Greek code of honor as manifested in The Iliad and The Odyssey

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:English

Document 1

C and had had a great influence on Western Literature. The poems are accompanying with many similarities. “The Odyssey” was written after “The Iliad” with a different plot and a set of characters. “The Iliad” is an account of significant events surrounding the Greek invasion of the city of Troy also known as Ilion in ancient times. The story is characterized by a bloody battle led by a skilled warrior known as Achilles who is portrayed as a demigod. The people are more concerned about fame and building a legacy that resounds even after they are dead. Honor influences an individual, family and the society’s actions which are guided towards claiming the honor. The possession of a beautiful woman was a measure of a man’s status and honor.

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The conflict between Paris and Menelaus is triggered by the kidnapping of Helen (King Menelaus’s wife) by Paris. To reclaim his honor, the king has to fight to bring her back. In exchange, he takes Briseis who was Achilles concubine awarded to him as war-prize. Achilles is insulted by Agamemnon’s actions. It is an act of disgrace before the whole Greek army considering his status as the greatest warrior. He has to preserve the honor he has achieved through many battles he has fought. To do this, he disobeys Agamemnon and withdraws himself and his colleagues from the army. This is shocking to the leaders, and they do not hesitate to reject it “if in truth your own heart is so set upon going, go…yet the rest of the flowing-heart Achaians will stay here until we have sacked the city of Troy” (Homer, Iliad 9.

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This shows that Agamemnon’s rank as the army general could be transferred to another person if he was not ready to fight to the end. Therefore honor was something that was supposed to be continually protected. Being involved in battle was a great honor for the Greeks. Being remembered even after death overrules the destruction that comes with war. His withdrawal from the Greek army had demoralized his fellow warriors. Their true feelings were witnessed when they ran to their ships to embark on a journey home after Agamemnon lied to them that he was giving up the battle. It is here that Odysseus reminds them of how it is a dishonor for them to retreat. For them, to retreat in the middle of a war is a shameful act and a show of weakness.

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