What effects does war have on the human heart and society?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like so much in Homer, the Iliad depicts a complex relationship between war and its effect on people.  On one hand, war is depicted as an issue of glory.  Achilles fights for the glory of his name and the glory of being considered as the greatest on the battlefield.  Agamemnon fights for the glory of both his nation and his own name.  Hector fights for honor of city and honor of family.  These are the representations of how war can galvanize others and motivate them to greatness.  Yet, Homer does show war to be savage and cruel.  The death of Patrocles and Hector highlight this, leaving the reader to suppose that what was once seen as glory is something as awful.  We see pain in this, as well.  When Hector knows death is imminent and he sees his child cry at the sight of him wearing his armor, we are left with the understanding that war can be hollow.  The pillaging of Troy is not shown as a singular good, unilaterally perfect.  It is savage, the Greeks showing the utmost of disrespect, and the plundering of the Trojan temples proving it.  In this light, Homer is making a profound statement on the nature of war in that glory is present within an endeavor that brings out the very worst and most hurt within all human beings and social orders.