The Iliad of Homer


Honor is something men and women have fought for century after century.  Even now, thousands of American and British men are fighting in Iraq, near to where the Trojan War was to have taken place.  These men fight for the greater good.  They fight for those in Iraq who are unable to fight for or otherwise defend themselves. They fight for honor. The characters in the Iliad are motivated by their own form of honor, or arete, known similarly as the Homeric Code.  And it is because of this code that the Trojan War began.  The characters in this story are shown to possess arete, but some have different ideas as to how vastly and to what rate it should be respected.  And because of this, many a mans honor is disturbed.

The Homeric Code can be defined as unwritten rules that guide the conduct of the Homeric Heroes.  For the Homeric Heroes, success means survival and greater honor; failure means death and removal from the struggle for honor.  What the Heroic code means is that honor is more important than life itself.  It is obvious throughout the books that the characters of high honor are the ones that ignore warnings to stay away from danger, battles, and the like.  Courage, physical abilities, and social status are also important contributions to the Homeric code.  To truly understand this code and the true dedication to it as told by Homer, means becoming accustom to the values kept by those in this story.

Hector is a main character in the Iliad on the side of the Trojans.  He shows great perseverance and has stern conviction for the code of honor as shown many times during the course of The Iliad. A prime illustration of this is shown where Hector rebukes Paris for refraining from the fight, Now the long-haired Greeks will laugh and say that our beautiful hero has no heart in him or courage. (Pg. 48) Hector shows how devoted he is to the ideal of honor and criticizes Paris for the shame that he has brought to the entire Trojan army and himself.  Before Hectors death, he contemplates his options.  It will be far better to meet Achilles man to man and kill him and then go in; or be killed by him, in all honor, before the city. (176)

Another place where we see Hector’s strict belief in the code of honor is in book six, when he goes home. Hector returns to Troy in order to have women sacrificing to Athena to help the Trojans in the war. This leads to Hector scolding Paris, telling him “The people die before walls and war flames round the city because of you. You would be angry yourself to see another man hanging back from the fight. (85)

Although Paris and Hector are brothers, it was interesting to notice how different the two actually were.  Paris in no way lives up to the Heroic code.  Paris is shown as self-centered and disengaged from the war. When Paris is talked about in the epic, he is not described as using a sword, but instead he is using a bow and arrow. He is quoted in the book as a lover not a fighter. It is clear that Hector is extremely disappointed with his brother when he states; Evil-hearted Paris, beautiful to look upon, woman-mad, and false of tongue. How much better if you had never been! (48) In book three he challenges Menelaus to a duel, but is rescued from the fight by Aphrodite.  If Paris had fought it out in book three, perhaps all of these unnecessary deaths could have been avoided.
Nestor is the character in the poem that best convinces the others to follow the code of honor. This speech persuades nine of the Achaeans to volunteer, showing Nestor’s power to influence the warriors to stick to the heroic code.

The Heroic code also comes into play when he suggests the Greeks back away from fighting to bury their dead.  This is how the social status point of the Heroic code comes into play.  The men take time to remember the men who lost their lives in battle, but will not be forgotten for their bravery.  Nestor is unable to fight for honor because of his age; however, he has a special gift to give advice.  With this a great sorrow comes upon the Greeks. Truly Prium and his sons and all the Trojans would be happy to hear how you twogreatest of all the Greeks in counsel and in the fightingare now separate in anger. (1; 254-284)  Nestor’s stories always have a deeper meaning behind them. While reading about Nestor, he reminded me of a coach for a great team.  No respectable team can win without the support and guidance of a determined coach.  Not all winning sports teams could have gotten to where they had been without the help of their coach. The coach is the string that ties the team together. He is there for the Achaeans, and supports them through anecdotes, wisdom, and knowledge.

Diomede follows the heroic code, finding glory and nobility on a battlefield and does so modestly while caring for his people.  Diomede lives and is prepared to die by the Heroic code  what a true model mortal is supposed to do. Diomede directly states that No, for it would be ignoble for me to shrink back in the fighting or to lurk aside, since my fighting strength stays steady forever. (5;253-254) Clearly, Diomede is prepared to go fight in battle and is proud to do so.   Diomede knows that he cannot win over gods, so instead he respects and works with them in order to win against others, gaining him honor.  It is important to be good to the gods in order to keep honor. Diomede says, know that I will not fight against any god of the heaven.  This quote is showing how he is being loyal to the gods.

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