Honor And Glory In Homer's Iliad

1543 words - 6 pages

Honor and Glory in Homer's Iliad

     Mortality, by its very nature, causes men's lives to be cut short at their primes.The Fates cut our lives short at any time, so the Greeks must have an example, a model mortal, to follow so as to make the "most of their lives."A model mortal is one who lives his life accumulating the most honor and glory: "he pressed for battle now where men win glory" (4: 259).By strictly adhering to the honor/heroic code, a mortal can raise himself to become the model mortal. This hero, Diomedes, is the model mortal of the Greeks.


Diomedes follows the heroic code, finding glory and honor on a battlefield and does so humbly while caring for his men.Diomedes lives and is prepared to die by the honor code - what a true model mortal is supposed to do. Diomedes directly states that "It's not my nature to shrink from battle, cringe in fear/ with the fighting strength still steady in my chest" (5: 280-281).Clearly, Diomedes is prepared to go into battle to fight - it is in his very nature to fight. When Diomedes kills Pandaras, he "hurled and Athena drove the shaft/ and it split the archer's nose between the eyes -/ it cracked his glistening teeth, the tough bronze/ cut off his tongue at the roots, and smashed his jaw..." (5: 321-324).This is just one of the battle scenes in which Diomedes emerges victorious.The gruesome description Homer uses shows that Diomedes is ruthless and savage on the battlefield, earning him glory and fulfilling a requirement of the heroic code.Diomedes not only lives for honor, but also fights and is prepared to die for his honor. He does not cringe like Paris, nor does he unjustly gain honor like Agamemnon. By establishing himself as one of the greatest fighters on the Achean side, Diomedes fulfills the first requirement of the honor code: to make the most of your finite mortal lives by gaining honor.But clearly, this is not enough for Diomedes to become the model mortal because Achilles, Agamemnon and many others are also able to gain tremendous amounts of honor on the battlefield.It is what Diomedes is able to do on the battlefield while not fighting that truly raises him as the model mortal.Diomedes solves one of the problems put forth by the code implied by Homer.The problem is that the code is based on individuality: a mortal man achieving his glory by fighting on the battlefield.But because it is about the individual finding glory for himself, most mortals forget the second requirement of the code: keeping order and caring for his troops - herein lies the problem.To be the model mortal, a mortal must not only gain honor on the battlefield but also genuinely and wholeheartedly care for his troops.Agamemnon and Achilles fail to do this. Achilles is selfish when, being dishonored, he leaves his men and goes crying to his tent.Agamemnon also acts like this when he takes the most honor (booty) just because he is the king, not because he earns ...

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