The Iliad Essay

Submitted By big029
Words: 1433
Pages: 6

Laura Roudebush
Ms. Spicer
AP Literature and Composition
21 August 2013
Do the Ends Justify the Means? Hubris-driven Kleos Those held in divine esteem are subject to the worst sins of all. Indeed, one of the greatest sins in the Greek world was hubris, the excess of ambition and pride that leads to actions in presumption of the gods and fellow humans. Homer's epic poem ,The Iliad, is filled, and plot is fueled, with this sin. The epic poem delves deep into the human psyche and the ancient Greek belief in divinities to display the behavior of the Greeks in terms of this sin. Fate and the gods are separated by a fine but very prominent line. The concept of Hubris in The Iliad shows that humans posses the character traits that determine their own fates. Hubris is a tragic character flaw that determines the fate of said character. The punishment of hubris brings many characters to ruin but also secures their eternal reputation. The sin is punished by the gods but it is also punished by its own natural consequences which are interpreted as fate, making hubris a fateful self-punishing character flaw that acts as motivation and conflict in many scenarios in the epic. The sin itself was fueled by the Greek obsession with kleos. This creates a dynamic polarization, the sin of being prideful in contrast with the goal of being glorified forever. Ironically, the end goal of kleos is facilitated by the inevitable presence of hubris in the character's actions. The fine but prominent line between the will of the gods and fate wavers when the gods play favorites amongst worldly characters and overlook their sins, causing the sin of hubris to be committed more freely. One act of hubris in The Iliad is Diomedes' attack on Apollo and Aphrodite. Interestingly enough, his actions are assisted by Athena. This creates conflict amongst the gods as they assist their favorite mortals. Zeus ruminates," We everlasting gods…ah what chilling blows we suffer-- thanks to our own conflicting wills-- whenever we show these mortal men some kindness " (5:1008-1010). These gods must coexist for all eternity in some form of truce. Although kleos is attainable for mortals without the help of the gods, they often like to immerse themselves in mortal matters for the sake of entertainment. Godly patronage and advantageous aid diminishes any insecurities that the mortal may have, enhancing their pride. However, is the hubris-driven action of a hero justified by the support of a goddess? One sees that it is not when Aphrodite fumes," Doesn’t the son of Tydeus know, down deep, the man who fights the gods does not live long?" (5: 465-466) The sin of hubris is in fact a character flaw that dramatically influences the fate of a character. The gods are seen as vessels of fate in The Iliad, and even the strongest heroes cannot fight fate forever. The will of the gods is above the will of mankind, however, all bow to fate. Foreshadowing Diomedes' death is potent because it shows that the character flaw of hubris is instrumental in determining the fate and punishment of a character. Hector and Achilles' pride, though different in origin and action, promotes their competition and binds their fate together strongly, securing the will of the gods. Indeed, Achilles' mother forewarns that "hard on the heels of Hector's death your death must come at once" (18:112-113). Both know that their supreme goal is the honor of kleos, yet both meet the pitfall of hubris. Both know that their doom is inevitable and fast approaching, yet both refuse to sacrifice their pride to avoid it. However, Hector's pride and motivation differ from that of Achilles. He tells his wife, " No man will hurl me down to death, against my fate.\ And fate? No one has ever escaped it, neither brave man nor coward, I tell you--\ its born with us the day that we are born. (6:581-584). If fate is born with man, then the characteristics that man is born with are a direct result of the need to carry out