What is the moral message of the Iliad?

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The moral message of the Iliad is that having the courage to fight gives a man's life honor and meaning, but that war itself is tragic. While Homer emphasizes honorable exploits of brave warriors, he also does not shy away from showing the human cost of war.

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The Iliad can be understood on one level as an extended meditation on war. The moral message is that the courage to fight is what gives a man's life worth, but that war itself is a tragic situation.

Honor in this poem is defined as fighting bravely for one's homeland and fellow soldiers. Hector, for example, looks down on Paris for not wanting to fight. Hector's wife, Andromache, begs him not to go to battle, and he is deeply grieved at having to leave her and his young son. However, as he explains to her, he would die of shame if he did not fight, even though he has a strong, foreboding sense that he will be killed, Troy will be defeated, and his family will be left to the violent retribution of the Greeks. Nevertheless, he can't bring himself to stay out of the fight. Likewise, when offered a long and peaceful life or a short life of honor and fame as a fighter, Achilles chooses the latter.

While fighting honorably is what defines manhood in the context of the epic, Homer does not flinch at showing the cost of war. Men like Achilles grieve as they lose close friends, and Hector is forces to leave his wife and son. The Trojan War drags on seemingly without end, and the body count rises, causing evermore grief.

Perhaps the most poignant expression of the conflicted moral message that war is honorable but tragic is revealed by Achilles's shield. On it are depicted peaceful scenes that represent everything the men are fighting to protect and preserve: cities, fields of grain, bountiful vineyards, and worship rituals that involve dancing. That peaceful life is enabled by the willingness of the men to fight. At the same time, the fighting keeps them from that peaceful life, and its tragic losses rip them apart.

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What is the moral of the story of the Iliad of Homer?

As readerofbooks suggests, there may be many morals in a work of such length and complexity as Homer's Iliad. As his post also suggests, "the costs of pride" can be argued to be the central moral of the tale. I would offer the idea that "right action" is the central moral of the epic poem. 

By "right action" I intend to refer to the idea that one's essential nature determines both one's social status and a resulting mandate for certain behavior in the context of Homer's Iliad. 

There is a notion at work in the poem that is closely related to the idea of dharma - who you are, at root, determines what is "right" for you to do. What one can do and what one is allowed to do is a function of one's essential being, which is reflected in one's social status. Morality and identity are closely linked.

In the ancient Greek context, position is very important. We notice that the range of one's abilities is always equal to one's stature. One's "rights" to property and one's range of acceptable behavior are also roughly equivalent to one's stature and abilities. Thus, Zeus can do whatever he wants. He is so powerful as to be the determining moral factor, as it were.

This notion of "right action" is, arguably, the root of all the action in the narrative and also serves to generate nearly all of the conflicts in the tale - including those conflicts that feature the gods in dispute with one another (Aries vs. Athena, Poseidon vs. Zeus, etc.). 

"Hera and Athena are angry at (or even hate) the Trojans generally, and Paris specifically, because he chose Aphrodite over them as the most beautiful even before the war began" (eNotes).

Right action, in the ancient Greek context, is not aligned directly with contemporary views of moral action as we see again and again in the story of the Iliad

For instance, we can say that the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon is related to "right action" in the Greek context. As the king, Agamemnon claims a primacy of property rights and so claims ownership of the captive Briseis. This claim to primacy is disputed by Achilles, who is a greater warrior than Agamemnon and who previously had been given the rights to Briseis.

From a contemporary standpoint, neither man has a moral right to claim a slave. In the ancient Greek context, however, the debate about who should own Briseis is tantamount to a debate about who is in possession of the greater "nature" - Achilles, the half-god, or Agamemnon, the king. 

The Greek losses in battle ultimately prove that Achilles is the greater of the two. Agamemnon finally yields. Achilles takes the field and kills Hector. 

Notably, due to Hector's stature, the Achilles agrees to honor the wishes of Priam and allow for full funeral rights and a period of mourning. Hector's status thus determines what is "right" in the situation - or what consideration is due to him. Right action and due consideration are, again, given an equivalency here. 

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What is the moral of the story of the Iliad of Homer?

This is a very difficult question, as the epic is very long and there appears to be no one overarching theme or moral. In light of this, scholars have many differing opinions, when it comes to the main moral of the story. In light of this, we need to be open to what we think is the main moral of the story. What we need to do is though is to show the evidence of why we hold a certain opinion.

In my opinion, the whole story is about the dangers of pride. We see this in a few ways. First, we see the pride of Achilles as he holds out and does not enter into the battle. This costs many lives and almost the loss of the Greeks. We also see the pride of Agamemnon. He cannot take the fact that Achilles is a better warrior than he is. In addition, we see even the pride of Hector. He knows that Achilles will defeat him, but he has to fight him anyway. In the end, all of this pride leads to death and tragedy.

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