Explain Achilles' pride and stubbornness in the Iliad by Homer.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Homer’s Iliad features the great warrior Achilles. As a demi-god, his mother was a sea god and his father was a mortal. This gives Achilles great strength of body and character, though he is not immortal. He is the greatest Achaean soldier and additionally lives by a strict code of ethics.

Achilles battles constantly with his king Agamemnon. This causes many of the problems that face the Greeks as they battle against the city of Troy and the Trojan soldiers. 

Agamemnon offends Achilles severely when he requires Achilles to give him his woman Briseis, whom Achilles loved. Achilles withdraws from the battle knowing that the Greek armies cannot win without his participation. 

Achilles has several flaws, though he has lived by the heroic code all of his life. He is too proud, which keeps him from accepting apologies from Agamemnon for his taking Briseis.  In addition, Achilles has difficulty containing his anger. Other than with Patroklos, Achilles has difficulty communicating with people. His life has been isolated; without a real home, Achilles has had to learn to depend on others when needed. 

In several situations, it is his anger that keeps Achilles from achieving the glory that he was born to achieve. Sometimes, his anger leads to cruel behavior; some of the most violent scenes in the story come from Achilles’ anger.

Achilles has only one true friend, Patroklos, who has been his friend since childhood. Patroklos serves as an advisor to Achilles. Patroklos is older but not as strong in his fighting skills as Achilles. He is subservient to Achilles, performing menial tasks.

Another of Patroklos’ duties is to keep a check on Achilles’ anger. He also encourages Achilles to behave under a moral code, particularly in his relationship with Briseis. Patroklos does rise to the occasion and shows himself to be brave and daring in battle. In the battle, Patroklos shows himself to be a courageous and effective warrior.

Thinking that he can perform as effectively as Achilles, Patroklos wears Achilles' armor. But after fighting effectively in three battles, Patroklos is injured by Apollo, which makes him vulnerable to Hektor who kills him. As he dies, Patrolos predicts that Achilles will avenge him by killing Hektor.  

As a friend, Achilles often mistreated Patroklos. Yet, Achilles is devastated by the death of his companion. He vows revenge against Hektor:

There was a time, ill fated, o dearest of all my companions,
when you yourself would set the desirable dinner before me quickly and expertly, at the time the Achaians were urgent to carry sorrowful war on the Trojans, breakers of horses. But now you lie here torn before me, and my heart goes starved for meat and drink, though they are here beside me, by reason of longing for you. There is nothing worse than this I could suffer…

Achilles swears revenge for his friend's death and goes on to battle and kill Hektor. Unfortunately, Achilles commits a social error when he mutilates the body and does not return it to Hektor's people.

As a great warrior, there was none that could match his skills. It was his wrath, pride, and grief, however, that forced Achilles to behave as a human and less as a hero.

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