The Iliad outlines and explains the qualities of a ?Homeric Hero?. The Homeric hero strives to be the best among his peers. His goal is to achieve the greatest glory in order to earn the highest honor from his peers, his commander, and finally from his warrior society. This is because honor is the Greeks? main ambition in life as well as in the afterlife. The Homeric hero strives for excellence in particular areas of human behavior, such as strength, skill, and determination. These are necessary on the both the athletic fields and the battlefields. The Homeric hero judges his own merit and honor based on what his warrior society thinks of him. How well he will be remembered and honored after his death is determined by how well he fights, how his heroic adversity is, and how well he faces death. He feels that society?s view of him is more important than is own view. He chooses to act in a way that will make him acquire the public approval that he needs in order to have one of the basic needs, which is self-esteem. The greatest insult to a Homeric hero is to withhold the honor that he has earned. The honor that he would not have received would be from a battle, or being judged a loser in a competition he should have won. The highest and most honored prize is called the prize of honor. In the Iliad this prize is the best female captive, best meaning the most attractive, intelligent, and skilled. The most absolute honor is everlasting fame. The Homeric hero is placed lower than the gods, but higher than the ordinary man. Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, and Paris are considered Homeric heroes. Achilles acts childish when he does not receive the appropriate prize. He is upset that he did not receive a great prize as Agamemnon did. Achilles had worked so hard and Agamemnon had taken the credit for it and gotten the better prize. Hector is considered a Homeric hero because he chooses between life and death. He chooses even though an honorable death will bring the immortality of everlasting fame. His death is in the hands of Achilles. This shows that Achilles is the greater warrior and Hector is the greater man.
The function of the gods is to participate in giving advice to mortals. The advice is both good and bad. It supplies thoughts and ideas, strength and skill, courage and determination, and on top of all this causes weapons to hit or miss their marks. The Homeric gods have favorites among the mortals and make efforts to help those that they favor. A mortal is able to earn divine esteem and honor by the way he treats both the gods and other mortals. The gods are partial to heroes because they appreciate and enjoy their heroic deeds. The gods could not change a mortal?s life or death situation. If one was going to die, they could not change their fate. The Homeric gods are ageless and immortal. The gods possess a great deal of knowledge about the future. The gods are influenced by the request of others? prayers. Achilles? mother, the sea goddess Thetis, did not want to accept the fact that her son Achilles was going to die someday because he was half mortal. When Achilles was an infant, Thetis tried to burn away his mortality by secretly putting him in a fire. Peleus, Achilles? father found out about this and was outraged. Thetis was very upset and angry at his reaction so she left him to go back and live at her home in the sea. She had left Achilles with his father until she would one day return. One night, Thetis took Achilles down to the River Styx in the Underworld. She then held him by his heel and dipped him into the water. Every part that the river water touched on his body is where he would not be injured. The only way that Achilles could then be killed was if he was wounded on the back of one heel. Due to Thetis doing this, other warriors knew where Achilles? weakness was and soon his life was taken away.
Every hero wishes for honor because honor is the most extraordinary prize. Hector looked for honor from his countrymen. He went to battle knowing that he was going to die. He did not turn around and run away, he kept his promise to help them to win the war. Hector wanted to be honored by no one else except his warrior society. Paris looked for honor within hubris. The feeling of hubris would lead the hero to think that he was greater than the heroes who were his peers and that he had the limitless power that he attributed to the gods. On account of what Paris did for the goddess Aphrodite, he thinks that he is a gift to the world. Paris thinks that he is better than the other heroes. He causes trouble and doesn?t even have to fight his own battles; he has his warriors there for that. Agamemnon is interested in nothing but materialistic honor. He wanted the best prizes, the best respect, and the best of everything. He didn?t care much about anything. That is what made him so different from all of the other heroes. He worshiped materialistic things, and everyone else worshiped honor that you cannot see. Achilles found honor within his rash behavior. This would eventually lead to vengeance. The gods would sometimes punish the hero directly, and sometimes other human beings would punish him. Achilles wanted the people of Greece to bow down to him. He wanted to hear the people say that they needed his help. He wanted to hear that they needed him, and that is why he stayed out of the war. To Achilles hearing this meant that his people honored him. He was a greatly respected man and warrior. He first shows this trait when he calls the Achaians to assembly. Achilles spoke up for his people against the son of Atreus saying “I believe now that straggling backwards we must make our way home if we can even escape death, if fighting now must crush the Achaians and the plague likewise”(Book 1. lines 59-61). By defeating Agamemnon, Achilles proves to be the greatest Achaian soldier and the most respected. Therefore, he is the most notable Homeric hero in this epic.