Achilles Quotations from The Iliad

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  • 0:05 Achilles' Role in 'The Iliad'
  • 0:36 Achilles: Mighty Warrior
  • 1:13 Agamemnon Dishonors Achilles
  • 1:52 Achilles' Fate Is Revealed
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

It could be said that the great warrior Achilles is the main character of Homer's ''The Iliad''. In this lesson, we'll review quotes related to Achilles to learn more about his position in the poem.

Achilles' Role in The Iliad

''Rage--Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles.'' These are the opening words of Homer's epic poem, The Iliad, immediately telling us that the main plot line is Achilles' rage; rage that will be brought on by the loss of his best friend, Patroclus, and by the fight between Achilles and Agamemnon. Through Homer's poem, we get a stunning description of Achilles as a warrior who's face-to-face with fate. In this lesson, we'll examine quotes related to Achilles.

Achilles: Mighty Warrior

Even if you've never read The Iliad, it's likely you've heard of Achilles. He's the guy who dies from an arrow being shot into his heel, even though he's perhaps the best warrior in the Trojan War.

The description of Achilles when Hector first sees him truly demonstrates how fierce he is. Homer writes:

''. . .the god of war, the fighter's helmet flashing,
over his right shoulder shaking the Pelian ash spear,
that terror, and the bronze around his body flared
like a raging fire or the rising, blazing sun.''

Achilles sounds fearless. Homer goes on to describe Achilles as a ''wild mountain hawk, the quickest thing on wings. . . ''

Agamemnon Dishonors Achilles

Achilles doesn't take dishonor lightly. He takes the queen Briseis as his prize of war in the beginning of the poem, but Agamemnon takes her from him. Agamemnon's action enrages Achilles to the point that Achilles says:

''Now I am returning to Phthia, since it is much better
to go home again with my curved ships, and I am minded no longer
to stay here dishonoured and pile up your wealth and your luxury.''

His response to the dishonor is to leave the war because he knows that he is Agamemnon's best warrior. Obviously, he doesn't actually leave, but it's important to see that Achilles plays a major role in the Trojan War.

Achilles's Fate Is Revealed

Achilles has a choice in The Iliad: he can stay and fight in the war, or go home. The only thing is, if he stays he knows he won't return home. His mother, the goddess Thetis, tells him of this prophecy. After he hears what Thetis knows of his fate, he contemplates what lies ahead. Achilles says:

''. . .two fates bear me on to the day of death.
If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy,
my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies.
If I voyage back to the fatherland I love,
my pride, my glory dies. . .''

Achilles knows his fate, and when it is revealed to him that he could go home without falling in battle, he knows that choice wouldn't give him the honor and glory that comes with being a hero in war. He chooses to stay and fight after his friend, Patroclus, is killed by Hector.

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