Hector: The Ideal Warriors Qualities Both Achilles and Hector are prominent warrior characters that feature in Homers epic poem, The Iliad, but they actually demonstrate different qualities that make them vary in the extent that they embody the ideal Greek warrior. Greek warriors constantly strove for glory on the battlefield and in how they met their death. While Achilles is a masterful warrior, he differs from Hector somewhat in that he does not subordinate his own desires to those of his superiors, and Hectors reconciliation of himself with his own pending death shows him to meet it in a manner more befitting of a hero than Achilles. Therefore, although Hector was a Trojan, he would be likely to be seen by the Ancient Greek audiences as a more ideal warrior than Achilles would have been. Within Greek culture, there were several characteristics by which ideal warriors could be judged. Heroes were expected to seek glory on the battlefield, known as kleos, earning renown through heroic deeds and the slaying of enemies. In addition, they had to demonstrate fealty to their leaders, particularly kings, if they themselves were not rulers, as well as showing respect for the gods (The Concept of the Hero, n.
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d.). Finally, they aspired to meet their deaths heroically, because the Greeks believed that fate was inevitable, and that people could not choose the moment of their death, but only how they could meet it (The Concept of the Hero, n.d.).
Achilles and Hector, in The Iliad, were both powerful warriors that succeed in dispatching many of their opponents; notably, Hector kills Patroclus, the friend of Achilles, which leads to Achilles re-entering the battle and slaying Hector in turn. Achilles shows himself to be much more prone to displays of emotion, as he becomes angered at the head of the military expedition, Agamemnon, when the latter demands the girl Briseis from Achilles as a prize, stating that ???You are steeped in insolence and lust of gain??? (Homer, Book I, 2009). Achilles frequently stays away from the battle altogether, both out of anger at Agamemnon and to postpone his own death, as it was prophesized prior to the Trojan War that he would not return if he went. In fact, he only reconciles himself to death after he desires to avenge Patroclus, as shown in Book XIX (Homer, 2009).
After slaying Hector, as well, he desecrates the body and denies it proper burial, showing a tendency toward sacrilege. In contrast to Achilles, Hector shows himself to be a much more pious and obedient individual. He generally observes the proper patterns of sacrifices, and listens to the deities that give him advice, and in turn they ???vouchsafe [him] strength??? (Homer, Book XI, 2009). This, in turn, allows Hector to attain battlefield victories that rival Achilles, including the defeat of Patroclus, who is said to be almost as strong as Achilles himself. Hector shows concern for the well-being of the Trojans throughout the war, as well as his family, fighting on behalf of Paris even though he believes the latters kidnapping of Helen to be fundamentally wrong.
Hector is also resigned to his own death, stating that ???the issue lies in the lap of heaven??? as to whether he will die in battle, and does not allow himself to be swayed by emotion when entering battle. Instead, he generally listens to advice or uses his own ethical codes, including obedience to the gods and to his social superiors, to make his decisions. The contrast between the behaviors and attitudes of Achilles and Hector allows a comparison to be made as to which warrior better meets the ideal qualities of this class. While Achilles is a powerful warrior, and ultimately bests Hector in combat, he consistently shows an attitude disdainful of tradition and religious belief, earning him the enmity of both the gods and other Greeks. He is unwilling to act except for personal interests, such as the accumulation of war prizes and the desire to avenge Patroclus. In contrast, Hector is not only obedient and reverent to the gods, but he also is willing to give up his earthly glory when it is time for him to die, which allows him to meet his fate in a manner that is much more stoic than Achilles. From the perspective of the Ancient Greek audiences, then, it is likely that Hector would be regarded as the superior hero.
This is somewhat ironic, as Hector is not a Greek, but Homer seems to show in The Iliad that positive qualities are not a uniquely Greek phenomenon, and that it can be possible to respect ones enemies, as long as they show traits that are consistent with the warrior ideal.ReferencesThe Concept of the Hero. (n.
d.). Rediscovering Homer. Harvard University. Retrieved from http://athome.
(2009). The Iliad. The Internet Classics Archive. Retrieved from http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/iliad.20.xx.html