Honor: honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions; this is the definition by which these two characters, Hector and Achilles, ought to be judged. By taking this definition to heart, Achilles is far from honorable. Throughout the Iliad, Achilles acts on rage and revenge. “Rage-Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaens countless losses, hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls, great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion, feasts for the dogs and birds…” (1, 1-5) From the beginning of the epic the reader learns of Achilles rage and wants for blood.
Achilles fights only for himself and his own glory. Hector, on the other hand is fighting for the lives and liberty of his countrymen. He thinks of himself very little and seeks to please his family and country in every possible way. He believes in his country and is responsible for his actions. Therefore, by this definition, Hector is the more honorable character in the Iliad. Achilles possesses great strength and holds the place as the mightiest warrior in the Achaean army and has all the attributes of a legendary warrior.
These characteristics of Achilles are, unfortunately, all he has to attribute to being honorable. Other than these, his characteristics show a dark side of this warrior. His flaws far outweigh his good. His flaws constantly interfere with acts of integrity and nobility. Achilles is self centered, prideful, and spiteful. He is easily angered when his pride is shot down. None of these are attributes of an honorable man. This anger of Achilles is so bad that he even abandons his fellow soldiers and prays that they will be all slaughtered because his commander belittled him.
Achilles is motivated primarily by one thing, a thriving search for glory. Half of him wants to live a long, easy, prosperous life, but he also wants to be remembered. The death of Patroclus forces him to mend his relationship with Agamemnon, but it does not rid him of his anger and blood lust. A lust for blood and wrath are ever consuming Achilles; he mercilessly murders his opponents, stupidly takes on Xanthus, and desecrates the body of Hector. He also sacrifices the bodies of twelve Trojan men at the funeral of Patroclus.
The brutality of Achilles does not yield until the end of the poem, when king Priam begs for the body of Hector. This reminds Achilles of his father, Peleus. This act enables Achilles to call a twelve day truce, in which Priam will be able to bury the body of Hector. This scene also relates that Achilles is strongly familiarized with the emotions of guilt and sorrow. He murders and murders many men in order that his name be remembered, but this is all for gain for himself. This is when Achilles devises the plan to send the horse into the city as a gift with the soldiers in it.
In all of Achilles actions, there is no honesty or integrity in his beliefs and actions. Achilles possesses one characteristic that remains the same throughout the entire epic; kill many in revenge to gain self glorification. It is in this that there is no honor. Achilles is too prideful and self centered to come to the realization that he will be remembered as the least honorable character to have lived. Hector of Troy was completely opposite of Achilles. He never fought out of anger, spite, revenge, or self glorification. The sole reason of him fighting was to protect his family and country.
He was honest in his battles, and he had a firm foundation of what he believed and followed through with his actions. There was only one instance that Hector thinks of himself; when he is about to duel with Achilles. In his defense, any man would have thought the same thing in his situation. In every other instance, he though of his family and country, which is honorable. Hector was the mightiest warrior in the Trojan army, he brought havoc to the Achaean army, led the assault that penetrated the Achaean force, and was also the only Trojan to set a fire on an Achaean ship. Hector also killed Patroclus.
He is well respected by not only his comrades, but by his enemies as well. When he decided to stop and speak in the midst of battle, both sides stopped fighting just to listen to him. He is a loving husband and devoted father, as well as devoted son and sibling. He did not hurt his brother when he confessed he would rather sleep around than go into battle. Hector fights in his kingdom, unlike any of the Achaean commanders do, which shows even more honor. Hector has a deep real love for his wife and children. They are his first and foremost thought, not himself such as Achilles.
As much as he loves his family, he is always committed to his responsibilities for Troy. When he took the leadership role of Troy, he commits his life to serving his country and follows through with his commitment until his death. Although respected and a mighty warrior, like most heroes, Hector also had flaws. The flaw of his that stands out the most is his cowardice. Such cowardice is demonstrated when he runs away from runs away from Ajax two times. He then receives insults from his soldiers and is emotionally instable for a moment.
This causes him to treat his opponents and others very cruelly. When Achilles first challenges Hector, Hector tries to talk his way out of it; yet again showing his cowardice. But, in the end, Hector decides to battle Achilles even though he knows the gods have abandoned him. He does this because he feels as though it is the right thing to do for his country, since that is where his commitment lies. He cannot allow his men to see him so weak and cowardly in the midst of this war Now, which of these two is the more honorable hero? According to Greek tradition, it would certainly be Achilles.
Achilles has strength, courage, and many more god-like features. He was a relentless warrior, which was gravely important to Greek culture. Hector was a great warrior, and brave for the most part, he would have been considered a little softer and a little less worthy as honorable according to the Greeks. If one was to judge the character of these two heroes today by the definition given above, one would lean greatly towards Hector as opposed to Achilles. This is simply because of the fact that Hector was fighting not for himself, but for his family and kingdom.
Hector was honest and had integrity in his beliefs and actions. Achilles was fighting for nothing other than revenge and self glorification. In the end, Achilles gave everything truly meaningful for death. Hector fights for his country his family, and his loyalties and thus people lean towards him as more honorable. They can sympathize with him because most of them would do the same thing in his situation. Also, the fact that he has children helps to promote him as a more honorable figure in the story. Therefore, the most honorable character in the epic poem, The Iliad is Hector.