Comradeship and Loyalty as the Force of War in The Iliad
Homer in his poem The Iliad depicts a human ideal that is embodied in the epic heroes and kings among the Greeks and Trojans. According to Jacqueline de Romilly, the ancient epics reflect aristocratic world with aristocratic virtues. Even when the Greeks upheld valor as the most important virtue in an epic hero which is manifested in his force, swiftness, and magnanimity in wars, the virtues of comradeship and loyalty does not fall behind (17). As a matter of fact, this paper contends that the war between the Greeks and the Trojans was pretty much rooted to the loyalty that each warrior has for his country and his companions. First is the comradeship and loyalty that Achilles have for his best friend Patroclus. When Patroclus was slain by Hector, Achilles has nothing in mind but to revenge for his death. Second is the loyalty that Hector has not only for his brother Paris but also to the Trojans. When he was confronted by the enraged and vengeful Achilles, even when his wife Andromache beseeched him to stay, he went out to fight a duel with him to not only to protect his brother but to save the Trojans from the rage of Achilles. These two epic heroes sacrificed their lives all for the loyalty and comradeship.
In The Champion Arms for Battle is the scene and passage where Achilles decided to take arms against the Trojans most specifically Hector. This is the first time that Achilles actually involved himself in the war after an altercation between him and Agamemnon about Briseis. Achilles was supposed to have Briseis as a reward but Agamemnon took her for himself. Achilles decided to cripple the army by not going to the war until Patroclus decided to disguise as Achilles as was killed in the process. The scene is where Agamemnon decided to sacrifice something for Zeus when Achilles objected. He contented that it would not be appropriate to celebrate and feast because he is nursing a fury in his heart. Instead of a banquet, he urges the Greek fleet to a battle. He said that once the death of Patroclus is avenged, they now have the right to feast and celebrate. Everyone most especially Odysseus is worried on him because he neither wants a single piece of bread nor a sip of wine. In the words of Achilles: “You talk of food? / I have no taste for food—what I really crave/ is slaughter and blood and the choking groans of men (Homer and Fagles 495)!”
In The Death of Hector, he reiterated the very reason why he came to battle it out with Achilles despite the prohibitions of his wife Andromache and his father King Priam. It is also evident in the passage that the divine intervention of Athena who was on the side of Achilles is pretty much prevalent. However, despite this, Hector remained fearless and brave to defeat Achilles. It can be gleaned from the events of this passage that even though Hector is not empowered with rage, he is exalted to defeat Achilles all for the sake of the Trojans. This is where loyalty comes in; Hector left his family, his wife and his son all for the sake of the Trojans. This is the reason why he is known to be one of greatest warriors among the Trojans. Furthermore, it could be said that the loyalty of Hector to his brother Paris is exceptional in the sense that when Paris abducted Helen, he reprimanded him but decided to accept the circumstance. He emphasized that no matter what happens, if the Greek will challenge to war to recover Helen, they would all go to war. He will go to war for his brother’s sake and for Trojan’s sake. In the words of Hector: “Well, you’ll never plant your lance in my back/ as I flee you in fear—plunge it through my chest/ as I come charging in, if god gives you the chance!/ But now it’s for you to dodge my brazen spear — / I wish you’d bury it in your body to the hilt./ How much tighter the war would be for the Trojans then/ if you , their greatest scourge, were dead and gone (Homer and Fagles 551)!”.
The two passages enumerated in the earlier paragraphs are alike in the sense that they explain the very reason why Achilles, the greatest warrior of the Greek fleet and Hector, the greatest warrior among the Trojans come to fight with each other. Both of them are driven with loyalty and comradeship to war. They are not in war just for the sake of defending their fleet. They are in war because the person(s) that are dear to them is prejudiced. Achilles is driven by his desire to avenge his best friend’s death which is in general a sign of loyalty and comradeship. Hector, on one hand, is driven with loyalty to his brother and the Trojans. These two mighty warriors are similar in terms of their motivation in undertaking risks in their lives.
Moreover, it is also important to note that both passages consist of a first person dialogue of the characters which is understood to be a first person point of view. This is relevant because the first person point of view is very effective in letting us see the scene in the perspective of the heroes. We are able to know what’s going on in their minds and what they feel currently which are more reliable than that of an omniscient narrator. Aside from this, both dialogues speak of the war that they desire and their respective reasons why they undertake it. They desired the war not only for them to prove their strength over the other but as already reiterated and emphasized before to avenge and protect their loved ones.
There is however a minor difference between the two passages. The emphasis of the first passage is the desire of Achilles to go out to war and avenge the death of Patroclus. The setting would in the Greek camp outside the vicinity of Troy. The war is still contemplated by Achilles. On one hand, the emphasis in the passage that involved Hector is the determination of Hector to defeat Achilles for the sake of the Trojans. Both warriors are already in the war battling with their spears. In this sense, the attitude of Hector is one that is certain and persistent even when he is not consumed with anger. Achilles, though enraged, had an opposite attitude, one that is contemplative. This is partly for the reason that he is still nursing his anger and loss due to Patroclus’ death and partly because he was not in battle yet.
This difference is significant because it is through this that we know where the provocation came from. It is obvious from the events that Hector has not really contemplated on the battle, but Achilles did. The desire of revenge overpowers the desire to protect which foreshadows the fact that Achilles will turn out to be the better and the more skilled warrior between the two of them in the battlefield. This overpowering somehow foreshadows the end of Hector. However, even when Hector died in the epic, this does not undermine his nobility and greatness as a Trojan warrior. The similarities between the two passages mentioned in the earlier paragraphs would account for a true nature of a great and a noble warrior. Both heroes uphold the significance of war or battle during that time and age. They let us know that wars are not only a venue for warriors and heroes to prove their strength, valor, and magnanimity but most importantly to go to war and risk one’s life for the sake of comradeship and loyalty, whether to a friend, to a brother, to a family, or to a nation.
de Romilly, Jacqueline. A Short History of Greek Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago
Homer, Fagles, Robert, and Knox, Bernard. The Iliad: USA: Penguin Classics, 1998.