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“To be, or not to be, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.”
Though written centuries after the death of Achilles, this quote from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” speaks honestly of his life. The epic poem, “The Iliad” of Homer, is a story of the journey of his soul, and his attempts to escape his fate. He questions his fate set out for him by the gods, pondering whether or not he should die for the sake of war, and it is by this questioning of the divine judgment of the gods that he brings doom upon himself. It is known by himself, and by the gods, that he is to live a short, but glorious life, however it is not known how or when his life will come to an end. Achilles himself, wishes to live one of longevity without great glory, and therefore tries to escape his lot in life. Is it just for him to give his life for war, or should he live a life to satisfy himself? Throughout the “Iliad”, Achilles’ actions bring his eventual doom closer to reality than perhaps may have been planned.
“Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilles and it’s devastation which put pain thousandfold upon the Achaians.” The wrath of Achilles begins in Book One of “The Iliad.” Agamemmnon, leader of the Greek army, takes Achilles booty prize, Briseis to replace his own concubine, Chryses, daughter of a priest of Apollo, who was returned to end the plague put on his people by the angry god, Apollo. Achilles feels unappreciated for all that he does for the army when Agamemmnon takes his girl to be his own. He leaves the army because he feels that the king has disrespected him. Thus begins the onset of his doom; by not fighting, and continuing to refuse to do so until after the death of his best friend, Patroklos, he defies his fate.
Once having decided to leave the fighting, he goes to speak to his mother, Thetis. He asks her to ask Zeus to allow the Trojan army to take over the fighting so that the Greeks realize how much they need him, and for them to come to an appreciation for him. Through his concern for his own ego, it is appearant to the reader that, knowing his fate, Achilles will do all that is in his power to stop the fate, or his doom, from being played out. It is also known that the gods do not favour those who try to defy them. Achilles does this, and his doom escalates throughout the poem.
As the poem, and the war progress, the Greeks find themselves without their greatest warrior, Achilles, and are under attack by the Trojans, due to the god’s intervention on Achilles’ behalf. Agamemmnon sees how beneficial Achilles is to the army and sends some of his men to beg for his return. It is in the ninth Book of the poem that the Greeks offer to him many riches in exchange for his return to battle. He refuses their offers and relates to them,
“Fate is the same for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard. We are all held in a single honour, the brave with the weaklings. A man dies still if he has done nothing, as one who has done much”
It is shown through this quote that he believes his life is more valuable than for it to be given up for the sake of battle. He has chosen to be content with living his life quietly for a long time, and is encouraging others to consider this life style as well. He attempts to run away from his fate by retiring from battle, and though his own selfishness, he brings on his damnation.
It has been said that it is difficult to change a person once they have made up their mind to do something. After refusing in Book Nine to return to battle, Achilles watches as his army loses again and again to the powerful, divinely driven Trojans. He, and his best friend and
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Trojans, Achilles, Iliad, Hector, Thetis, Trojan War, Peleus, Achilles and Patroclus, Troilus
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