The Defilement of Hekor
Achilleus' defilement of the body of Hektor is a grotesque and elaborate moment in the story of the Iliad, while all of the other bodies killed in the epic are either carried back by their comrades or left to the vultures. His treatment of the body is obscene; even the gods are horrified by it and eventually must stop it. This brutality is hard to understand in a society centered on ceremony, glory, and strict adherence to the rules of behavior in battle. However, it is clear that Achilleus' behavior is not show-boating, nor is he gloating. When Achilleus defiles the body of Hektor, he is defiling the representation of the passionate rage that defined his character thus far in the epic: rage toward sovereignty, rage for his lost comrades, rage at the murder of his best friend, and rage toward his fate, an early death with glory or a long life with none.
At the start of the epic, Agamemnon and Achilleus have an altercation, in which Achilleus disagrees with Agamemnon's attitude toward returning Chriseis, and he in turn takes Briseis, Achilleus' prize. This begins the tragic rage of Achilleus. "So he spoke, and the anger came on Peleus' son... /pondering whether to draw from beside his thigh the sharp...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 998 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7819 literature essays, 2192 sample college application essays, 333 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in