What makes an effective warrior? Essay
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What makes an effective warrior? Intelligence? Generosity? Strength? Or Bravery? The best and the most effective warrior would have all these qualities. The Iliad and the Odyssey are the two great epics written by Homer in the Eight century B.C.E. Both are poems which narrate the story of the clash of two great civilizations. Homer shows us the losing side from the winner’s perspective. The war we will be talking about here is the Trojan War which was believed to have occurred sometime in the Thirteenth century B.
C.E. In all the writings of Homer, we come across a lot of heroes, warriors, and kings. Few examples of Greek warriors are king Agamemnon, king Menelaus, the cunning hero Odysseus, and great warrior Achilles. On the other hand, looking at the rival side, we have king Priam, Prince Paris, brother Deiphobus, and the Trojan equivalent of great Greek warrior Achilles would be Hector. Along with The Iliad and the Odyssey, we have The Aeneid which was written about 700 years after the two great epics by Homer. Here, we actually come across the loser’s perspective. The masterpiece written by Virgil is about Aeneas, son of Trojan mortal Anchises and Venus, the goddess of beauty and erotic love. He was the one who was chosen to survive the siege of Troy set by the Greeks in the Trojan War, and lay the foundations in Italy for the glory of the Roman Empire. This essay will be talking about different Greek, Trojan and Roman warriors and comparing them with one another. This critical analysis will lead one to a conclusion to what makes an effective warrior, king, or hero.
\”Kleos\” and \”Arete\” are two Greek terms which are often referred to as glory and excellence respectively. Homer emphasizes the importance of these two terms in his epics. Each warrior somehow or the other wants to attain Kleos and Arete. To accomplish those codes which provide fame, prestige, and honor, we see instances where kings sacrifice their own sons and daughters, warriors sacrifice their own wives, etc.
The god’s staff and ribbons won’t save you next time.
The girl is mine, and she’ll be an old woman in Argos
Before I let her go, working the loom in my house
And coming to my bed, far from her homeland. (The Iliad, Book I, 36-39)
These were the words of Agamemnon when Chryses, Apollo’s priest tried to ransom his daughter Chryseis. Looking into the analysis, Agamemnon here tries to secure his Kleos by not accepting the gifts as ransom. If he would’ve accepted those gifts and return the girl to her father, he would’ve been recognized as greedy. Although, when the soothsayer reveals that the plague set on the Greek camp by god Apollo was the result of Agamemnon’s refusal to return Chryseis to her father, he returned Chryseis back. But to maintain his glory, he took Achilles wife Briseis in return. Agamemnon did try to show himself as an effective king by portraying his position as strong and very powerful. And also, he led the Greek army to victory in the Trojan War, but throughout Homer’s Iliad, one does not see a lot of Agamemnon brain and skills in their quest. Lacking bravery and intelligence, Agamemnon cannot be termed as an effective warrior. Achilles vs Hector is one of the most important and interesting battles in the Iliad. Achilles was the greatest of all from the Greek side and similar was Priam’s son, Hector from the Trojan side.
Sing; Goddess, Achilles rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades’ dark (The Iliad, Book I, 1-4)
The word rage has been used by Homer to describe Achilles. This at the very start of the first book which is also named as “The Rage of Achilles” gives the readers a glimpse of the strength, bravery, and wrath of Achilles, son of the immortal goddess Thetis. One parent is mortal, one a goddess. Consequently, he knows both mortality and immortality even though he considers himself more immortal. He knew that he has to die, but he also had a sense of the eternal. He knew that if he avoids the Trojan War he can live a long life, but that if he fights, he would die young. He also knew that glory and eternal fame can be in his hands only through early death in war while long life can be secured only by giving up the ultimate glory a Greek seeks. At first, Achilles attempts to avoid the Trojan War by pretending to be a woman. But, as in a number of instances, his attempts to avoid an action led him directly to that action. This says that Achilles fear of death overtakes his bravery. However, Achilles mother and goddess Thetis actually arrange this by pleasing Achilles, yet tormented by the knowledge that everything she does to help him-like convincing Zeus to favor the Trojans or getting Hephaistos to make him a new suit of armor.
O, my poor child. I bore you for sorrow,
Nursed you for grief. Why? You should be
Spending your time here with your ships
Happily and untroubled by tears (The Iliad, Book I, 433-36)
I’ll go to snowbound Olympus
And tell this to the Lord of Lightning
I hope he listens (The Iliad, Book I, 442-44)
When Achilles entered the war after the fury he got hearing the news of his dearest friend Patroclus’ death, it increased the strength of the Greek army almost twice than it was earlier without him. This totally changed the phase of the war from the hands of the Trojans into the favor of the Greeks.
Achilles family is only Briseis, his wife, as his only family. Briseis was a prize of war to him. Achilles withdraws from battle because of Briseis, but only because he feels cheated by the hands of Agamemnon. This shows that there was not a very strong bond between them. Achilles, in the Iliad, acts an individual with personal code with a little concern for the community. Achilles follows his personal feelings without regard for the consequences on the community at large.
I beg you, Achilles, by your own soul
And by your parents, do not
Allow the dogs to mutilate my body
By the Greek ships. Accept the gold and bronze
Ransom my father and mother will give you
And send my body back home to be burned
In honor of the Trojans and their wives. (The Iliad, Book XXII, 375-81)
These words of Hector shows how he begged Achilles to return his body to his father after the Greek legend kills him. Although, after killing Hector, his body was dragged around the walls of Troy for days and was left to rot for many days. This again gives the readers a negative aspect of Achilles in terms of kindness and generosity as a leader and a warrior. On the other hand, Hector is a calmer character who can switch between a strong warrior and athlete and a loving family person according to different situations. He takes care of his aged parents, talks on equal terms with his wife Andromache, and a soft-hearted father to Astyanax. Though Homer being a Greek, this shows us the intimate view of the Trojans in this epic.
Reached for his child, who shrank back screaming
Into his nurse\’s bosom, terrified of his father\’s
Bronze-encased face and the horsehair plume (The Iliad, Book VI, 492-94)
And Hector removed the helmet from his head
And set it on the ground all shimmering with light.
Then he kissed his dear son and swung him up gently
And said a prayer to Zeus and the other immortals (The Iliad, Book VI, 497-500)
This shows the generosity and kindness of Hector that he shows to his son before going out in the war. In terms of values, Hector clearly upholds the norms of the society. Book VI shows a clear picture of Hector and his love and affection towards his family. Along with his family, he also cares about all the Trojans. When we read The Aeneid, we actually see that how important the family is to the Trojans. Coming back, in Book VI of The Iliad, there exists a feeling of tenderness and intimacy that occurs nowhere else in the epic. Society depends on the bonds of love and family, and Hector encompasses and fights for those bonds. Andromache requests him to withdraw from the war, but Hector did not flee from the war which would have destroyed the values and the hope of his people and society. This gives the readers a sense of Hector following the codes of Arete and Kleos. In comparison, Hector sees his actions within the context of the overall community. To conclude, one can say that Hector was definitely more kind and generous towards his people and family, unlike Achilles. In terms of strength and bravery, one would conclude that Achilles is definitely a better contender to be considered as the strongest of all the Greek and Trojan warriors in the Iliad.
You actually like fighting and war.
If you’re all that strong, it’s just a gift from some god
So why don’t you go home with your ships and lord it over
Your precious Myrmidons. (The Iliad, Book I, 187-90)
These words by Agamemnon and many other instances in the Iliad gives a glimpse of Achilles being the most powerful warrior out of all others. Also, in the battle where Hector is against Achilles, we see the Greek winning against his Trojan equivalent. So, in terms of bravery, strength, and power, Achilles is a step ahead of Hector. As a conclusion, Hector was a generous leader and Achilles was definitely a stronger and more powerful warrior. So, both are definitely great examples of effective warriors or leaders. The next critical analysis would be on the comparison between a Greek and a Roman warrior. In the Odyssey, Homer talks about the life of Odysseus, a Greek, and the king of Ithaca, who faces a bountiful challenge after the Trojan War. In the Aeneid, Virgil highlights the comparison between the Romans and their cultural predecessors, the Greeks.
The best quality of Aeneas is his sense of dedication. He shows a lot of dedication in finding his men on the coast of Libya. Through this, a positive sign of leadership is portrayed to us by Virgil. We saw this in the Iliad as well when Hector tries to defend Troy and their people from the Greeks. This certainly shows us the culture of Trojans as being pretty close and generous to their family, army, and people. Also, Aeneas proves himself to be very comforting and reassuring to his men at the time of loss. Serving his men was not a job but a duty to him.
Not a ship in sight. But he does spot three stags
Roaming the shore, an entire herd behind them
Grazing down the glens in a long ranked line.
He halts, grasps his bow and his flying arrows, (The Aeneid, Book I, 218-21)
Aeneas quick thinking is evident here as it conveys his abilities to make rapid logical decisions, a feature which makes him standout amongst others. He is also seen to be quite organized and well – structured when kills seven huge carcasses to build each ship.
But Aeneas is driven by duty now. (The Aeneid, Book IV, 494-95) These words in Book IV gives a sense of how faithful and obedient Aeneas is to his gods. There are a lot of similarities between Aeneas and Hector. He is quite faithful and loving to his family just like Hector. The scene where we see him carrying his father on his back shows a lot character. He leaves behind his love Dido in Carthage, follows Mercury’s orders, and leaves for Rome to lay a new foundation for the good of his people.
Odysseus, on the other hand, lacks some sense of duty. This can be seen when he arrives in Ithaca after 10 years of his journey, he is without any of his original crew. But, before blaming Odysseus for this, one should consider the facts when he lost the support of some of his men during his journey. In his journey of 10 years, he strays around multiple times from his path. Examples would be on the island of Cyclops, with Circe, and also with Calypso. One sees a lot of instances when he puts his followers in danger and it can be noted that he only returns to Ithaca and his wife at the order of the Gods. In contrast, he does care for his men as well in lots of instances. Slaying the deer to feed his party who are emotionally distraught after losing their comrades to the Laestrygonians. Odysseus is showing compassion for his men here. Thus, Virgil uses the comparison of Aeneas’ sense of duty to Odysseus’ self-interest to propel the Roman culture and Roman warriors above the Greeks. One can never doubt Odysseus’ cunningness. He was undoubtedly the most intelligent among all the Greek and Trojan warriors and kings.
Ground down by the war and driven back by Fat,
The Greek captains had watched the years slip by
Until helped by Minerva’s superhuman skill,
they built that mammoth horse, immerse as a mountain (The Aeneid, Book II, 17-20)
These words in Book II of the Aeneid reveals the story of the Trojan horse which was the idea of Odysseus (“Ulysses” in the Aeneid). By this point, when this Trojan horse entered the main interiors of Troy with a number of Greek soldiers in its monstrous belly, it was the end of the Trojans. This shows the intelligence of Odysseus as a warrior. To compare, Odysseus is a cunning warrior and Aeneas is a loyal one quite similar to Hector.
An excellent warrior would give superiority to his people by putting their needs prior to himself. We see such characteristics in Hector, Aeneas, and a bit in Odysseus. An effective warrior needs to be resilient and valiant which we see in all the warriors here, but a better warrior will develop fearlessness and will be buckled up for any tasks coming forward to them. According to me, a true warrior is not just the one who slays another warrior. It is just like one person killing another person. An effective one will be a man of character. Overall, the best warrior would be loyal to his public like Aeneas, strong as Achilles, and cunning as Odysseus.
Homer. The Iliad. Trans. by Stanley Lombardo. Norton Anthology of Western Civilization. Vol.
1 Ed. Martin Puchner. 9th ed. Boston: W.W. Norton & Co., 2014. 189-290. Print.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. By Stanley Lombardo. Norton Anthology of Western Civilization.
Vol. 1 Ed. Martin Puchner. 9th ed. Boston: W.W. Norton & Co., 2014. 189-290. Print.
Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. by Robert Fagles. Norton Anthology of Western Civilization. Vol. 1
Ed. Martin Puchner. 9th ed. Boston: W.W. Norton & Co., 2014. 189-290. Print.