Achilles as the Main Character of Homer’s Iliad
The main character of Homer’s Iliad is Achilles, who behaves like a hero during the war, fights bravely, and defeats the strongest Trojan warrior Hector. However, this poem does not depict how Thetis, the mother of Achilles, bathed the hero in the waters of the Styx River in full detail. Thetis was holding Achilles by the heel, which made him vulnerable to the predicted fate that promised death in the Trojan War. In all likelihood, Homer deliberately did not include much detail from this myth in the poem since his character Achilles is somewhat different from the mythological hero Achilles. Homeric Achilles suffers mental anguish and torment, while Achilles from myths shows himself self-confident, invulnerable, and divine.
It is natural since myths and legends are the basis for later literary works, including Homer’s Iliad. The mythical Achilles and the Homeric hero have much in common. Like the hero from myth, Achilles of the Iliad is brave and selfless. On the other hand, Achilles in the Iliad shows affection for Patroclus and Briseis, which is more human. Besides, the hero fights fear on the eve of the Trojan War and does not rush into battle without hesitation like a mythical character. Achilles from Iliad is tormented by doubts when making decisions. For example, it is hard for Achilles to decide whether to participate in the war or continue to fight on the Greeks’ side after Agamemnon’s disrespectful behavior. The relationship between Achilles and Thetis in the Iliad also differs from the mythological.
In Homer’s poem, Thetis’s love for her son is not idealistic, and she suffers, sending him to war instead of taking pride in his heroism. In the Iliad, there is also a place for Achilles’ father, Peleus, who tries to dissuade his son from a military campaign. There is a later myth about how Peleus hid Achilles at the court of Lycomedes on Skyros. There the hero was dressed in a woman’s clothes and kept among the king’s daughters in the hope of keeping him from participating in the Trojan War. However, the Greeks found Achilles after learning that they would never take Troy without his help. This entertaining episode is only mentioned in passing in the Iliad, as the poem focuses more on portraying the greatness and horror of war and describing the suffering it brings. Perhaps it is for this reason that Achilles from the Iliad is presented as gloomy, despairing, and experiencing mental torments, despite his origin, beauty, and strength.
There are gods present in the poem who fight on the Trojans’ and Greeks’ sides. The participation of immortals allows the reader to link the mythical perception with the realistic pictures presented in the Iliad. It is noteworthy that the divine presence in the Iliad is rather sketchy. Heroes, including Achilles, do not find real moral support from the gods and have to cope with the difficulties of war alone. If I happened to create new variations of Achilles’ myth after reading the Iliad, I would introduce Achilles’ human traits into it. I would have tried to make Thetis’ prophecy more threatening and include the prediction that Achilles will die in the war and experience mental suffering, searching for his identity as a warrior and a person. I could also say that Achilles will be on the verge of self-destruction and complement the myth with Thetis’s intense feelings, who will show more affection for her son. Possibly, I could include the prediction that Achilles will lose his best friend and beloved woman in the war and provide exhaustive details of Achilles’ death.