Hektor, a Trojan soldier, must fight Akhilleus, an Achaean, during the Trojan War. Both men are regarded as powerful warriors by both Trojan and Achaean forces. Homer, author of the epic poem, also held great respect for both warriors, but respected them in different ways. Homer demonstrates this respect greatly in lines 97 to 184 of The Iliad.
Throughout the beginning of the excerpt, Homer paints Hektor as an energetic, powerful soldier. Lines 98 – 102 compare Hektor to a snake using an epic simile. Snakes archetypally symbolize energy and pure force, suggesting that Hektor possesses both strength and spirit. Homer specifically compares Hektor to a venomous snake, characterizing him as dangerous and deadly. It is also said that Hektor has a brilliant shield, showing the strength of his armor (103). The connotations of the word “brilliant” include excellence, prowess, and intelligence, adding to the idea that Hektor appears a formidable opponent for Akhilleus.
Homer depicts Akhilleus as Hektor’s equal during the entire excerpt, showing respect for him as well. Akhilleus is a demigod, nearly immortal, save for a small spot on his ankle, yet Homer’s syntax of “Better… that I appear as he who killed Akhilleus man to man,” (117 – 118) during Hektor’s monologue shows that the author recognizes both men’s mortality, as does Hektor. This shows that Hektor matches Akhilleus in power, despite him being a demigod. Homer describes Akhilleus as “huge” in the first line of the excerpt, connoting great power and might. This adds to the image of two supreme warriors facing each other, ready for battle. An epic simile on lines 144 – 146 compares Akhilleus to Ares, the Greek god of war, cementing the image of Akhilleus as a massive, forceful warrior.
Homer shows he respects both warriors for different reasons as the excerpt progresses. The epic simile on lines 164 – 168 is of particular note, as it compares Akhilleus to a fiery-hot fountain and Hektor to an icy-cold one. Fire and ice, two opposing forces, come together, neither overwhelming the other, to create the Skamánder River, just as Hektor and Akhilleus, two opposing warriors, come together to fight, though neither overpowers the other. It is said that the water from the hot spring “flows,” while the water from the cold one “gushes,” (165, 167). The difference in the diction of these two words suggests the fighting styles and personalities of Hektor and Akhilleus are as different as fire and ice. “Gushes” connotes vitality and energy, showing that the cold fountain symbolizes Hektor. This means the hot fountain, which “flows,” symbolizes Akhilleus. The diction of “flows” connotes smoothness and gracefulness. Both “gushes” and “flows” have positive connotations, showing that Homer respects Akhilleus’ smooth battle style and personality as well as Hektor’s dynamic and animated ones.
Throughout this excerpt from The Iliad, Homer shows that he respects both Akhilleus and Hektor as fine warriors and men. Homer characterizes Hektor as an energetic, eager fighter, while he paints Akhilleus as a graceful, talented one. He also recognizes the need for both lively and moderate people in life. Thus, the narrative shows that both men were appreciated by Homer, despite their individual differences.