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In the end of the Iliad Achilles is most definitely rehumanized. His power is clearly completely seized and he is threatened into giving Hector’s body back. “The games were now over” (24.1). There was nothing at this point that Achilles could do to win the fight. There are definitely some questions for the Trojans, as to what to do to get the corpse of Hector back, but there is never an question that they will in fact get it back. They are clearly willing to fight as hard as they possibly can. Even though there will be struggles that is something that there is no compromise about. The importance of honoring such a leader is what matters to them. “But as for stealing courageous Hector’s body, we must abandon the idea- not a chance in the world behind Achilles’ back”(24.88). There is no way that they are going to have success in being sneaky in getting the body. Although they believe that they are more powerful and intact show that they are in the end they know it will have to be fought for and not just stolen. They are going to have to make their demands and have it happen through power and strength. Achilles has too many people looking out for him and watching him and there is too much power on the Achaeans side, powers that they are unable to prepare for. “For Thetis is always there, his mother always hovering near him night and day…Achilles must receive a ransom from King Priam, Achilles must give Hector’s body back” (24.90). He will not have a choice but to do what the Trojans demand, or at least that is how they feel but they do recognize that he is constantly being watched and protected and that this is going to be a hard fight. They also see that he might need some incentive for complying at least to let his guard down.

There are also some discrepancies as to which side is more powerful and which of their leaders is stronger, “if all you gods, in fact, would set Achilles and Hector high in equal honor. But Hector is mortal…Achilles sprang from a goddess” (24.70). Here I feel that they are giving Achilles the upper hand because of the aid that he will have from the other gods. They have similar powers among their own people, because they have the same type of respect and power over them. But in this case the Trojans are clearly making Achilles do as they want because they feel as if they are entitled to it. And in the end they will get what they want.

After a long fight between the Trojans and the Achaeans, the Trojans get Hector’s body back and are able to honor it in a way that seems respectable to them. “At his command they harnessed oxen and mules to wagons…for nine days hauled in a boundless store of timber. But when the tenth Dawn brought light to the mortal world they carried gallant Hector forth, weeping tears, and they placed his corpse aloft the pyre’s crest, flung a torch and set it all aflame” (24.920).  After a long and difficult fight the Trojans got what they wanted and were able to bring his body back, “and once they’d heaped the mound they turned back home to Troy, and gathering once again they shared a splendid funeral in Hector’s honor, held in the house of Priam, king by will of Zeus. And so the Trojans buried Hector breaker of horses” (24. 940). This was the way that they felt honored the memory of Hector and all that he did.

This to me proves that even though Achilles was sprung from a goddess his power and force was not as strong as passion and the desire to honor a fallen solider. The Trojans were able to use their passion to beat Achilles and the rest of his group and bring back their fallen soldier to honor him in a proper burial. I feel that this rehumanizes him because the power and height that was granted to him from the idea that he was a “god” in the end serves him no good. I feel that power is earned just like respect or honor and just because the person who gave you life and the people that you are associated with are honorable and respected does not entitled you to everything that they have earned. Here I feel that Achilles although powerful was not successful in keeping this “god like” powers because he was not always the best representative of the group.

20 Responses to “Courtney – On Achilles”

  1. khoneycutt says:

    Courtney,

    I agree that there is a sense that Achilles is rehumanized by the end of the Iliad. And I like your claims about the Trojans in general. But what about Priam in particular? Surely he is a key part of the process; it is Priam, after all, who goes to Achilles’ tent and who gets Achilles to weep.

    In some sense, as we discussed in class, Achilles loses a part (or all?) of his humanity when he is rampaging around the battlefield in his grief for Patroclus. But how exactly does Priam get him to remember him to remember it? I think an exploration of the stuff about Achilles’ father would have been helpful; Priam makes Achilles remember his human ties.

    It is striking, however, that the last line of the Iliad concerns Hector and not Achilles (though it concerns Hector’s death at the hand of Achilles, of course).
    KH

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