Discuss the theme of pride in the Iliad.

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Pride is ultimately what's behind the wrath of Achilles, which forms the basis of much of the poem's action. Achilles is angry because Agamemnon appropriated his sex slave in order to appease the gods. This causes him to storm off to his tent, where he sulks like a spoiled brat...

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Pride is ultimately what's behind the wrath of Achilles, which forms the basis of much of the poem's action. Achilles is angry because Agamemnon appropriated his sex slave in order to appease the gods. This causes him to storm off to his tent, where he sulks like a spoiled brat while his comrades are busy getting slaughtered outside. Not only that, but for good measure, Achilles actually prays to the mighty Zeus for his fellow Achaeans to be defeated.

All this is ultimately attributable to Achilles's sense of pride as a Greek warrior. He expects to be treated in a manner befitting of his high social status, even by those higher up in the pecking order, such as Agamemnon. Achilles regards himself as entitled to seize any sex slave of his own choosing. This is the prerogative of a noble warrior, a practice sanctified by centuries of custom and tradition. So for someone to deprive him of what he believes is rightfully his is nothing more than an affront to his dignity.

It's also pride that eventually coaxes Achilles out of his tent. He doesn't return to the fray because he realizes that he was acting stupidly all along and now suddenly wants to help out his comrades. He's only putting on his armor once more because his bosom buddy Patroclus has been slain in battle. For Achilles, the slaying of Patroclus, no less than the forced seizure of his sex slave, in an insult to his pride. For him, this is personal, and he will move heaven and Earth to ensure that his pride is restored by killing the Trojan prince, Hector, the man who cut down Patroclus in battle.

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It is important to consider the time period when discussing pride in the Iliad. In Ancient Greece, “heroes” were worshipped and idolized, almost as gods. Throughout this epic poem, Agamemnon, Achilles, and Hector all exhibit pride in their pursuit to be viewed as heroes. While hubris certainly fuels their respective fires—so to speak—it ultimately becomes their respective downfalls as well.

Achilles exhibits an almost childish pride when he attempts to persuade Zeus to cause his allies, the Achaeans, to lose the war. In this moment, he is willing to risk the death and destruction of his allies in the interest of being spiteful towards Agamemnon. After all, his motivation for the request is to show Agamemnon how much he needs his assistance.

Similarly, Agamemnon—an equally prideful and hot-tempered character—is willing to sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia, to quiet the winds as his army sails to Troy. Much like Achilles, he values his reputation over the well-being of another human being.

It can be argued that Hector’s pride is a bit more honorable than that of Achilles and Agamemnon. After all, protecting his city and family seems to be his main motivation to fight (rather than some ill-fated attempt to prove his worthiness as a warrior). But, however honorable, his hubris ultimately costs him his life. Perhaps if Hector hadn’t celebrated the death of Patroclus, Achilles would have had less motivation to face him in battle with such vengeance. Perhaps if Hector had retreated, his life would have been spared. His pride causes him to adamantly stand his ground against Achilles, resulting in his death.

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