During the time period in which the Iliad took place there was a great emphasis put on masculinity. Five specific qualities were required to obtain the venerable title of a hero. Firstly, one must be born unto noble birth. For instance, a man born from the social status of a servant would cause the man to be immediately looked down on for his rankings among his higher status social counterparts. Secondly, the hero must attain strength. Without strength, the man cannot prove himself victorious throughout battles causing him either death or the unthinkable characteristic of humiliation which in turn causes the man more pain than death itself. Thirdly, a man must encompass courage. If a soldier was frightened going into battle it is certain he would be ridiculed by his counterparts.
For the fourth quality, one must be able and willing to kill worthy opponents. During this time period warriors often used the notoriety that opponents possessed to mark their status as a soldier. Thus, the more worthy of an opponent one has killed the greater hero one is. Lastly, it is essential for a man to go through a quest for immortality through glory. In the Iliad one can see that the entire purpose of the epic is to bring the opposing enemy down. If one should fail this mission they embarrass their whole kingdom let alone themselves. These ideas of masculinity are influential in Achilles’ decision to turn down Agamemnon’s offers, yet it also happens to be these same influences that will eventually induce Achilles back to the glory of war.
Furthermore, one can see the drive for these masculine qualities in Achilles and Agamemnon. Achilles and Agamemnon possess many of the same qualities yet, they also vary in several ways. Achilles and Agamemnon may hold similar feelings although, many of the feelings that these two attain are demonstrated in separate conduct. The consequences of their conduct result in two distinct personalities which in turn cause friction between the two.
Pride, loyalty, anger, and power are several qualities that Achilles and Agamemnon mutually hold. Achilles shows pride by not giving into Agamemnon’s bribes. On the other hand, Agamemnon shows pride by reiterating to his people that because he is presenting Achilles with infinite amounts of gifts Agamemnon is in turn is the better man. Agamemnon shows this in book mine by stating “Lay him bow down to me! I am the greater king, I am the elder-born, I claim the greater man (pg. 256 185-190).” Achilles pride lays in his stubbornness in contrast Agamemnon’s pride results in arrogance. For example, Agamemnon wants all the riches that he can have power over yet, he makes no risks that would tempt to spare his own life. In turn, Achilles shows his stubbornness by unyielding to give into Agamemnon’s bribes. He will not even be enticed by his dear wife Briseis. Achilles says in response to the messengers, “Well let him bed her now enjoy her to the hilt” (9.407-409).
The ways in which Agamemnon and Achilles show loyalty also cause them to differ in character. Agamemnon shows loyalty to few people other than himself. On the contrary, Achilles tends to be a very black and white character particularly when it comes to loyalty. He either loves and protects his counterparts thus showing loyalty or shows great animosity towards those who have betrayed him. For example, Achilles shows great admiration for Phoenix, who was the one who raised him since he was a child. Achilles states, “But Phoenix can stay the rest the night with us…but only if Pheonix wishes. I will never force the man to go” (9.518-522). It is clear the people who Achilles cares for will be provided all the amounts of respect and loyalty that he can afford to offer.
Anger is another feature that Achilles and Agamemnon share. Achilles and Agamemnon both experience anger but the anger that they hold is brought upon by different circumstances. For instance, once a person steps over Achilles boundaries he does not make it easy for the person to step back into his circle. Agamemnon on the other hand gets angry when his power is put into question. Agamemnon sees himself in control and plans to stay in control. Lastly, it is certain that both Achilles and Agamemnon attain power. Agamemnon’s power lies in his control over his country while Achilles power rests in his physical strength and courage. Though Achilles and Agamemnon share similarities and differences both of their personalities strive for the same goal which inevitably is the glory of war.
As a result, these characters follow the heroic code which in turn will bring the glory of war. In book nine Achilles is faced with a dilemma between the glory of war and a life of peace and longevity. When Achilles is tempted to take on a life of easiness he knows in his conscious that his fate does not lay there. Thus, the importance of the heroic code tempts him back to his destined position. In book nine Achilles makes it clear despite his anger that he will return. He states, “I will not think of arming for bloody war again, not till the son of wise King Priam, dazzling Hector batters all the way to the Myrmidion ships and shelters, slaughtering Argives, gutting the halls with fire” (9.795-798). It is evident, regardless of Achilles’ anger towards Agamemnon, that he feels the heroic code luring him back where he is most content. Conversely, Agamemnon’s final goal is also to achieve the glory of war regardless of the fact that he will not tempt to risk his life. When riches are obtained it is inevitable that Agamemnon will receive the largest portion. For it is of great importance for Agamemnon to sustain the role of power even if he himself is not physically striving for the qualities of the heroic code that in turn give him supremacy.
Throughout the Iliad it is certain that one is to see the importance of the glory of war. Fighting in the Iliad means to prove one honorable. Avoiding war shows characteristics of laziness and fear. It is apparent that Agamemnon and Achilles are looked at as strong and eager to fight. Other characters such as Paris receive scorn from his family and laughs from his enemies by avoiding war. One can witness the glory of war even through the gods. Athena is a goddess who is always there to protect the Greeks while Aphrodite is far more timid and less aggressive. Each character throughout the Iliad is ranked by the Greek heroic code. The more attributes to this code the more powerful a person is.
War is happening all throughout the Iliad. In fact, there is not a book that leaves out something about the war that is going on. Despite the war against the Greeks and the Trojans being the main factor of the Iliad there is also a war going which as not as easily noticed. This war occurs within each individual character. Each character throughout the Iliad goes through an unending struggle with oneself. By fighting in this war they are attempting to build themselves into a more powerful character. Achilles may have been temped to live a life of ease and longevity yet; he chose to return to fighting along with the ideals of masculinity. The reasons for his return had nothing to do with Agamemnon. In contrast, Achilles desire to come back and fight was found from within.
After the war is over will the fighting come to a stop?
Yes, maybe it will come to and end in terms of the two cities but, the struggle to conform to the code will be a boundless struggle that each individual will have to face on his own.