The Homeric Honor Code

4 April 2015
A paper discussing male codes of honor in ancient Greece using Homer’s ‘Iliad’ and Hesiod’s ‘Works and Days’.

This paper discusses male honor codes in ancient Greek society, focusing on seven areas– prowess in battle, to be able to speak eloquently and convincingly, to honor duty to family and townspeople, to be kind to supplicants, to honor the gods, to be loyal to friends and fellow soldiers and to be recognized as an honorable warrior both through material and non-material acknowledgment.
“The code of honor that the warriors of the Illiad lived by was complex and oftentimes contradictory. The rules of male honor in the Greek society portrayed in the poem required a man to have prowess in battle, to be able to speak eloquently and convincingly, to honor his duty to his family and townspeople, to be kind to supplicants, to honor the gods, to be loyal to friends and fellow soldiers and to be recognized as an honorable warrior both through material and non-material acknowledgment. These seven characteristics are not an exhaustive list of the qualities expected from a Greek man, but I believe them to be the most significant in relation to the Illiad. I will outline the Greek warrior code using examples from the Illiad and I will then discuss Achilleus’ responses to the expectations that the honor code placed upon him. The code of honor in the Illiad is by no means simple and I will explore its complexity and the possible critique that the poem has of this honor code.”
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