The Iliad: A Compare And Contrast Essay
The spell- binding masterpiece that is the Iliad is one of the most interesting and captivating literature known to man. The Iliad chronicles the battles that have transpired and have been put to writing by the creative mind of Homer, one of the most influential and prolific artist of his time. It is about the struggles between mortals, trying to grasp the challenges of time, and by the immortals, the gods who were key players in shaping the history of the famed and renowned Greek tragedy.
The main themes of the epic were honor and courage. The Iliad revolved around the struggle for supremacy and the wars waged by the mighty rulers to secure territory and property. This was specifically depicted when Agamemnon, king of the Achaians released Chryseis in exchange for Briseis, the mighty Achilles’ lover. Achilles, the powerful son of Zeus and Thetis took offense and lead his Myrmidon army away from the Achaians. This resulted in Achilles’ reluctance to join in the wars fought by Agamemnon’s army.
On the other part of the territory, Helen, said to be the fairest woman of all, wife to Menelaus, and the queen of Sparta, eloped with Paris, the younger Trojan prince. The unlawful act ensued friction among the Achaians and the Trojans. Paris refused to give Menalaus’ wife back and the cuckled swore to crush the kingdom of Paris’ father. Menalaus of Sparta sought the aid of his brother Agamemnon to exact revenge from the people who have dishonored and put him to shame. Agamemnon, with his overpowering desire to acquire the land and the kingdom of Troy, obliged. His only hindrance was Achilles. He was desperate to get Achilles, the fiercest warrior of that time, to fight his battles with him. With the interference of the gods, Achilles fought for the Achaians in exchange for the return of Briseis. In the war that came, Patroclus, a valiant and dear friend of Achilles died in the hands of Hector, Troy’s heir. Achilles, angered and embittered, sought revenge by killing Hector and desecrated his body in the eyes of Troy’s people. With the loss of his heir and beloved son, King Priam humbled himself and silently crept into Achilles’ lair to claim his son’s body. Achilles willingly obliged out of respect for the father of the man he violently slaughtered.
The Iliad is a story of courage and honor. It shows how characters in the story value their dignity and would do everything at all cost to fight for what they believe is theirs. Barbaric at times, war was the means to justify friction and to arbitrate conflicts. The characters in the Iliad depict strength of will and the unyielding quest for dominance, as well as the importance they give to uplifting their dignity. Honor was of utmost priority, and to defend that honor, extracting revenge has been the way of the trade. Death becomes eminent to those who try to put a dent to a character’s name, as when Paris took Menelaus’ wife for himself. Honor was also the reason why Achilles turned his back on the orders of Agamemnon. He saw his pride crushed and felt insulted when the abusive king took his woman. All this, they did for glory. They have been driven to act the way they did to achieve their motive. The desire to have their names embedded on their people’s consciousness, to become the heroes of their land’s history.
In today’s society, battles are fought to defend territory and maintain security. Leaders of countries want to uphold peace and progress in their own domains. Threats to security and an attempt to colonization are the usual fuels to war that have transpired between nations. In as much as tamed as the present society is today, any perceived danger and act of intimidation is quashed by stand- offs, and even war.
In contrast to the Iliad, today’s leaders are more rational in solving state matters. War is not immediately waged for the fear that the long term consequence may be too heavy a price to pay for impulsive actions. Issues are settled in the proper forum and war becomes the last resort. Today, war as a means to solve conflicts, are often ruled out as solutions. People today are not so much vain as to exact revenge and retribution. People in today’s society have already learned from history, from books, from the past. Violence is still present, but bargaining is also open. In the case of friction among countries, leaders are keen on reaching to an agreement that is beneficial to both parties. Honor is uplifted when one emulates intelligence and cool calm in the face of adversities. The use of weapons is reserved for extreme situation.
Though man takes pride in his glory and honor, the means of achieving both can be dependent on the motive and interest. Wars have been waged and battles have been fought. The end result will always reflect on how these conflicts were addressed. At times, the quest for glory rests in the hands of those who opt for peace rather than revenge. Recognition for good deeds and chivalry for the best interest of the country constitutes fame and honor. The true value of pride, honor and glory can be seen when one knows how dignity is upheld. In certain circumstances, intervention, be it accidental or divine, solve crises. It is not so much that name be given importance. It is in choosing which battles to fight that a person gains honor and recognition.
Negri, P. (Ed.). (1999). Homer: The Iliad. (Butler, S., trans). Dover Publication. New York, NY. Original work published in 1925.
Cummings, M (2010). The Iliad By Homer (9th or 8th Century BC) A Study Guide. Retrieved from http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/TheIliad.html
Silverman, D. (n.d.). Outline of Homer’s Iliad. Retrieved from http://academic.reed.edu/humanities/110tech/iliad.html
Higgins, C. (2010). The Iliad and what it can still tell us about war. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jan/30/iliad-war-charlotte-higgins