Sunday, November 21, 2004

Achilles...A True Epic Hero

In defining the "Greek hero" in Monday's lecture, I found that there was a certain heroic characteristic missing from the group, and if we are to assume that Achilles is a true epic hero, than this characteristic must be noted. Before I go any further, I have to mention that upon reading blogs by those in Prof. Kuin's tutorial, I came across Maya's blog, which happened to cover the same missing heroic quality. Maya stated that....

"...a very important part of being a Hero (possibly more so in the 21st century) is having human qualities, particularly faults and shortcomings. At times these larger-than-life heroes can make very mortal, human mistakes; they are victims of fate and chances as well (Oedipus). At times, these mistakes have grave consequences (death in the most honorable cases). However, it is this element of human imperfection and fate that make heroes, well, heroes. Their ability to overcome and supersede these human follies further establishes their enigma. "

Therefore, as Maya so cleverly explained, a hero is not a hero unless he has a fault that he must overcome, and it is how he overcomes this fault that makes him memorable and epic. Achilles possesses superhuman strength, has a close relationship with the gods, has all the marks of a great warrior, and indeed proves the mightiest man in the Achaean army, but his innate character flaws constantly hinder his ability to act with nobility and integrity. He cannot control his pride or the rage that surges up when that pride is injured. This attribute so poisons him that he abandons his comrades and even prays that the Trojans will slaughter them, all because he has been slighted at the hands of his commander, Agamemnon. Achilles is driven primarily by a thirst for glory. Part of him yearns to live a long, easy life, but he knows that his personal fate forces him to choose between the two. Ultimately, he is willing to sacrifice everything else so that his name will be remembered, and it is this eagerness that makes him a heroic figure.


Blogger Josh C said...

Hey Franca, I don't have any great insights to add, I just wanted to say I really liked your point. It seems true that the hero in the modern tale usually goes through some dark, humbling period due to a personal weakness (pride), and then becomes stronger for overcoming it.

I'm reaching for an example...

Nothing. Damn.

November 26, 2004 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger Erynn said...

Hey Franca,
I liked you point about having to overcome some kind of vice before you can become a hero. I know I've heard that somewhere before, but I think that you helped bring it back for me. Anyway, the only thing that I can't seem to wrap my head around is the fact that he will sacrifice everything to have his name remembered. I don't know... It just seems kind of weird to me... Maybe a little boastful? I'm not too sure what it is, but it just kind of irks me a little.
Anyway, I look forward to reading more from you.

December 5, 2004 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Rayfield A. Waller said...

Does Achilles' overweening pride, a pride that drives him to not only destroy Hector but to humiliate him and to commit a desecration with Hector's corpse, does it make him a hero or does it actually make him a fool?

His hamartia is indeed hubris, which ostensibly relates him to a TRUE Greek tragic hero, Oedipus, who simply has no choice in the horrible fate he is dealt by Moira. Achilles however is not just guilty of refusing to accept his fate (Oedipus' flaw), he is guilty of CHOOSIING a colossaly tragic fate, even of creating it. He is guilty of what, under Greek Attic Law would be considered a very high crime, worse than murder itself: AIKIA, which means harm caused to the body, self inflicted harm, torture, and pursuit and glorification of suffering.

Achilles' love of suffering is of a criminal proportion, rendering him not a Sophoclean hero but a narcissist of the type we expect from another Greek tragedian who wrote about the Trjan war, Aeschylus. For example, Achilles' typically Achillean, blind rage against Hector, his blaming Hector for Patroclus' death, is unjust: it is Achilles' own fault that his beloved Patroclus has died (in battle, a heroic death). Had Achilles not withdrawn from battle out of petty spite toward Agamemnon, leaving the myrmidon, the Thessalian warrior detachment Achilles commands, to fight without him, even praying for their failure as he withdraws in narcissistic rage, Patroclus would not have worn Achilles' armor in battle making Hector strive to kill him thinking he was killing the mighty warrior Achilles.

Ironically, both Patroclus and Hector die honorably in fair battle. Achilles dishonorably commits AIKIA by mutilating and desecrating Hector and by glorifying suffering--his own, and others'. Achilles is a petulant narcissist, an aikian monster, not a proper Sophyclian hero.

February 23, 2012 at 4:34 AM  

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