Achilles and the Honor Code

Achilles is a tragic figure who believes strongly in social order, but questions the idea of fighting for glory. When Aias and Odysseus are sent by Agamemnon to plead with Achilles’ to fight for the Greeks, Achilles denies them, saying “There was no gratitude given for fighting incessantly forever against your enemies.

Fate is the same for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard” (9:316). This statement shows that Achilles is an individual, and does not conform to the ideas of the others. Achilles is portrayed as a fatalist, believing that there is no point in fighting, because the end is the same for everyone. In book nine, when Agamemnon admits he is wrong and offers gifts, Achilles still refuses to join his army in battle. He does not see Agamemnon’s gifts as a reconciliation attempt, but rather as an insult.

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Achilles believes that Agamemnon’s offerings are selfish and boastful, and he denies them to in order to show Agamemnon that his loyalty cannot be bought. Later in the poem, Achilles revenges Patroklos’ death by killing Hector. It is customary and proper to return a dead body to its home so it can be given a proper burial, and it is against the code of honor to perform acts of excessive cruelty. Achilles is so distraught by his friends’ death that he contradicts both of these conditions. First, he refuses to return Hector’s body to the Trojans, and then proceeds to drag it behind his carriage by the ankles.

Achilles’ deliberate mutilation of Hector’s body shows the reader that he does not hold the code of honor in high regard.