A Comparison of the Characters of Achilles and Hector in the Iliad
Greek warriors as described in the Iliad were god-like men although not immortal like the Greek gods themselves. Some warriors were Kings of realms within the Greek Empire and some were also said to be sons of gods or goddesses. Achilles was, in the story of the Iliad, the son of a goddess and a mortal. He was said to have great strength and was extremely accurate with the javelin. Greeks warriors like Achilles were admired for great speed and endurance. As Greece is a nation adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, most conquests probably began by sailing to a neighboring country. Greek warriors would need to be good sailors and navigators. Achilles had his own ships and army of men. As revealed in Book 1 of the Iliad, Achilles doesn??™t have a dispute with the army of Troy, but only came to the battle in support of another King, Agamemnon. The Trojans had plundered his lands and taken his wife Helen. Hector has a larger stake in the conflict. He is the son of Priam, King of Troy. Hector is fighting for the survival of his city. The two warriors, Hector and Achilles, are the champions of the opposing armies. Achilles is an only child, the son of Thetis, whereas, Hector is one of many sons of King Priam. Achilles is more like a soldier of fortune. At one point he withdraws his support from Agamemnon over a dispute for the spoils of war and threatens to return home. When the battle begins to turn in favor of the Trojans, Agamemnon tries to re-enlist Achilles with offers of riches and the return of the woman that he has taken. Achilles still refuses to fight but allows his best friend Patroclus to borrow his armor and lead the battle. As with all Greek Mythology, the gods play a major role in the Iliad. In the story Hector and Achilles have gods working both for and against them. The gods of Apollo and Zeus supposedly knock off the armor of Patroclus, leaving him defenseless, and allowing him to be wounded. Hector is then able to kill him with a spear. The killing of his best friend Patroclus brings Achilles back into the battle but now it is for vengeance. The gods favor Achilles more when he and Hector take the battlefield. The reader of the Iliad from Ancient Greece times might think that Hector was the nobler warrior. He is fighting in defense of his city against an invading army from Greece. Hector also shows more respect for the dead when, before the final battle, he asks Achilles to make an oath not to dishonor his body if he is killed. Hector promises to do the same if he is the victor. Achilles refuses the deal saying: ???Do wolves and lambs agree to get along No, they hate each other to the core. And that??™s how it is between you and me.??? (180). After Achilles has killed Hector he drags his body behind the chariot back to the Greek camp and each day for twelve days he drags the corps around the grave of Patroclus. The Greek gods once again intervene and don??™t allow Hectors body to decompose but instead arrange for his father, King Priam, to ransom his remains. Only after payment is made does Achilles agree to release Hectors body and allow his family time for burial before attacking the city. This action was done reluctantly and probably more for the sake of appeasing the gods.
James, Lawall. et al, The Northern Anthology of Western Literature, 8th ed., Ed. Sarah Lawall,
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006, Print.