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)
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.”
The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCodeA 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
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.
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.
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
The Iliad: The Greek HeroicCodeA 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.
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).
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).
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).
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
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.