Greek heroic code


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Greek heroic code

  1. 1. The IliadAn Interpretation byWallace Gray
  2. 2. The Iliad: Wallace Gray The subject of the epic seems to be the Trojan War Indeed, it is among the first pieces in the genre of War Literature Much of the action surrounds battle and the psychology of war (fear, sorrow, courage, Adrenaline)
  3. 3. The Iliad: Wallace Gray Gray’s argument  The epic is not about war, but rather about the Hellenic Heroic Code and  The Greek hero, Achilles  Moreover, the work is actually a representation of the effects of war on men and women.  Homer’s message, Gray believes: “War brutalizes men and women, wounds their bodies and minds, enslaves and kills them.”
  4. 4. The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCodeA closer look, then, at the Gray’s definition of the Greek Heroic Code:  A hero is one who willingly and eagerly confronts death. Three Greek words embody the heroic code:  Áristos  Aretē  Aristeía
  5. 5. The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCode Áristos: being the best at whatever is called for by the situation (in wartime, killing, in peacetime, husbandry…) Achilles slays Penthesile.
  6. 6. The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCode Aretē: merit. It can only be bestowed by others, not by oneself. Priam Asking Achilles to Return Hectors Body. Alexander Ivanov, 1824. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
  7. 7. The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCode Aristeía: exploits which gain for the warrior the prestige of having comrades consider him possessed of aretē (merit) Anger of Achilles
  8. 8. The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCodeA final note on the Greek Mindset:  What the world thinks of you is far more important than what you think of yourself (indeed it is what you think of yourself)  Moreover, fame and glory (kléos) can only be achieved through action.
  9. 9. The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCode Achilles and Áristos:  Effectively, there exists no other character within The Iliad who is the physical match for Achilles, and none can speak of the "joy of battle . . ." so convincingly (Homer 19.168).
  10. 10. The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCode Achilles and Aretē:  Achilles prowess, in fact, is greater than anyone else’s in the conflict. This forces the Trojan hero Hektor, a hero himself, to declare to Achilles, "I am far from being a match for you" (Homer 20.449-500).  Summarizing the view of the gods, Zeus declares "Suppose Achilles takes the Trojans on / alone: not for a minute will they hold him . . ." (Homer 20.30-31).
  11. 11. The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCode Achilles and Aristeía:  Typical scenes attributed to Achilles include. "Prince Achilles struck his head / square in the middle, and it split in two"; "Achilles / killed a second man . . . He hit him on the temple through the helmet / fitted with bronze cheek-pieces, and the metal / could not hold . . ."; and, "Next he took on Laogonos and Daradanos, / . . . [he] forced them from their chariot / one with a spear-cast, one slashed by the sword" (Homer 20.438-532).
  12. 12. The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCode TheGreek Heroic code, as Gray illustrates, shows us a way to understand Achilles’s withdrawal from battle:  Briseis is not just a woman; she is a symbol of his Áristos (literally she is Aretē for she has been given to him)  Her removal robs Achilles of Aretē, making his Aristeía (or exploits) meaningless  Only her return, plus “damages,” can make him whole
  13. 13. The Iliad: Modern Views Modern view of this code:  “Show me the money!”  Athletes and money  Stock options  CEOs  The Award Show  Actors and awards  The GPA  Students  In all of these instances, the award, money, listing all indicate the merit being bestowed upon by others as a result of the exploits—right?  Moreover, all work in this system precisely because it is the system.