In the Iliad, both Hector and Achilles display heroic characteristics that go along with the heroic warrior code of Greece. Both characters have their strengths and weaknesses and differences in their approach to being heroic. Even with their differences, they have many similarities. Hector is a great leader and family man and a protector of his people. Achilles is a self-centered warrior who is only in it for the glory. Hector commands the Trojan army, while Achilles commands the Greek army. They both have pride and glory and are seen as heroes in the eyes of their sides’ people.
Having a passion for revenge might be considered a glaring flaw in today’s standards, but it definitely conforms to the heroic code of Greek society. Hector has mixed feelings about taking part in the war. His wife pleads with him not to go, and he does not want to make her a widow, leaving her “at the loom of another man”. Hector shows heroism for going to war, but at the same time shows his human side by being indecisive about leaving his family. In Book Twenty-Two, Hector stays outside the ramparts, whereas his supporters are secure.
His father Priam, wants him to retreat to safety with Achilles approaching, but his pride and honor prevent him from backing down. His fearlessness is an extremely heroic action. He then flees, which is very unheroic. It seems apparent that there is an inner conflict with emotions and the heroic code. Hector eventually stands his ground and fights. Achilles kills Hector in a very cruel way. Before desecrating Hector’s body, he allows him to die a slow and painful death. His action is another way his behavior conforms to the Greek heroic code.
Even the most valiant soldier must have a human side, which definitely must object to the savage killing that is inevitable in war. On the other hand, when Achilles and his soldiers get some type of pleasure from repeatedly stabbing Hector’s lifeless corpse, another kind of human emotion is being displayed. This is the pent up anger and hostility that build up during one’s quest for revenge or simply battle. So, it might be concluded that the heroic code and the human emotions might not conflict after all.
Hector is viewed as the more heroic one. He knows his role as the defender of Troy. Although he has a strong love and devotion to his family, he still goes off to defend his country, even after the pleading from his wife. Hector’s traits and character as a husband and father no less admirable than that as his as a warrior. Hector is a man who loves his child and wife and who can forget war when a little child cries. He is seen as the bravest and most accomplished of the warriors. He is a team player, a very gifted leader and soldier.
Unlike Achilles, Hector is a more complete and well-rounded person. Hector was a man who was willing to fight until the end. Which he did. Achilles is more of a loner, except of his close friendship with Patroclus. Marriage has no weight in his consciousness. He seems more the estranged youth than the manly defender represented in Hector. He is revered as the greatest warrior in the world, and no man can stand against him. Achilles was a very spoiled and pampered only child. He had a much undeveloped sense of his place in the world.
He is viewed as an admirable warrior, and his still in battle boosts the morale of his fellow Greeks when he chooses to fight, but he is an unreliable leader who sulks when he does not get his way. Both Hector and Achilles behave as heroes throughout the Iliad. While they try to win glory in war for their families, their country, and themselves, they both have certain strengths and weaknesses in their character which dictate their very different courses of action and their thoughts.
They are both presented with conflicts and dilemmas throughout the story, the resolutions of which must be made using both their human side and their aggressive heroic side, and it appears as if Achilles meets with the most success in this difficult task. Works Cited Homer. “The Illiad. ” Lombardo, translated by Stanley. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. Ed. Sarah Lawall. 8th Edition. New York: W W Norton & Company, 2006. 107-205.