Achilles' Anger & Pride in The Iliad: Analysis & Examples

Instructor: Catherine Smith

Catherine has taught History, Literature, and Latin at the university level and holds a PhD in Education.

Achilles is the central character in ''The Iliad'', and anger and pride drive much of his behavior in the epic. This lesson looks at and analyzes key examples of Achilles's pride and anger.

Achilles in The Iliad: An Overview

Achilles is the main character in Homer's epic The Iliad. We follow Achilles from the beginning of the work, where he leaves the fighting because his pride is wounded by King Agamemnon, who leads the Achaean army; to the middle of the work, where his best friend is killed and he returns to avenge him; to the end, where Achilles kills the head of the Trojan army and eventually returns his body to his family. Throughout these events, Achilles is driven by his anger and pride, which affect the course of the war and the lives of the warriors on both sides of the conflict.

Examples of Achilles's Pride

It's not difficult to find several examples of Achilles's pride in The Iliad; in fact, the epic begins with one, which ends up affecting the rest of the epic. In Book One, Agamemnon has his war prize, a captured woman, taken away from him. This wounds Agamemnon's pride, so he replaces his prize with Achilles's war prize, another woman named Briseis. Not only is Achilles upset because he was fond of Briseis, he is also upset because his pride took a hit in front of all the warriors who saw that Agamemnon got the better of him. This causes him to stop fighting.

Achilles Rejects Agamemnon's Apology

After Achilles withdraws from the fighting, things start to go badly for the Greeks. Agamemnon eventually decides that he needs to apologize to Achilles and get him back to the fighting before they lose the war. In Book Nine, Agamemnon sends three of the Greek warriors to deliver several gifts to Achilles, along with Agamemnon's apology. Achilles rejects both the gifts and the apology, however, because he still feels that his pride was injured, and he has not gotten over his anger over this.

Achilles's Pride Compared to Agamemnon's Pride

The fact that Achilles rejects Agamemnon's gifts and apology is also significant because it is now clear that Agamemnon is more capable of swallowing his pride than Achilles. This is surprising because Agamemnon is also known for his pride - remember, at the beginning it was Agamemnon's wounded pride that caused him to take away Briseis from Achilles. The fact that Achilles holds onto his injured pride longer than Agamemnon makes Agamemnon appear to be the more sympathetic character for awhile, because he at least attempted to make amends.

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