Thursday, January 17, 2013

Achilles, the Anti-Hero

As I mentioned, there was a lot about the Iliad that took me by surprise.  One of the biggest surprises was finding out the character of Achilles.  At first he seems to be the hero.  Right away he is wronged by Agamemnon.  He (famously) sulks but it's a justified sulk, or at least he has a serious reason. 
The first surprise comes when the Greeks try to make amends.  He brushes them off, even though he knows that this will only mean more death for his allies.  He has been through battles with them and spent nine years on the beach in their company but he lets them die.  This is hardly heroic.
The real shocker came later though.  After Achilles kills Hector, he strips him of his armor (of course) and returns to the boats, dragging his body behind his chariot.  This isn't exactly noble, but can perhaps be excused because of the heat of battle.  However, the next morning Achilles gets up early, ties Hector up again and drags him around the camp.  And again the next day and the next.  That's hardly cricket.
This keeps up until the gods tell him to knock it off.  And honestly, at this point you have to wonder what the gods see in this jerk.  I don't know how the Greeks of Homer's time really felt about Achilles, but I didn't like him at all. 

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