Achilles and Hector
Before, we go any further in making an in-depth analysis of our two great let us consider the literary work that placidly described their valor. In order for us to appreciate the heroism and valor of our two great Greek warriors, we have to establish and understand the milieu and the type of culture that they have. We need to know the impetus that caused the very long war so that we could have a better appreciation of their heroism and valor.
Achilles was a great warrior who joined the Achaean forces against the Trojans. On the other hand, Hector was the valiant defender of the Trojans. They were all in the long narrative epic poem of f Homer, a well known classical poet of the ancient Greeks. The etymology of the title, The Iliad was derived from the Greek word Illios (Cummings, 2003) and adding a 2-letter at the end to signify that it pertains to the former. Thus, the meaning of the title actually provided an overview of what the book was about – something that pertains to Troy (Cummings, 2003).
This epic focused more on the story of Achilles, the greatest Greek hero and his repugnancy against his fellow Greek warrior Agamemnon when the latter took his beautiful prize and how he drew back from fighting the Trojans armies. His desire for vengeance was intensified when his beloved companion Patroclus, was killed by the most valiant among the Trojans – Hector. He joined and led the Greek troops once again and killed that famous warrior who killed his dear friend.
The war continued through a series of battles between the two tribes as well consistent meddling of the capricious gods and goddesses. It finally ended with the death of Hector and the humiliation of his corpse in the Greek camp. It also narrated how Priam, the clement king of Troy, humbly requested Achilles to return the body of his son (Homer & Rouse, 1999).
The Trojan War and its roots
The Trojan War was the most devastating war in the ancient history of the Greeks. It all started when the goddesses Hera, Aphrodite and Athena had an altercation. To resolve this, they asked Paris to choose who among them was the most alluring. As conceited as it may seem, the goddesses resolved to offer bribe to Paris if he chose them. Of all the three, Paris declared that Aphrodite was the fairest of them all. In exchange, she will make the most beautiful woman in the mortal world to fall in love with him.
However, that woman was already married in Greece to a Spartan king, Menelaus. Her name was Helen. Paris disguised as a diplomat. It was said that with the intervention of the gods, Helen immediately fell in love with Paris and absconded with him to Troy. Since this was derision to a Spartan and even all the Greeks, Menelaus recalled an old oath of the other Greek kings that they would protect his marriage to Helen. He summoned all the kings in Greece to organize a war against Troy and get Helen back (Cummings, 2003).
Most of the kings were hesitant going to the war. Achilles was even befuddled to appear like a woman so that he will not have to join the war. However, their guises were soon found and they had no choice but to join this war to honor their oath. They formed by the versant leaders and their men were the finest warriors in the land who set out for war to regain the dignity not simply of the Spartans but of Greece in general. They all set out and traveled to Troy and the Trojan War began. It continued for years and nobody even retreated (Gale, 2008, pp. 14-19).
During the process, internal conflict between the Greeks began to arise especially when Agamemnon took Briseis, the beautiful prize of Achilles. The latter decided to recede and simply let his comrades continue the fight. The other Greeks continued the fight. One day, his dear friend Patroclus even borrowed his escutcheon to fight the Trojan armies. On the other hand, the Trojan soldiers were so determined to fight as well. Through the help of the gods on their side, they never surrendered.
They were led by Paris and Hector. Hector was the most brave and inspired warrior among the Trojans. He was their hero and defender. He fought vigorously and killed a lot of Greeks including Achilles’ dearest friend, Patroclus. This event as well his accord with Agamemnon made Achilles decide to go back and fight his counterpart, Hector. The Greeks were on a losing side. None of his men could defeat the mighty Trojan hero. He set out the arena to fight not for Helen but for his friend, Patroclus and for the Greek soldiers who died. Hector, upon hearing that his real match was coming, commanded all his soldiers to retreat and he will have a one-on-one combat with his obverse.
He was excellent in using spear and in attacking his enemies. He was able to defend his land against the Greeks for many years because of his good military strategies and strength. On the other hand, Achilles was also a good fighter and leader. Aside from that, he was also invulnerable since her mom had bathed him in River Styx when he was young. The only vulnerable part of him was his heel which was not washed because his mother was holding it.
They fought for several rounds until Achilles was able to kill Hector (Homer & Rouse, 1999) Out of his rage, he dragged his body toward the Greek camp and to the tomb of his friend Patroclus. Priam, on the other hand, pleaded Achilles to return the body of his son for it to have a decent burial as a custom of the Trojans (Zanker, 1996, p.116). A truce was created as the Trojan mourned for the death of their hero (Homer & Rouse, 1999). The death of the mighty leader, Hector, caused a fracture in the walls of Troy that eventually led to their downfall after losing a wise and strong warrior.
Afterwards, the battle continued. Albeit the soldiers and the citizens of Troy were tired and weary of the war, they still continued to fight for vengeance for the comrades killed and for their nation. Achilles was very successful and won the battles. However, the new leader of the Trojan warriors, Paris, was determined to avenge his brother’s death. With the assistance from the gods on his side, he struck an arrow towards the heel of Achilles that caused a mortal wound that killed him instantly (Kennedy, n.d., p.6 ).
Achilles was born mortal. He was the son of Peleus, a King of Myrmidons and Thetis, a sea nymph. Her mother really wanted her to be immortal. She dipped the infant Achilles in the mystical River Styx so that her child would grow invincible. However, what she forget overlooked was the fact that she had not immersed her son fully in the water. She was holding her son’s ankles while she dipped him in the water. Thus, the heels remained dry and vulnerable (Gale, 2008, pp. 52-56)..
He grew up in Mount Pelion. He was under the custody of Cheiron, an astute centaur who taught him on how to survive the mountain and develop his skills and abilities. He was taught how to catch animals and survive the wild. He developed skills such as swiftness and agility. However, his training also made him fierce and impetuous ( Kennedy, M.D., n.d., p.4).
After his training in the mountain, he was sent back to his abode and was tutored by Phoenix. Through his new guide, Achilles learned to develop skills, strength and courage. He also met his loyal and trustworthy friend, Patroclus. They became so close and vowed to protect each other. It can be deduced that Achilles had sense of loyalty with his friends. It was this vow that motivated him to kill the proud Hector ( Kennedy, M.D., n.d., pp. 4-5).
When the war was being conceptualized and a prophecy was made that Achilles would be the greatest warrior that would save the Greeks from the Trojans. Thus, he was searched far and wide by other warriors to convince him to join them. He was even concealed as a girl by her mother but his character as a warrior prevailed. He was attracted to weapons and was ready to fight when the enemies arrived.
He was always true to his promise. His virtues and honor matter more to him. That was the reason why even if he does not really like to go on a war, he still pursued and led the army and won several wars for the Greek. The skills that he had developed through the process actually gave him a great advantage in warfare not to mention that he was invulnerable. He defeated a lot of Trojan tribes. He is also agile and has a very good leadership (Gale, 2008, pp. 14-19).
Aside from battle image of Achilles, it can also be noted that he is a very passionate and sensitive person. He loved to listen to the sound of the musical instruments. He also treasured his prize so much. He would go the extra of withdrawing himself from his comrades when that prize was taken away from him. However, it is evident that he is obedient and respectful to authority. Despite his grudge against Agamemnon, he still respected his decision and surrendered his price.
He still respected and obeyed Agamemnon being his superior. He is also kind towards his colleagues but fierce and ruthless towards his enemies. He was also loyal to friends. He would not let the death of a friend pass without avenging the killer (Homer & Rouse, 1999). He was easily moved with pity and compassion when he allowed the old king of Troy to carry his dead son back home (Zanker, 1996, p.116).
The strength and prowess of Achilles was incomparable. Nobody could defeat the Greeks as long as Achilles was present. He survived and won a lot of war unwounded because he was invulnerable and the enemies were unaware of his weak side. Only Paris was able to discover that this great man killed a thousand soldiers without any bruise only to die because of a wound in a heel (“Achilles”).
Hector was the eldest son of the king of Troy, Priam and Hecuba. He was married to the beautiful lady Andromache and they have a son named Astyanax. He was very devoted son and husband (“Hector”).
He was the mightiest hero of the Trojan during the war. He was loved by the gods and even by his countrymen because of his sacrifices (Zanker, 1996, p. 115). When his troops were pressured on the field, he was compelled to go back to send news to his family and to the families of his men. He asked them to make an offering to the gods on their sides. When he arrived in their house, he was pleaded by her mother not to go back to the war because he might be killed. He did not heed nor drank anything. Instead he summoned his brother to assist them in the war. There was a dramatic scene when he was asked by Helen to wait for his brother but instead he wanted Paris to go ahead since he had to see his family for the last. He had a feeling that it would be the last time that he is going to see them (Gale, 2008, pp. 52-56).
When he went back, he discovered that his wife was too worried about him that she hysterically went to the gates to get news from him. When they met, he saw her carrying their son and was crying. She warned Hector that his bravery would lead him to his grave. She broke the news that Achilles was very invincible and he had killed her kin. She pleaded him to stay for her and their son’s sake. However despite heis beloved wife’s plea, Hector’s commitment to serve his countrymen prevailed. He would rather die than witness his family enslaved by the Greeks. Sensing that it might be his last chance to be with his family, he hugged his son tightly and prayed to the gods that his son be protected and become greater than him (Gale, 2008, pp. 52-56).
If we are going to juxtapose the characteristics of Achilles vis-à-vis Hector, it is evident that they are quite similar in some ways. They are the strongest among their tribes. They would be an equal match. They are both strong-willed and determined. They are loyal to their tribes and would not accept defeat without fighting for it. They are ruthless to enemies but helpful and protective to their men. They would not let anybody stain their honor and dignity. In the epic, when the Greek forces killed a lot of Trojan workers, Hector stood up and took revenge.
He would not let his enemies reach the walls of Troy. Achilles felt the same. When his friend was killed, he stood up and sought revenge. He was filled with anger. And this anger would only be appeased with Hector’s blood, the blood of his friend’s killer. On the other hand, instead of anger, Hector was filled with arrogance that he is going to meet his real match when his fight with Achilles began. No Greek leader or warrior could defeat him and he was proud of it. However, when rumors came that the greatest hero of the Greeks could defeat him, he was challenged. Out of the spur-of-the moment, he even ordered his soldiers to back- off. Well his reason is unknown .It could be a decision made out of passion that he don’t want his soldiers to be killed by the mighty Achilles or he simply wanted to fulfill his ardent desire to fight his equal match alone.
As a leader, it can be said that they are both effective. They have their own styles of leadership. It can be deduced that they could handle their soldiers very well based on the battles they have. They also have good strategies in warfare. They are not only good leaders but also good followers. Achilles obeys his commander Agamemnon even if he knew he was stronger than him. Hector was also obedient o his father. He went to warfare to protect his father’s kingdom.
Even if they stand out from the rest, it cannot be denied that they are not perfect. Their characters and values still reflect the weak spots of being a human. They both cannot handle their emotions well. They react impulsively based on their emotion. They make rash decisions because they felt bad. Hector ordered his soldiers to retreat and let him face Achilles alone. Achilles, out of anger dragged Hector’s dead body with hiss chariot and brought it to his friend’s grave. Afterwards, he was moved by his father’s passion for his son that he even gave the body back to his family (Zanker, 1996, p.116).
With all the similarities mentioned, they also have differences. Though it was not clearly mentioned whether Achilles had a son or a family, Hector was pointed out to be a family man. His real priority was his family. That was his motivation for fighting the Greeks. He wanted to protect his family and his people against the invaders. In the epic, he longed for his wife and family but despite their pleas for him to stay, he still went to war.
Behind the proud and scary armor that he was wearing, was an image of a nostalgic husband and father (Gale, 2008, pp. 52-56). On the other hand, Achilles went to the war simply to honor his oath. He went to the war for glory and power. His struggle to leave was not because he had a family. His desire was to seek vengeance and show off his strength (Cummings, 2003). The other side of Achilles also reflected his soft side that he is pitiful and loving. He was kind to his comrades and also loved peace. He would not fight out of whim but of vengeance (Zanker, 1996).
Achilles and Hector are both fine and strong soldiers. They are the greatest heroes of the Trojan. However, they were mere victims in that situation. They were locked in a war that they had no choice but fight against one another. The moral of their story simply showed that no matter how great you are, no matter how perfect you may seem, there will still be another person who could discover and attack your weak spot. The mighty and invincible Hector was killed by Achilles. But Achilles’ glory was simply cut short when he was killed by Paris, the instigator of the Trojan War (Kennedy, n.d. p.5).
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