The Rage of Achilles

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The Achilles of ancient Greek legend is often counted among the greatest of epic heroes for his fantastical exploits during the Trojan War as depicted by Homer in the Iliad. While it is easy to become seduced by the power and might of invincible Achilles we must remember to not confuse unchecked power with heroism. While Achilles is indeed powerful, a master warrior by all qualifications, he fails as a hero to be imitated or idolized due to his lack of restraint, his barbarity, his lack of a code of conduct, his impiety and his dishonorable behavior. Achilles wields great courage and fortitude but he is also is critically deficient in the other (perhaps more important) cornerstones of the epic hero: temperance, prudence and a sense of justice or magnanimity. It is the intemperance of the man, famously referred to as the “rage of Achilles,” which is perhaps his tragic flaw, a failing which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of untold scores of Greeks and Trojans and nearly spelled complete destruction for the Greek fleet. Driven by his ill-tempered thirst for glory and prizewinning, Achilles is unable to control himself in the face of humiliation and defeat. It is this character flaw which makes the son of Peleus an unacceptable role model. We begin the Iiad with Achilles already in a rage as victory in the Trojan War, the epic confrontation between Ilium and Hellas sprung from the Trojan abduction of Helen of Troy from her lawful Greek husband Menelaus, looms overhead, the Greeks having finally sacked one of the last remaining Trojan allied towns and now preparing to march on the glorious city of Troy itself. In the looting of the town the Greek King Agamemnon had claimed Chryseis as a war prize while Achilles claimed Briseis. The father of Chryseis, a man by the name of Chryses who was a priest of Apollo, having pleaded for his daughters return and having been

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