Before it was written, The Iliad was a poem told orally by the Greeks. The Iliad
presents modern day readers with information about the Greek society many years ago in
the B.C. time period. This poem portrays the important values of the Greek society
during a heroic age. This heroic age is conveyed by one main character, Achilles. Achilles
represents the tragic Greek hero in The Iliad, tragic because he chose his own death.
Achilles knew (because of his mother Thetis), that he could either lead a long and
insignificant life, or die young but glorious. Achilles chose the latter. Throughout The
Iliad, Achilles went through some significant changes that affected himself, as well as the
Achaeans and Trojans. He began a hero and ended a tragic hero.
The Trojan War is vital to Greek mythology and provides a backdrop for
discussion. Before the war even started, however, it was known by all Trojans and
Achaeans that Achilles was the best fighter. He was the hero of all fighters. In a way this
was bad, and in a way this was good. Achilles was overflowing with pride, which built up
his confidence. Consequently, it was his confidence that brought on his early death.
It all began when Agamemnon stole away Briseis, Achillesí woman. To ease the
anger Achilles had for Agamemnon, Thetis asked Zeus to provide honor for her son,
Achilles. Zeus granted her request by promising that the Achaeans would suffer enough
losses to force Agamemnon to come begging for Achillesí help.
The first major change in Achilles was caused by his rage toward Agamemnon.
Achilles, the great warrior, allowed his wrath to infest his desire to help his own comrades
in the battle against the Trojans. It was his determination to maintain his pride that led
way to his unwavering stubbornness. Because Achilles withheld himself from battle, the
Achaeans and Trojans suffered many losses. Of the Achaeans, many of the best men
were injured or killed. Odysseus, Diomedes, and Agamemnon were all three vital fighters
for the Achaeans that nearly lost their lives in battle. They were not able to participate in
battle for a number of days. The Trojans experienced similar casualties. Even though
Achillesí behavior was not centered around concern for his comrades, the Achaeans never
lost respect for him. They continued to honor him, knowing that he was far stronger than
any other Achaean and that they needed his help
A main message portrayed during the continuous battle that took place during
Achillesí absence, was that some people are favored and some are not. Regardless of a
Greek or Trojanís reputation, the stronger fighter was always determined by the gods.
For example, when the Trojans reached the Argive gates, Zeus gave Hector the power to
lift a huge boulder. With this boulder, Hector was able to break open and gain entrance.
He then had access to the Argive ships. The intervention of the gods showed many
parallels to human life during the time Achilles was out of battle, this being one of them.
The intervention of the gods affected everyone, whether they were mortal or immortal,
Trojan or Achaean.
Other parallels included jealousy, pride, and anger. All of these human traits that
the gods reflected, were precisely why Achilles had withdrawn from battle. Jealousy,
pride, and anger were all feelings Achilles possessed as a result of Agamemnon stealing
Briseis.
The second major change in Achilles took place when his friend Patroclus was
killed by Hector. When Agamemnon sent his men with ransom to call Achilles back to
battle, Achilles did not accept. The mere request by Agamemnonís messengers was not
enough to lure him back. Achilles should have accepted Agamemnonís ransom and
returned to fight. Instead, he continued to wallow in his own pride and anger. This
continued rage killed his best friend Patroclus because Achilles was not there to protect
him.
The personal affect that Patroclusí death had on Achilles caused even more wrath
than before. As a result, Achilles returned to battle for revenge. This late decision would
have been classified by the Greeks as the second largest mistake possible. Achilles
changed his mind, but he changed it too late. Patroclus was dead. In the end, Achilles
received his long sought glory by killing the Trojan responsible for Patroclusís death.
The killing of Hector by Achilles was a pivotal point in Achillesí life of heroism.
He moved from being a hero to that of a tragic hero. That single moment of glory
determined his fate to die an early death.