Humanity In The Iliad

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Even when civilizations were first created, humans still fought one another in wars. People are capable of creating societies with rules, but they can also wreak havoc. Reading the Iliad from a structuralist viewpoint, there is an evident clash between civil and primitive behaviors. Characters in the text can be seen in positive and negative lights to reflect the Ancient Greeks attempt to reconcile the primal and civilized aspects of humanity. There are multiple instances in the Iliad that sets up the two opposing binaries of primal human instincts and civilized behavior. War tends to bring out the wild side in humans which is evident in the Iliad. Patroclus’ aristeia occurs when “[three] times he charged into the Trojan ranks / With the …show more content…
Humanity will continue to ask the question of why people continue to fight in combat if they are all descendents of one common ancestor. Instead of trying to answer this question, the Ancient Greeks attempted to reconcile these two binaries by having Priam act as a mediator between Achilles and Hector who are capable of being kind or bringing destruction. Achilles and Hector cannot be seen as a hero or a villain because they have characteristics of both. Hector’s affection for his family is evident when he attempts to guarantee the return of his body to his parents (Iliad 22.282-285). Yet, his savagery is seen when he he kills Patroclus and “means to impale the head / On Troy’s palisade after he strips off its skin” (Iliad 18.186-187). Achilles is capable of being merciless and killing many Trojan soldiers, but he also shows pity for Priam when he gives back Hector’s body. Priam can still be seen as a mediator between the savage and civil side of humans because he convinces Achilles to “respect the gods [...] / [and to think] of [his] own father, and pity [him]” (Iliad 24.539-540). Although Achilles is known for being a hardened soldier, Priam is able to bring out the humanity in him and convince Achilles to return Hector’s