Explain one of the motivations of Achilles in the Iliad as being the greatest of the Achaean warriors.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Achilles is a fascinating character to explore in depth precisely because he has so many characteristics that point towards differing interpretations of his character. On the one hand, he possesses considerable strength and divine favour, yet on the other hand, he seems to lack maturity and is frequently overpowered by his emotions of anger, pride and rage. What drives him is the selfish desire to achieve glory and the need to be remembered throughout all generations, and this all-ecompassing goal is shown to cause the deaths of many "great fighters" as a result of the rage of Achilles, as the opening lines of this poem make clear. However, as Achilles himself reflects, a prophecy given to him by his mother, Thetis, gave him the option of either a long life but one that would be forgotten or a short life that would make his name remembered for all eternity:

Mother tells me,
the immortal goddess Thetis with her glistening feet,
that two fates bear me on to the day of death.
If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy,
my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies.
If I voyage back to the fatherland I love,
my pride, my glory dies...

Although after Briseis was seized by Agamemnon Achilles initially believes he will leave the war and embrace the option of long life, it is the death of Patroclus that returns him to his former goal of dying young but achieving immortal fame through his exploits. For Achilles, therefore, it is vital that he becomes the greatest of the Achaean warriors in order to achieve that immortal fame that he is willing to sacrifice everything to gain.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team