Achilles vs.. Hector- Achilles is Not Your Average Soldier

Hector is the average soldier, but Achilles is much more.

Hector and Achilles are the two strongest men on the battlefield.  Hector for the Trojans, Achilles for the Achaeans.  Both men hear of their fates.  Hector’s fate is proclaimed to him by Patroclus, as Hector is killing him.  Achilles is told of his fate by his mother, the goddess Thetis.  Both men are fated to die on the battlefield.  Achilles, however, is told by his mother that if he does not return to battle, he will lose all of his honor but he will live a long life.  Hector does not have this option.  Hector acts like the typical soldier and continues fighting for honor, ignoring his fate until the very last breaths he takes.  Achilles is different, and he thinks hard about returning to battle.  This shows that Achilles is not the typical soldier and he actually thinks about more than honor; he thinks about his relationships and his own life.

            Hector thinks like the typical soldier, ignoring the fate that is told of him and going back into battle to fight for glory and honor.  When Hector faces off against Patroclus and kills him, Patroclus says that Hector’s days are numbered and that he is going to die soon.  Hector denies these claims, saying “Why, Patroclus—/why prophesy my doom, my sudden death?  Who knows?—/Achilles the son of sleek haired Thetis may outrace me—/struck by my spear first—and gasp away his life!” (16.1006-1009)  This shows that Hector does not believe the omens and warnings against him, and that all he cares about is winning the fight.  After this, Hector goes right back out into battle.  “At once he went for Automedon with that spear…” (16.1013)  Hector is clearly not fazed by the warnings that Polydamas gave him, and right after he kills Patroclus he returns to take the armor that was on him.  This shows how Hector was only in search of honor.  Had he given any thought to the prophesy by Patroclus, he may not have gone to take the armor.  Hector finally accepts his fate after a long chase by Achilles and when he misses Achilles with his spear.  He knows that he is going to die, but he still goes against his fate in a way by trying to kill Achilles before he dies.  Hector never thought about defying his fate, and thought only about honor and battle.

            Achilles leaves the battle because he is dishonored by Agamemnon.  At this point, he has the thoughts of any other soldier, of honor.  When he is dishonored, he leaves battle.  His mother, Thetis, tells him that he has two fates.  He explains to Odysseus, “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…/true, but the life that’s left me will be long,/the stroke of death will not come on me quickly” (9.500-505).  The fact that Achilles has a choice means that he will give it at least a small thought about his fate.  And at this point, Achilles does plan on returning home and staying alive.  He is still mad at Agamemnon, so he does not want to return to battle.  Achilles’ withdrawal from battle in order to live a long life shows that he is different from the regular soldier.  After he stops fighting for Agamemnon and learns of his fate, he spends a long time thinking about his options and what he really wants to do.  While every soldier would at least think about their options if they had a choice about their fates, many of them would probably choose to fight and die with honor.  This is because honor is a very important part of society in that time, and to die in battle was considered one of the most honorable things to do.  Achilles, on the other hand, decides that he wants to return home and live a long, fulfilling life.  He knows that this is a sacrifice of all of his glory.  Achilles cares about his life and his relationships with other people.  This can be seen when his assistant Patroclus dies, because Achilles wails and mourns his death.  He tears out his hair and basically goes crazy, showing how much he cared for Patroclus.  This shows how Achilles is different from the regular soldier.

            Achilles is different from Hector because he cares about more than honor- he cares about his own life.  Since he thinks about more than honor, he is a better soldier than Hector.  Many soldiers that are only mentioned once in The Iliad are mentioned when they die.  Many times, this is because they went up against a much better soldier than themselves, such as Hector, Achilles, Menelaus or Agamemnon.  The reason they go up against these men is because they want to kill them and get all the glory and honor from killing such a skilled warrior.  Even though they stand no chance, they still want the honor and are willing to commit a suicide battle against these men.  Hector is the same way.  When he is warned by Polydamas that the Trojan assault on the Achaean ramparts will fail, Hector ignores him and continues the assault.  And although the battle between Hector and Achilles is a much closer match,  Hector is fated to die in battle.  He is also going up against a man full of anger with only revenge on his mind.  Since Achilles actually thinks about his actions and the consequences of said actions, rather than just honor, he is a much better warrior than Hector.  Rather than rushing into a battle that he has no chance of winning, Achilles knows when the right time to strike is and he waits until that chance.

            Hector is a glorified, over-powerful version of the average soldier- all he cares about is being the best in battle, fighting for his own personal glory and honor.  When he hears of his fate from Polydamas, he denounces it and does not give it another thought.  He goes right back into battle and fights to get armor and more glory.  Achilles, however, spends a lot of time thinking about his options and, rather than gaining honor through death on the battlefield, he decides to return home and live a long life.  Later on, after the death of Patroclus, he changes his mind and goes back to battle, sealing his fate to die in battle.  Although he ends up fighting and dying in battle, he took a long time to think about his options and even originally decided to return home.  This whole process shows how Achilles is different from, and better than, Hector, the average soldier.

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2 Comments
  1. Posted December 21, 2011 at 5:37 am

    A nice analysis of both Hector and Achilles. a&m bellevue auto service.

  2. Posted February 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    The Iliad is one of the brilliant and interesting epics written since time immemorial. And the story involving Hector and Achilles is one of the highlights.
    Just a thought though, I think Hector is really on the disadvantage over Achilles as Achilles (to begin with) is a demigod while Hector, a mere mortal.
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