Describe the heroic code that is expressed in the Iliad.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The heroic code that Homer shows is one in which individuals hold specific values in the highest of regard, and are willing to wage battle to defend them.  For Homer, the hero has a clear understanding as to why he fights.  Achilles might waver in his commitment to Agamemnon, but it is clear that he fights for his reputation to be the best warrior.  His heroic code is motivated by arete, a desire to display the greatest of capacity and skill on the battlefield.  When Patrocles dies, it becomes clear that he fights for the honor of his friend.  As he makes clear to Hector, his heroic code involves little in way of negotiation and lack of commitment:  "to hack your flesh away and eat it raw.”  This code of heroism is focused in its drive.  Homer shows Achilles as embodying a heroic code where such intensity is critical to the hero's state of being.

Such a singularity in focus is seen in Hector.  He clearly understands that he fights for Troy.  The respect he affords to his family name, his father, and his fellow soldiers makes it clear that part of his heroic code is to absolutely know why he fights.  Hector does not engage in existential questioning.  Even when he knows that a part of his being yearns to be with Andromache and his son, he recognizes clearly that he has a responsibility to fight.  Certain death in the form of Achilles' wrath does not deter him.  For Hector, it is clear why he must fight.  It is understood that the purpose of being a hero is one that possesses a singularity in drive and never relent in its pursuit.  The heroic code is shown to be one in which the hero clearly understands why he fights and validates this purpose with his very being.

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