Comparing Achilles and Hector in the Iliad

The introduction deals with Greco-Roman literature and the importance of Iliad as an epic. The main points that are discussed below the introduction are: The plot of the story, character and leadership characteristics of Achilles, and the character and leadership characteristics of Hector. The conclusion includes the comparison and analysis of both the warriors.

The Greco-Roman literature is interwoven with history and mythology and it is a tedious task to find out what the reality is and what the fact is. But when we go through the Iliad by Homer, our attention is capture by the leadership characteristics of Achilles and Hector. The Iliad begins with the Trojan War which was already in progress. Homer did not invent the characters or the main event of the story. Richard M Ratzan points out that the comparison between the modern culture and the Greco-Roman culture provides a deep knowledge on the cultural values which were based on war, warriors, male domination, shame and honor. “cross-cultural comparison between our culture and one that is far removed in time, geography, and cultural values and was based on war, warriors, male domination, shame, and honor.” (Ratzan). The study of Iliad can be considered as a cross cultural comparison. Moreover, Homer chose the characters and the main events from history. The story focuses on events that take place in the tenth year of the Trojan War. But Homer ignored some myths about his characters. For example, Homer ignores the myth about Achilles that he was immortal, except for his heel.

The plot of Homer’s epic-The Iliad is the war between the Trojans and the Achaeans. Hector and Achilles, two brave warriors were the leaders of both sides. Both of them were with distinguished valor such as bravery, honor and worth. But the motivation for each to fight was different i.e. Achilles fought for passion, Hector fought because he considered that it was his duty to fight. We can see that Achilles is ruled by his uncontrollable passions which can be seen in his rage and proud headstrong ways. But on the other side, Hector is motivated by his duty consciousness and this proves him as a noble levelheaded leader. Regardless of the difference in the motivation, both the characters show immense brevity. Achilles’ passion rules his every action and it finally rousts him to battle. But Hector is one of the most honored because his behavior is motivated by the responsibility to protect his city and people.

As Hector is one of the best warriors in history, Homer chose him as one of the bold characters in Iliad. An epic hero is one who undertakes quests to achieve something of tremendous value to themselves or to their society. From this perspective, Hector can be considered as an epic hero he was a leader through the toughest times and he fought through the worst battles. One can see that he is the mightiest warrior in the Trojan army. Homer describes the fighting capability, bravery and honor of Hector throughout the epic poem Iliad. Matthew Schieltz Points out that Hector is the best fighter on the Trojan’s side. “Hector, on the opposite side, is the best fighter on the Trojans’ side.” (Schieltz). So the Trojans were blessed with a leader with a human character. Moreover, he was with leadership quality and he was a judicious leader. Hector’s true actions and worthiness throughout within his battle against Achilles, prove him as a real hero. Hector arouses the battle by slaying Achilles’ best friend Patroclus. But the God Apollo helped Hector to slay Patroclus and to strip the corpse of its armor. Even Hector’s mother Hecuba or his wife could not stop him from fighting once again. So, as a brave warrior, Hector establishes himself as the true epic hero.

The Trojan military leader, Hector is with leadership characteristics and is combined with spiritedness and intelligence. His leadership quality is more evident when he asks for volunteers to undertake an attempt to secure intelligence about the Greeks. Moreover, he is able to find out practical solutions for the problems related to war. Another peculiarity of Hector is that he demonstrates the same acuity throughout the epic devising his own plans, and he used to accept or reject the advice of subordinates. Hector is highly spirited like Achilles but was able to control his anger. His anger was constructive. Agamemnon and Achilles used to scold each other but Hector was an exception. The dispute between Greek heroes ultimately affected their motherland but Hector’s anger did not affect the city of Troy. Moreover it benefits Troy. At critical stages Hector decides to accept the advice of his warriors. For example, when the battle reverses favoring the Greeks, Hector accepts Polydamas’ advice to retreat and regroup. Here, we can see that Hector is more disciplined and he does not hold any self-defeating grudges.

Hector knows his men well enough to chastise when appropriate. For example, Menalus companion of Hector, used to strip the armor from those he killed in the battlefield. Unlike other commanders Hector used to fight in front marshalling his troops, calling on the warriors for more effort. Hector’s temper is bounded and productive. He used his intellect and powers of discernment for protecting his city In Achilles vs. Hector in the Iliad, one can read that the character of Hector is more human and convincing than Achilles. “Hector, in this case, decides to react upon his human impulses and flees from Achilles, who instantly gives chase. After a cunning trick by Athena which causes Hector to decide to stand his ground and fight, perhaps the most conspicuous contradiction between a warriorÕs heroic code and the warriorÕs human side is evident” (Achilles vs. Hector in the Iliad). Hector used to react on human impulses and was more human than Achilles. Men under his command die but it was not because of the failure of his leadership. History teaches us that superior commanders are not always victorious. Here, the role of gods, fate, and men’s understanding of their own destiny results the defeat of Hector by Achilles. Hector’s men admire their commander he understands them and they felt that he was one of them. Moreover, Hector’s temperate human qualities also kept his allies together. Seth Cropsey says that the lives of the characters in Iliad are full of human qualities. For example, Agamemnon sacrifices hundreds of warriors to his anger at Achilles. “He sacrifices hundreds of his own warriors to his anger at Achilles, and he dies at his wife’s and her lover’s hands. There is deep, moving affection between Odysseus and his wife, Penelope. And genuine warmth exists in Odysseus’ relationship with his son, Telemachus,” (Cropsey). The story of Achilles and Hector is the story of human qualities and values. As a commander, Hector uses all the tools to lead his army. His speeches inspired his men, which was quite unlike those of the Greek’s commander.

In the Trojan war Achilles was at the side of Greeks. His mother Thais was an immortal. There were Gods to save Achilles from further danger in the battlefield. Moreover, he was able to split the Trojan force single-handedly and drove the back to the city gates. He was an army of one. Achilles was overruled by his passion and demands recognition of his status as the great warrior among the Achaeans. In Grade saver, Summary and analysis of Books 1-4, one can see that the true climax of Iliad is the transformation of Achilles. Moreover, he is able to make the great leap of empathy. “He sees his own father in the old king, and he suddenly understands the anguish that he has caused for the old man and others like him, a mourning father for every man that he has killed.” (Summary and Analysis of Books 1-4). The love towards his father is transformed to a universal love to all.

Achilles was of the opinion that the possessions are not worth his life. Achilles’ mother had told him that he can either stay at the battle field and fight, or he can return home and have a long life. He chose the easier one and decided to sail for home. But later he decided to fight with Hector. But at the last moment, Achilles carries his pride too in his refusal to be moved by the suffering of his fellow soldiers. School bytes points out that, Iliad is the story of Achilles. It cannot be considered as the story of the Trojan War. “The Iliad is not really the story of the Trojan War. It takes place in the tenth year of the Trojan War and ends before the Achaians build the Trojan Horse and win the war. The Iliad is about Achilles. Achilles is a bad ass warrior who was supposedly immortal except for his heel.” (Homer). But Achilles was overpowered by his anger. The self absorption can be considered as a part of his greatness, but it is his greatest sin. But when his friend Petroclus dies, Achilles rose into action and decided to take revenge of his death. The reason behind the rage of Achilles is the death of his dearest friend Petrocius. Achilles defeats and kills Hector.

So, it can be concluded that both Achilles and Hector were of same brevity and leadership quality in the battlefield. To an extent, the character of Hector is more convincing and appealing for the readers of Iliad. Hector knew that he will lose the battle but he was not ready to surrender. There were no Gods to help Hector in the battlefield. He was duty conscious, fought and became a martyr for this city. There are so many similarities between both the warriors. Both of them were brave. Both of them fought for their motherland. Both of them were leaders with great leadership qualities. But the only difference in their character resulted in victory and doom. Achilles was passionate and Hector was duty conscious. So it can be seen that the leadership characteristics of Achilles and Hector gives them more importance than any other character in the epic Iliad.

Works Cited

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Homer’s Greek epic offers leadership lessons for modern warriors, BY SETH CROPSEY. Web.

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Ratzan, Richard M. Achilles’ Heel and Painting by Numbers. Western Journal of Medicine. 2002. Web.

Schieltz, Matthew. Differences Between Achilles, Odysseus, and Hector in The Iliad and The Odyssey: The Three Beloved Heroes. Associated Content. 2007. Web.

Achilles vs. Hector in the Iliad. 123Helpme. 2007. Web.

Cropsey, Seth. Homer’s Greek Epic Offers Leadership Lessons for Modern Warriors. AFJ. 2008. Web.

Summary and Analysis of Books 1-4. GradeSaver. 1999. Web.

Homer. . Schoolbytes. 2008. Web.