Armor of Achilles in The Iliad

Instructor: Jacob Belknap

Jake has taught English in middle and high school, has a degree in Literature, and has a master's degree in teaching.

''The Iliad'' by Homer tells of the Trojan War and the Greek hero Achilles' exploits in this war. This lesson will track who uses Achilles' armor and explore what it means throughout the story.

The Iliad Background

One of the most recognizable wars in literary history is the Trojan War. The epic poem, or long narrative poem detailing the events of the main hero, The Iliad tells part of the history of this 10-year war that raged between the Trojans and the Greeks. Written by Homer, this story follows the Greek hero Achilles during his attempt to win glory through the battles of this war. We will focus on this main hero's armor in this lesson.

Achilles' Armor

They say the clothes make the man, so too does the armor make the man in war. Although Achilles is only partially mortal and one of the greatest warriors already, his armor sets him apart from other soldiers. His armor comes to represent his power, as other soldiers recognize it as a symbol of him. His enemies fear seeing it, and his comrades cheer at the sight of it.

Homer describes the armor of Achilles as being bright bronze, speckled with stars, and having silver reinforced ankle protection. But interestingly enough, this armor comes to mean more when Achilles is not wearing it.

Patroclus in Achilles' Armor

Achilles has been doing well in the Trojan war; in fact, he has not lost a battle. However, after a disagreement with King Agamemnon, Achilles refuses to leave his tent or to fight. Without their champion and best fighter, the tide of battle swings against the Greeks. More and more battles are lost.

Hoping to restore morale to the Greeks and turn the flow of battle back in their favor, Patroclus approaches Achilles with a request. Though not one of the heroes of the Trojan War, Patroclus is the best friend and companion of Achilles. Although Achilles is reluctant, he loans his armor to Patroclus with a parting warning to be careful. Their plan is to have Achilles' helmet hide the identity of Patroclus.

Fitted with the armor, Patroclus re-enters the battle disguised as the great hero Achilles. Fighters on both the Trojan and the Greek sides react to what they think is his return. The Greeks rally and the Trojans fall back. Patroclus seems to gain power through the armor and even move like Achilles while he wears it. More than just looking like Achilles, Patroclus seems to have taken on some of his heroic skills in battle by wearing this armor.

However, the god Apollo is frustrated by the success of the Greeks and so he intervenes. Apollo stuns Patroclus and removes his helmet. Seeing this, the Trojan hero Hector then challenges and kills Patroclus, taking the armor as a spoil of war. When Hector dons it, Zeus shifts the armor's shape to fit the new owner.

New Armor

Achilles is not happy about Patroclus dying, but before Achilles can rush off to challenge Hector to fight, the gods come up with a way to help him.

Hephaestus giving the new armor to Thetis.

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