Achilles comes into theIliad a glorious and prideful hero, demanding due respect and prizes for the acts of glory and talent he displays on the battlefield at Troy. This can be seen in Book One when he quarrels with Agamemnon. During a siege on a Trojan ally, the Achaeans...
Achilles comes into the Iliad a glorious and prideful hero, demanding due respect and prizes for the acts of glory and talent he displays on the battlefield at Troy. This can be seen in Book One when he quarrels with Agamemnon. During a siege on a Trojan ally, the Achaeans capture two beautiful women as war prizes. One of them, named Briseis, is given to Achilles, and one is given to Agamemnon. The reader finds out that the young woman given to Agamemnon is the priest of Apollo's daughter. When the priest of Apollo requests that Agamemnon return his daughter, Agamemnon refuses, and Apollo sends a plague down on the Greeks as punishment. Finally, Agamemnon relents and returns the daughter but now, being bereft of prize, takes Achilles's maiden for his own. This act of insult causes Achilles's pride and selfish desire for honor to be spotlighted. He is furious and, in his anger, refuses to fight for the Achaeans, turning his back on the troops who were comforted and encouraged by his protection and leadership in battle.
Achilles only returns to the fighting when his comrade Patroklos is killed by the Trojan warrior Hektor. Once again, the reader sees Achilles's main qualities of outrage, pride, and anger as he fights again only for his own glory and taste for revenge. He not only kills Hektor, but also defiles his body and drags his corpse behind his chariot. This disrespectful action shows the raw fury of the hero and his inability to think of others, particularly Hektor's grieving family who watch as their noble son is dragged in the dust.
Achilles's change in character occurs largely because of a visit he receives from King Priam. Priam goes to Achilles, bringing gifts that he hopes will win Achilles over and make Achilles return the body of his beloved son. Priam, who has every reason to attack Achilles in fury over the disgraces Achilles inflicted on his son's corpse, instead bends to Achilles and kisses his hands. Priam's intense love for his fallen son and his respectful response to his son's murderer confuse Achilles and yet fill him with a growing sense of admiration for a king who is so unlike the spiteful and prideful Agamemnon. Priam even reminds Achilles of his own father, Peleus, whom he left behind to fight for his own glory. The two men eat and, in their conversations and shared grief, develop a mutual awe and respect for the other. As a result of seeing Priam's humility, respect, and grief, Achilles gives Hektor's body back and also agrees to a truce until Hektor's body has been properly mourned according to Trojan customs and traditions. It seems the horrors of war he sees through the grieving Priam and the death of his own friend Patroklos have allowed Achilles to share in the grief of mortal men and, as a result, he becomes more compassionate towards humans as a whole. He learns the consequences of his own anger and pride and becomes a more sympathetic hero as a result.