Pride is a very powerful theme in The Iliad – the first few lines mention the idea of pride, with the many injustices the gods inflict on men and each other due to petty quarrels. For example, Atreus’ people are stricken with a plague because his son had insulted a priest of the son of Jove and Leto. In The Iliad, many of the characters suffer greatly as a result of their hubris, or pride. Many of the warriors and characters of the Iliad are very sure of themselves, and believe that their way is the best way. However, as the story progresses, this leads them to continually make mistakes, or sacrifice needlessly in order to repair or maintain that pride. In this essay, the pride of Achilles, Agamemnon and Hector, among other characters in The Iliad, will be examined.
Achilles is an extremely prideful character – he is superhumanly strong, a fierce warrior, and incredibly aware of how good he is at fighting. As a result, he has a tremendous amount of pride, which often lands him in a lot of trouble. Also, he has a very fragile ego, which makes him lash out in anger and make mistakes when his pride is threatened. For example, when Agamemnon insults him, he is hurt so much by this that he actively leaves his men and prays for their slaughter by the Trojans. Achilles’ primary motivation is attention and glory; he wants to prove himself and display his accomplishments to the world.
Achilles’ pride makes him shift his priorities in many different directions. For example, after Patroclus dies, leading Achilles to patch things up with Agamemnon, he does not become less filled with rage; instead, he becomes angry at Hector instead. All of this determination to prove himself a man and a warrior is constantly vented through his rage and hate, as he fights more and more in the search for glory. Eventually, he relents once King Priam asks for Hector’s desecrated body back, remembering just how much losing someone can hurt.
Agamemnon is just as prideful as Achilles, though possibly does not show his anger at a bruised ego in quite as intense a way. Agamemnon is stubborn, leading to the savaging of the Greek Army through Achillles’ and Agememnon’s refusal to back down over who should have Briseis. Whereas pride makes Achilles angry, it makes Agamemnon arrogant and full of hubris. Whenever he fights, he plays it safe, but he always feels he deserves the biggest portion of what prizes are won. He is constantly reminding people that he is the king, and he wants to lead the army at every opportunity, despite Menelaus having the right to lead the army into battle to save his wife Helen. While Achilles is prideful to the extent that he is fiercely loyal to his followers, Agamemnon just looks out for himself. All he does is in service of his own sense of pride; he wants to remain alive and prosperous, and as such he tests the loyalty of his troops and gives damning speeches about the gods. These attributes make Agamemnon an arrogant, prideful creature who is only interested in himself.
Hector’s pride is much less pronounced than Achilles and Agamemnon; since he is fighting on home soil, he is much concerned with personal image than he is the protection of his home. However, he still allows his pride to get the better of him at times, particularly when it comes to Achilles. When the Trojans are camped on the plain, and Poulydamas tells Hector that it is not a wise idea, Hector continues with it anyway. Despite knowing that Achilles is the superior warrior, and knowing that the gods do not favor him, his pride as a warrior and protector of Troy lead to his undoing and his defeat at the hands of Achilles. In this way, his pride makes him tragic, whereas with Achilles and Agamemnon they are just arrogant creatures who somewhat deserve their respective misfortunes.
In conclusion, pride is a significant factor in the characters of Achilles, Agamemnon and Hector in The Iliad. Achilles is a fierce warrior, often prone to anger if the notion of him being a strong warrior is questioned whatsoever. This leads to many mistakes and the death of many men due to his vanity and pride. Agamemnon simples wishes to take for himself what he wants, because he feels he deserves it – whether it is Briseis or anything else. Hector’s pride in himself as a warrior is not as extreme as that of Achilles, but it still leads to many tactical mistakes and his own undoing. These characters all fall prey to who they are, and their overt concern toward that fact.