Who is the hero in Homer's poem the Iliad?
The flawed Achilles is most often identified as the hero of the Iliad. He is offered the choice of long life without glory or a short life with glory. He chooses the life of death and glory because he longs for his legacy to live on forever in poetry.
Although he is a fierce and mighty fighter, Achilles also has a temper. Achilles grows angry at his own people, the Greeks, in the Trojan War, when he believes Agamemnon has insulted and belittled him. He sulks in his tent, refusing to fight, until his close friend, Patroclus, is killed. At this point, he becomes so consumed with anger that he enters into a savage butchery of killing, culminating in the death of Hector, who he dishonors by dragging as a corpse behind his chariot.
Achilles's flaws become stand-ins for the problems that wars create in general. Wars are often caused by anger and hurt pride, and they then feed the flames of these emotions. Wars create a preoccupation with personal honor and a tendency to barbaric levels of bloodshed. Through the flawed Achilles, Homer both celebrates the figure of the valiant warrior and critiques what a war—and a warrior mentality—can do to a person.
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