Iliad

An Analysis of the Value System of the Achaeans

“Rage: Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage, / Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks / Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls / Of heroes into Hades' dark, / And left their bodies to rot as feasts / For dogs and birds” (1.1-6) This opening line of The Iliad vividly recounts the atrocities that Achilles, supposedly “the best Greek of all,” brings upon his own people through his childish rage and selfish indifference (1.259). As a representative of his people, a hero is supposed to embody the values most important to his civilization. This characterization is not initially true of Achilles. An analysis of the most influential Achaean ideals reveals that Achilles does not consistently and flawlessly model the values esteemed by his peers, but his ability to mature emotionally and morally secures for him the title of best of Achaeans.

Summarizing the value system of a complex civilization into a few basic ideas presents immediate problems, especially when the ideology of the civilization is presented through a literary medium such as The Iliad. Despite this complexity, the search for kleos—honor, fame, glory—serves as the inherent basis for the Achaean value system of the army at Troy. Specifically defining kleos and the...

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