The Inhumanity Of War In Homer's Iliad

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The grim setting of the Iliad, two defining characteristics emerge from the ashes of the destructive power of war. Human nature is susceptible to violence as Homer clearly shows in the descriptive, brutal death of Sarpedon when two aspects of humanity - cruelty and compassion- arise from the bloodshed of war. The violent death of Sarpedon helps the reader understand the effects of war on the human condition by juxtaposing the acts of cruelty and compassion demonstrated by the epic’s characters. Through the unthinkable atrocities of war and the murder of Sarpedon, Homer lifts the veil of societal expectation to reveal the human side of cruelty. The “killing jaws” of the violent battle spurred the warriors to further engage in dark and increasingly cruel actions, pushing them further into inhumanity. This inhumanity is highlighted by the predatory qualities of the hunt between Sarpedon and Patroclus. The simile of “the bull” “among the shambling cattle” being “cut from the herd” by “a marauding lion” demonstrates just how far the men had strayed from their humanity and crosses into the reflexive, predatory violence of war (575-576). The strong imagery of Sarpedon’s demise, with “the end closed in around him, swirling down his eyes, choking”, delivers a visceral…show more content…
In the Iliad, war is an inescapable part of life that reveals two polarizing aspects of human nature -cruelty and compassion- as explicitly shown in Homer’s horrific description of Sarpedon’s death. The brutality of the battle had an enormous impact on the warriors and transformed their personal qualities into revealing intense displays of cruelty and compassion. Without these acts of ruthlessness, these opposing yet important human traits that helped shape the fate of the Trojan war would have never been

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