War And Violence In Homer's Iliad

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Homer’s Iliad is one of the earliest depictions of war ever written. At face value, the epic is the story of Achilles’ rage, beginning with his honor being insulted by Agamemnon and it continues with the death of his best friend, Patroclus. Yet, the Iliad showcases so much more. It illustrates two very different perceptions of war: one one hand glorious honor and victory, and on the other, the the jarring horror of death and destruction. Homer, in his poem, incorporates scenes in which the characters contemplate how meaningful war and violence really is; a thought which, tragically, many individuals in today’s world contemplate every day. Despite having been written nearly two millenniums ago, the Iliad’s themes still ring true today and further illustrate how human nature has not changed.

Throughout the poem, Homer portrays how military victory and honor, or kleos, was valued in Greek and Trojan society,
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Both hands clawing the ground for soot and filth,
He poured it over his head, fouled his handsome face
And black ashes settled into his fresh clean war-shirt.
Overpowered in all his power, sprawled in the dust,
Achilles lay there, fallen…” Iliad (18.24-29)

A similar scene is portrayed when Achilles finally kills Hector. Priam, King of Troy, falls to his knees in front of his subjects and weeps for his son. He begs his men to allow him to go out onto the battlefield, where he would most likely be killed, if only for a chance to beg Achilles for his son’s body. Hector’s mother weeps, “ Oh my child - my desolation! How can I go on living? What agonies must I suffer now, now you are dead and gone?”(22.507-508). His wife cries,
“Now you go down to the House of Death, the dark depths of the earth, and leave me here to waste away in grief, a widow lost in the royal halls – and the boy only a baby, the son we bore together, you and I so doomed.
Hector, how are you to him now, now your dead?” Iliad

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