What is the importance of arete in the Iliad?

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Arete is honor and excellence. Males achieved arete in the Ancient Greek world by becoming valiant warriors. War was the chief source of male honor in life and after death, for courageous fighters were revered and remembered.

Yet, as Homer shows, the arete wrested from warfare also leads to sadness and death. Men show their valor in the Trojan War, but they also participate in a long and bitter bloodbath.

Achilles is one example of the doubled-edged sword of arete. He is offered a choice: a long and peaceful life, or a short life of arete through being a great warrior. He chooses the latter, as this is what his culture most reveres. Achilles does achieve glory and is remembered after death, but his short life is fraught with grief, such as when Patroclus is killed in battle while wearing his armor. Achilles's fame and honor come at a high price.

Hector would prefer to stay at home with his beloved wife and young son, living in domestic bliss, but he feels bound to fight. A life turned away from...

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