Great Books Paper 1 - Iliad

Great Books Paper 1 - Iliad - Jerald Shi Professor James...

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Jerald Shi Professor James Bos Great Books 191 October 21, 2011 The Warriors’ Code: Warfare in Ancient Greece In battle, the main objective is always to win. But in Homer’s epic The Iliad , a key component of winning is winning properly. This means going through rituals before, during, and after the battle: showing mercy to suppliants, honoring the corpse, and not employing cheap tricks. The Trojans break the warriors’ code at certain points because they depend on divine intervention; however, the Achaeans, though victorious, breaks the code much more frequently, thereby undermining their victory. The Achaeans, especially Achilles, behave more mercilessly because they are the aggressors, have more to gain, and have more overpowering emotions. As the two noblest characters in The Iliad , Hector and Ajax demonstrate the drawbacks and benefits of the dueling ceremony in book 7. Their prayers to the gods and flyting take much time and delay the end of the war, but Homer describes it as a glorious process for glorious warriors. For example, Ajax has armor “burnished, gleaming bronze and once he had strapped his legs and chest in armor, out he marched like the giant god of battle wading into the wars of men” (7.237-40). In this sense, the code operates very successfully. When the greatest of warriors go through the ceremony and face each other to duel, it’s as if they are gods because they are battling so transparently. The way they exchange gifts is also very civil. They mutually agree to pause for the day, and they don’t slaughter each other after making the truce. The gift- giving seems strange to modern-day soldiers, but for the ancient Greeks, it was a symbol of the high honors that all warriors strove for whether or not they had to die seeking that glory. Also, Diomedes, in book 6, is able to fight with civility against Glaucus. After learning of their fathers’ shared lineage, the two still agree to kill members of the opposing army, but they also traded armor and “pacts of friendship” (6.279). Clearly, then, war can be bloody but also civilized.
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This note was uploaded on 01/17/2012 for the course GTBOOKS 191 taught by Professor Cameron during the Fall '08 term at University of Michigan.

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Great Books Paper 1 - Iliad - Jerald Shi Professor James...

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