greeks loved Achilles. Achilles was considered half mortal and half God. Achilles has all the characteristics of a heroic warrior on a grand scale, and he possesses more than a common measure of all the merits and all the faults of a hero (Bowra 193). All of Achilles traits and glory are won primarily in battle, which sets Achilles apart from Hector because Achilles knows little about home and family. He has no wife: his father he has not seen

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