The Iliad tells the story of numerous men who should be acknowledged as formidable war heroes, displaying immense courage in a brutal battle. However, this paper specifically focuses on two exceptional leaders from opposing sides: Achilles, representing the Achaians, and Hector, representing the Trojans. While both demonstrate bravery on multiple occasions throughout the poem, it is clear to the reader which of the two is superior. The remainder of this paper aims to establish why Hector is a greater hero in The Iliad.
The introduction of Achilles occurs in the first book of the poem, where he engages in a conflict with King Agamemnon over a woman. However, a closer examination reveals that the conflict primarily revolves around honor, a vital aspect for all characters in the poem. In book two, following the halt of the argument between Achilles and King Agamemnon, Achilles has already made up his mind to abandon defending his army. He believes that the king has dishonored him by refusing to hand over Chryseis.
During a significant portion of the war, Achilles chose not to help his fellow brothers in battle. Instead, he spent more than half of the poem sulking. Despite knowing that he was greatly needed at times, he stubbornly refused to assist in battle. He stayed updated on the events by sending Patroklos to Nestor, who would inform him of the daily occurrences. Three separate occasions arose where things were not going well for Achilles, and he would cry. His tears were so heavy and his cries so loud that his mother, who is a goddess, descended from the heavens to offer her assistance. Essentially, he cried like a child calling for their mother. These actions do not align with those expected of a courageous warrior.
Hector is introduced in book three, where the reader learns about his strong sense of honor. His brother Paris enters a one-on-one match against Menelaos, with Helen as the prize. Despite losing, Paris is saved by the gods, who place him and Helen in bed together. When Hector discovers his brother’s actions, he becomes furious and scolds him for his wrongdoing. In several instances, the Trojan army considers retreating, but Hector always insists on moving forward. One example is when Nestor joins the battle in Achilles’ armor and the Trojan army retreats, but Hector continues to fight. Another indication of Hector’s importance is his selection as the messenger between Troy and the battlefield. Additionally, a unique character trait exhibited by Hector is his deep love for his family. On one of his trips to deliver a message to Troy, he takes the time to visit his wife and child, displaying warmth and love. This compassionate side sets Hector apart from other characters who primarily focus on battle. His main purpose in fighting the war is to protect his family, as he expresses his concern for their safety in the event that the city is conquered towards the end of book six. No other character in the poem portrays this level of devotion.Hector exhibited his steadfastness in resisting Helen’s advances in book seven, even after his duel with Ajax. Despite the opportunity to sleep with her without consequence, he remained loyal to his wife. Throughout the battles, Hector motivated his soldiers by chanting and uplifting them. Ultimately, Hector met his demise in the poem when he bravely fought against Achilles in the final book. Unlike his fellow knights who sought refuge at the sight of Achilles, Hector chose to confront him, even though it cost him his life. The intense battle is vividly described in the poem, allowing readers to imagine the scene and hear the clashing of weapons between the two warriors. In my opinion, if Achilles had been engaged in battle for as long as Hector, he would not have emerged victorious. Hector’s death while fighting for his country was deemed the ultimate honor. When comparing Hector and Achilles, there is no doubt in my mind that Hector embodied a more heroic role. While Achilles fought out of guilt for his friend’s death, Hector fought for his country, family, and honor.